Quality of Service (QoS): Not Just For Information Technology

When I co-owned and operated Cramer IT Consulting in Iowa City, we put computer networks together for people.  I was not the technician in the room (I rarely am), but I got familiar at a high level with what the technicians were doing.

Our folks would program these circuit boards and use software settings that governed the order of priority that certain computer-things got done in.  In the days of the rise of voice-over-IP, which means making phone calls over the internet instead of over telephone lines, the early pioneers needed to figure out a way to make sure that the data carrying a voice call always went first ahead of other “packets” of data on the network.  Since a telephone call was “live” it needed to come through without delays in the individual bits of data that reconstituted someone’s voice.  Otherwise no one could understand what was being spoken.  Hence, QoS settings allowed the network administrator to tell the computer what got priority.

Well, it seems that in commerce today, if my everyday experiences are any indication, consumers have been put on the back burner and given low QoS settings.

I’m getting ready for a trip this week and with a few days to go, I needed three things: 1) a dental crown to arrive to install instead of the temporary one, 2) a mail-order prescription we are taking to a sick relative that we cannot source locally, and 3) our rental vehicle to be there when we need it.  And, wouldn’t you know it, all three were placed at risk of failing to be timely delivered.

The lab didn’t get the crown to my dentist on time, while there were no follow-up calls to anticipate this delay such that heaven and earth must now be moved to get the job done.  The prescription came with only 4 of 6 bottles in the box while the packing slip claimed all 6 were delivered.  The rental agency has an area manager looking for a minivan I reserved weeks ago and it is still up in the air with 3 days to go (and what would have happened if I did not anticipate the bad service and just showed-up for my minivan?).

Are we all just accepting that this is the way things are?  Of course, in the moment, frustration is experienced, some people’s tempers flare, “no, it’s not OK!”.  Ironically, the tempers that often flare are the service providers, as if the consumer is the one who is causing the problem by actually expecting a vendor to be on-time with the expectations that the vendor itself set.  That’s not to say the consumers don’t often cause their own problems by not being clear up-front with their own expectations.

There is no simple solution because this is just a glaring symptom of the very large, systemic problem of commoditization.  The meds were from a discount provider.  The van is on a fat corporate discount.  The dental insurance forces the dentist to accept less in payment for his services than he feels he needs to be in business and treat people well.  I, as the consumer, expect all these discounts, and yet also expect nothing to go wrong while paying people as little as possible for their efforts.  I am both the victim and the cause.

Jeff Koenig