Sunday, January 11, 2015

The TechQual+ Survey for 2015

The Higher Education TechQual+ Project aims to produce a standard, generalizable survey that assesses the quality of IT services in higher education from the perspective of students, faculty, and staff. Each year the TechQual+ core survey is updated based on feedback from respondents and the community of participating institutions. This year's update was finalized over this past weekend is now available for schools to administer through the Higher Education TechQual+ Web site.

The survey is organized in three sections, focusing on Internet access, online services, and user support. The format and approach of the survey is based on SERVQUAL which has strong support in the academic literature for assessing customer satisfaction. The 2015 version of the survey can be found on the TechQual+ Web site following this link. This YouTube video discusses the approach and development of the TechQual+ core survey over the past several years.

Changes to the survey this year were focused on the need to clarify the language for some items, the need to assess emerging services such as learning technologies and data for decision-support, and aligning the customer service questions more closely with the original SERVQUAL items. With these changes we will begin publishing findings from the project later this year once the new survey has been administered at multiple institutions. 

Over the past decade over 250,000 students, faculty, and staff have completed the TechQual+ core survey at 100+ institutions. The use of the core survey and the Web tools for administering surveys is available free of charge. There are numerous opportunities for learning more about the project, including monthly conference calls and an online training session scheduled for February 6, 2015. For more information please visit the TechQual+ project Web site or contact the project's principal investigator at by e-mail.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Few Thoughts in Response to Garmin's Recent Product Announcements

I have a few thoughts in response to yesterday's CES announcement from Garmin regarding its new lineup of activity trackers, smart watches, and GPS enabled devices - that before releasing a bunch of new products, Garmin needs to fix the multitude of lingering problems with their current products that have yet to live up to the hype.

Here's just a brief rundown of the problems I am experiencing with the one Garmin product that I own (the Garmin 920XT).

Timezone Problems with Garmin Connect
Activities uploaded from my 920XT through the iOS 8 Garmin Connect app are timestamped five hours earlier than they actually occurred. I didn't get up this morning and work out at 12:10am, it was 5:10am when I started. Now, if the activity was uploaded via Wi-Fi or through a USB connection the timestamp would have been accurate. Lots of us have been complaining about this issue through Garmin forums since early December (and yes my time zone is set correctly).

Garmin Connect Out of Service, Again
But a bigger problem is the complete lack of reliability of Garmin Connect to begin with. Far too many of us have had problems getting our Garmin devices to successfully upload data to the Garmin Connect Web site. I'm a long standing customer, but I wonder how many new customers, thrilled to receive their first Garmin device for Christmas, became disappointed when Garmin Connect failed to work as advertised.

MyfitnessPal Integration Down for Several Months
Which brings us to the next big problem with Garmin Connect, which is the complete lack of reliability of its integration with MyFitnessPal. Most of who are actively training are meticulous about tracking our calorie intake against our daily calorie expenditure. Integration with MyFitnessPal is the Garmin Connect vehicle for this sort of tracking; but the integration has been completely unreliable for several months (I first reported problems back in July). Garmin has had more than six months to provide basic functions that its competitors seem to handle with ease. Supposedly this was fixed for good with updates that went into place shortly after Christmas, but the fix has so many bugs that the current outage is actually worse than it was before the Christmas update.

ANT+ Sensor Lack of Reliability
And finally, and this is the most trying problem I experience, is that Garmin's flagship product - the 920XT - has serious issues with its ANT+ connection reliability for heart rate monitors (HRM) and other sensors. My current 920XT is actually my third 920XT. The first experienced repeated ANT+ disconnects / reconnects out of the box and was replaced by because it was faulty (the same sensors worked flawlessly with the Garmin Forerunner 15 which is a much lower end device). My second 920XT started experiencing the same problems two weeks after I received it and since I am training for an upcoming race, I went ahead and purchased a third 920XT while I am waiting for Garmin to troubleshoot my second 920XT (GPSCity has washed their hands of the problem). Confusing? Frustrating is a better word, particularly for devices in the $500+ range (I reported the issues with my second 920XT to Garmin on December 29th but have only heard from them once on January 2nd; the ticket remains open).

I write not to vent or complain, but to make the observation that these problems are emblematic of a cultural challenge for Garmin, which is the problem of overcommitment and underperformance that plagues all organizations when they allow the focus on creation and promotion of new things to overwhelm their capacity to support and take care of their existing customers. All the evidence cited above suggests to me that this is the case.

Here's three suggestions that I have for Garmin.

First, understand that your greatest competitive challenge today is not a lack of compelling products relative to competitors, but the frustration experienced by customers when they buy Garmin products and they don't work as advertised.

Second, software bugs in Garmin Connect are the largest source of problems experienced by Garmin customers. There needs to be an immediate freeze on the development of new features for Garmin Connect until the existing issues are resolved for good. What good is there in new features like Garmin Connect IQ when old features don't work as advertised?

Third, don't take your loyal customers for granted. Be more responsive to their complaints, but more importantly resolve for them the issues that they experience with your products. Successful companies delight their customers, they don't frustrate them.

One other stray piece of advice: one month out from releasing a high-end, high dollar flagship product like the 920XT don't suggest that is of cheap quality when plugging new products that are in the pipeline.

The business world is littered with companies that failed to realize their potential once they lost product focus and began delivering sub-par customer experiences. Trying to do too much, too fast is the enemy. Successful companies like Apple do just the opposite. They focus on just a few, select products and they never, ever release a product way before it is ready. That's the Garmin I hope to see in the future.