Best Face Forward – Article Review

by Joseph on Jul 16th in Article Review, Best Face Forward, HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, reengineering, systems engineering, unified interface


In their article “Best Face Forward” (2004), Rayport and Jaworski discuss ways in which companies can integrate humans and computers into a unified interface which interacts with customers. The thesis they begin with is that without specific attention, most companies develop disparate interfaces between departments, or even projects within a department. The goal of “reengineering” the customer-facing business operations is to achieve a unified system which provides customers with better service, and the company with better efficiency and revenue.

The field of Human-Computer Interaction has been growing over the past decades, as computers are becoming more powerful. Analysts are finding surprising results regarding customers preferences of machines over people, even in matters such as shopping assistance and customer service. Airline Customers have found that automated ticket kiosks have sped the process of check-ins, while many grocery customers appreciate the speed of the “U-Pay” style check-out lines.

The first step a business must take is to determine the type of customer interaction their customer expects. In cases where a service provided depends on creative handling of judgement or pattern recognition, humans have an edge over machines. However, if the service depends on achieving consistent results when dealing with repetitive tasks, a machine would have the edge over human.

With the development of the new field of HCI, however, care must be given to how humans perceive the interface. For instance, in Grocery Store Self-Checkout lanes, customers are pleased when it is fast and easy. However, according to Walters (2009), there are cases where confusing dialogs and buggy programming can cause more harm than good.

IT needs to work with the end users and potential customers to ensure that Machine-Based interfaces not only work uniformly together, but that they also work seamlessly with the human side of the business. In addition, the software developers should pay close attention to feedback received during development, in order to develop a system that is intuitively understood by potential customers and users.


Rayport, J. & Jaworski, B. (December 2004). Best Face Forward. Harvard Business Review, 82(12), 47-58. Retrieved July 16, 2009, Business Source Complete database.

Walters, C. (2009). Consumerist – Dear Kroger, Please Make Self Check-Out Suck Less. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from

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