Every time I click on something online, I get this funny
thing about agreeing terms and conditions.
The popup window appears and my brain shuts down. I just hit ‘accept’, ‘agree’ and move on.
I guess the reason is that I don’t care what the small print
says, I just want the end result.
I want the game, the goods, the download, the music, the
movie, the wine, women and song.
I don’t want to read a whole load of legal guff that I
assume is just corporate gobbledygook to cover their asses if things go wrong.
And what could go wrong?
I download the wrong music, get the wrong wine, find the
goods bad and mistake the game for the song?
Sure, ok, shift happens, but do I care?
In this age of instant gratification and zero time, there
simply is not enough time to think about the details and this has been proven
again and again.
My favourite proof point is from two years ago when, as an
April Fool, the computer game retailer Gamestation placed a clause in their game download that said:
“You agree to grant us a non transferable option to claim,
for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should we wish to exercise this
option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have
on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from
gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”
Was anyone bothered about this clause?
Not a single person who downloaded their game that day
clicked the opt-out button to not
sell their soul to the firm.
Well, not quite.
Generally, people are far more focused on the result rather
than the process, whilst firms are far more focused upon the process rather
than the result.
Some banks, for example, focus upon the process of payments
rather than what people are paying for.
Utility firms focus upon the process of delivering water,
oil and gas, rather than what people use water, oil and gas for.
You may think I am over-stating here, but it is this
critical chasm of focus that shows why some firms excel at dealing with
customers whilst others fail dismally.
And the T’s and C’s are an illustration of that mismatch in
In fact, most legal engagement between supplier and customer
are illustrations of some form of success or failure, as demonstrated in this
TED Talk by Alan Siegel:
Interesting that several of his examples are from the
financial industry, and this dates back a long, long time.
For example, when I first started working with banks and
insurance companies back in the 1980s, we were facing regulations related to
Today, we still talk about Plain English or, rather, Plain
How do you simplify the engagement between the customer and
the product whilst protecting your own backside?
Now, there’s a challenge and it’s pretty much embodied in
the statement: User Experience (UX) (although we shouldn’t call customers ‘users’).
But it goes way beyond that.
For example, all firms have to have these terms and
conditions in their account opening process.
The real thing I want to know is: are any of your T’s and C’s
exceptional, designed to screw me up when things go wrong or likely to make me
Now, that really would be a great way to do an account
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