A Software Testers Love Letter to QVC: What The Shopping Channel Can Teach Us About Quality

N.B. I am not sponsored or paid to write content about any company, product or feature. I simply write about things that I genuinely love.

For many many years now I’ve loved the shopping channel QVC. And I’m with Fenton Bailey here, I refuse to be apologetic about it. They have been going in the UK for 30 years, far longer than most technology companies and certainly longer than most TV programmes.

I don’t actually enjoy physically going round the shops much, but there is something about the psychology of watching people try to sell stuff to other people in a non-invasive way that fascinates me. And as an avid viewer for years I can attest that QVC are very, very good at what they do. TV aside, they are also spectacularly tech savvy, know their customers like the back of their hand, and can offer software testers and the wider tech community some nuggets of wisdom, provided we are open minded enough to take them seriously.

In this post, I’m going to advocate for being “a bit more QVC” in a few key areas. Personally, I struggle to resonate with similar posts drawing parallels with sports, historical figures or super tech heavy things, so I hope there are others who share this view and find the following a bit more sticky.

The Power Of Personalities

QVC very rarely, if ever rely on a single presenter. Go and put the screen on now, and you are likely to see at least two people. Usually, a QVC key presenters such as a general fashion expert or beauty officionado, alongside someone representing the product.

Screenshot of QVC TV, showing two presenters demo-ing a product

And it works. It comes off as more persuasive and more trustworthy watching a conversation rather than a lecture – I guess its for the same reason that a lot of sports have both the “technical” and the “colour” commentator.

I wonder if we could be more QVC in our approach to documentation, show-and-tells or just plain conversation. Put our technical, SME hat on to talk about a products key features, key technical observations etc. Then either ourselves, or a co-presenter/pair-tester etc. provides the human commentary – uses humour, empathy and story telling to win folks over.

The Power Of Persuasiveness

Speaking of winning folk over, I often think when watching QVC how well trained the presenters must be to convince thousands of people to do something in the space of just minutes. One sales technique they use to good effect is to give use cases, or examples, of how a product could help solve a problem you have had. Simple anti-virus sticks, RFID protective wallets or even security cameras all talk about the potential of what *might* happen. And mitigating against risk is no different really is it? We could be more QVC by being empathetic in how we communicate, thinking about what is going to resonate with the “audience” or stakeholder, and giving them real world examples of what could happen to help to persuade them. And do the same in our talks – make it about whats-in-it-for-the-viewer, not how-much-can-the-speaker-show-off-what-they-know.

The Power Of The Sincere Apology

Issues are addressed immediately – because believe it or not, you can’t lie on telly, so if someone makes a claim that isn’t technically true (e.g. provide clinical studies or industry recognised evidence to back up what they are saying) there are financial implications as well as trust ones. So any issue, no matter how slight e.g. “the measurements we read for that top don’t look right” or a discrepancy between what colour a chair is called on the website vs. on air, is called out, apologised for, and rectified.

I recently had an issue with an unnamed tech company, who mid-way through a bug they had caused by a new release which froze accounts actually went so far as to remove the customer support page where folks were reporting the problem! This kind of opacity drives me bonkers, and I think there is definitely a lesson to be learned there about proactive and diligent comms, and a culture that expects the odd mistakes and provides a human way of dealing with them. Be more QVC.

The Power of Embracing Change

QVC adapt. Constantly. They are masters of reviewing what works, adapting their model and unapologetically binning off product lines that their loyal customer base no longer resonate with. Perhaps we should be a bit more QVC when maintaining our (automated) test suites?

When it comes to the tech, QVC are clearly using it wisely. No access method to purchase something is off the table. From on screen QR codes, “tap the app”, widget, using the website or the good old speak-to-a-person-on-the-phone, its a reminder to continually truly understand your customer base and create your ecosystem around their range of wants – not just the single method that’s easiest and cheapest to implement for the most people.

Extract from QVC UK website, showing the different social media and native apps they support

The Power Of Customer Feedback

QVC’s unflinching, relentless focus on customers, allowing them unfettered and unfiltered feedback on all products they sell, is a way we could be more QVC. Perhaps the ultimate twist is Qurio – a Social Shopping App – aka free user research!

Extract from QVC website introducing Qurio social shopping app

QVC are so confident in what they do, that they use an app that lets their customers give personal video reviews of their products. And what’s more – their customers do not get paid to do this, the community is so strong that people will spread the word about the products they buy for absolutely nothing. I wonder how many companies would love that sort of insight. If we wrote, tested and released software with a view that each and every single customer of that software had a direct and publicly visible way to feedback how much they liked it (or didn’t like it) – be honest, how much would this force us to change our whole teams view on quality? How many more conversations would we have? How much more adaptive would we be?

Be More QVC

Clearly, I am an unapologetic fan of QVC. I’m obsessed with their human centred approach to everything they do, and look forward to continuing to be inspired by their work. QVC even have an accessibility brand ambassador, a series of shows and bags of content focussed on menopause, and hundreds of podcasts to add depth to their content.

To paraphrase one of their own tag lines, if you think you know QVC, and think it can’t teach you anything about tech, you might want to think again.


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