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Viewpoint: the Unintended Consequences of Low Fidelity

by Randall Craig on July 10, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Mobile, Viewpoint

Tagged as: , , , ,

It wasn’t that many years ago that both people and organizations craved higher and higher fidelity: 7.1 Dolby Digital sound, Ultra High Definition TV screens, and so on. Today though, mobile (and digital) is driving size in the other direction: smaller.

An unintended consequence, however, is that the fidelity of the user experience has also dramatically shifted downwards:

  • Mobile phone operators are cramming ever more signal into the airwaves, resulting in ever-poorer voice quality.
  • Watching video on mobile is also a low-resolution experience: the picture is often both jerky and fuzzy. And since the earbud experience in a noisy area is definitely not the home theatre experience, the audio is equally lacking.
  • Many organizations have moved to Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone systems.  While far cheaper than traditional phone systems, VOIP fidelity is 100% dependent on available internet bandwidth, and a perfectly paved internet pathway between the sender and receiver.  In many cases, this means a choppy and low fidelity connection.

As society moves more towards mobile, and organizations move more towards driving down costs, there is an inflection point that is too often missed: At what point does a low fidelity experience impact the brand?  Or said another way: is the investment in marketing and training being undermined by the user experience over the phone?

Sadly, the answer is yes, and it is going to get worse.  While it is difficult to get around this problem, there are some things that can be done to minimize the impact:

Mobile:

  • Produce videos with a “mobile-first” mindset.
  • Host videos in multiple resolutions (YouTube does this automatically), so if bandwidth allows, better fidelity is possible.
  • Use the “most popular” cell phone operator within your geography.  There may be less compression if more bandwidth is available; also compression is worse when the two parties use two different operators.

VOIP:

  • Ensure adequate internet bandwidth that is specifically segregated for VOIP phones.
  • Purchase HD Voice phonesets for VOIP systems.
  • Insist on voice quality service level agreements with the VOIP provider.

This week’s action plan: Trust, but verify. This week, put yourself in the shoes of your target audiences, and test-drive your mobile and VOIP experience. And don’t just rely on yourself: ask your front line staff if there is a problem. Don’t let low-fidelity technology get in the way of your brand.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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