Market musings

The Mechanics of Feature Fatigue: When Is Less More?

by Sasha Viasasha
December 15, 2017

Phones are simple. You dial and you talk, sometimes you leave a message. It rings, you pick it up. This concludes basic training.

Imagine if your business phone system was that simple. Routing calls to the next available employee?  Built-in. Find Me/Follow Me? Automatic. Local numbers around the world? Just pick the country. Instantaneous updates to the employee directory? Already done. 

That's a long way from the complexity of managing an on-premise PBX system or configuring SIP softphones.

Business phone systems can take you to an entirely new level of frustration and complexity. They normally start out with something simple like:

"Using another machine on your same network, open a web browser and enter the IP address of your PBX. If you don't know the IP address of your PBX, go to the Linux console/command prompt.  Login to the Linux console using the username "root" without quotes, and the root password you selected during installation. You will then be shown your IP address." 

Instructions like these go on for 400 pages or so and soon you will be looking at:


It's normally around this time that many business owners find themselves picking up a smartphone and using the simple UI to call tech support.

What got them to this point was the fact that PBX and VoIP phone providers fervently wish to add utility by adding features. What many business owners experience instead of satisfaction is something called “feature fatigue.” 

The Price of Too Many Benefits

Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the phenomenon that results from the very literal embarrassment of riches when it comes to adding features to tech. Their findings were published in the Journal of Marketing Research as “Feature Fatigue: When Product Capabilities Become Too Much of a Good Thing.”

The study concluded,

“As technology advances, it becomes more feasible to load products with a large number of features, each of which individually might be seen as useful."

"While both economic theory and current market research techniques suggest that increasing the number of features will make a product more appealing, too many features can make a product overwhelming and hard to use.” 

Utility vs. Usability

Deploying a host of charts, equations, experimental results and conceptual models, they found that users assign more weight to capabilities in evaluating their options, but assign more weight to usability in satisfaction surveys after the purchase.

In other words, features make sales, but usability makes customers. 

The report observed that “What appears to be attractive in prospect does not necessarily appear to be good in practice: When using a product, consumers may become frustrated or dissatisfied with the number of features they desired.”

Here are just a few of the many valuable data points they found along the way:

  • After buying a high-tech product, 56% of consumers are overwhelmed by its complexity
  • Some users experience an autonomic stress or anxiety response just by looking at a features list
  • The user’s technical expertise has no impact on feature fatigue

5 ways to stay simple and profitable

The report summed up 5 recommendations for business owners considering how many features they should develop and deploy:

  1. In terms of CLV (customer lifetime value), adding all the features that maximize customer purchase intent will result in unsustainable complexity.
  2. Reducing the number of features to a minimum viable product increases the probability of repeat business.
  3. Increasing the number of features above the optimal level reduces the net present value of profitability for the business, even when those features can be added at 0 cost.  
  4. As the KPI of future sales rises in importance, the optimal number of features falls.
  5. If market research indicates demand for a large number of features, the business should investigate the development of a segmented cluster of market offerings, each with a limited set features.

Which business phone features do you really need?

With Spoke Phone, we've built a simple, intuitive interface that employees and customers will love to use. Based on our studies of how employees at small and medium sized companies actually use their phones, we've learned that less is more.

There's a set of core phone system features that small companies need. The rest only add complexity and reduce productivity. Spoke turns your existing smartphones into a mobile phone network administered from a simple app. Simple to install, easy to use, and containing the capabilities of a virtual PBX.

Our smart directory keeps track of all your business calls and supports your company with features like an AI receptionist, easy call transfer, and group calling. You can choose a business phone line or port over the number you're already using. The Spoke app masks employee private numbers so you can feel secure when they use their own devices. It provides call context and live-presence, combining the low pressure of texting with the high problem resolution power of a phone call.

We believe that your phone system should help you solve problems, not create them. All for a price up to 88% less than your current phone system. 

Do more, spend less

Want to learn more about how Spoke sparks more conversations to solve more problems? Contact us to test out your own demo, and give your business a new voice.

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