Why Are Tolls Better Than Cable?

I despise cable TV providers with a raging passion.  Getting cable is unpleasant.  Using the cable box is a nightmare.  The quality is spotty at best.  And I'm referring to all of the technologies: standard cable, IPTV (I'm looking at you, U-verse), satellite, you name it.  And don't get me started on the impossible to read bills.  All-in-all, premium television providers have a terrible user experience.

But that's not what prompted me to write this.

I went to the EZ-Tag Store this morning.  This is the place where the Harris County Toll Road Authority sells the RFID windshield stickers that allow Houstonians, such as myself, to pay road tolls at 70 MPH.  I've loved the EZ-Tag system since I moved here from Baltimore 4 years ago.  To me, it's tolls done right: You don't have to slow down, there are plenty of EZ-Tag-only lanes, there are toll-only roads, etc. 

Today I needed to replace my sticker so I went to the store.  I peeled my existing sticker off, walked in, and had my replacement in about 5 minutes.  Then I looked at the sticker they gave me.  Not only did it have an alcohol wipe paperclipped to the tag so I could clean my windshield, but the place where it was clipped had the corner of the backing peeled back a little to make exposing the sticky side a breeze.  It gave me the feeling that someone went through the process of applying the sticker and took note of what could be done to make it easier. 

Clean the windshield? 
Peel the backing off? 
Okay, what's next? 
Hmm, how do I know it's working?

As I looped around the parking lot I saw a sign that said EZ-Tag Test Lane.  Sure enough there was a 3 carlength section of parking lot with guide posts and an EZ-Tag reader with a light at the end.  I pulled up, the light turned green, and I was on my way.

The rest of the drive to my office I marveled at how well the EZ-Tag experience was designed compared to so many others.  And this was for tolls!  Take a look at your product or service from your user's perspective and ask yourself if your experience is as pleasant as paying tolls.  Chances are you can find several "little" ways to set yourself apart.

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