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9. "Let Me Get to Where I Need to Go"

Some Web sites just don't allow customers to do the things they need to do as customers. The things they want to do are likely to fall into one of the five "doing areas" identified earlier.

Lack of utility

One of the most common areas of customer frustration is not being given access to people within a company. A Web site that only gives a generic e-mail or mail address or phone number, may not be seen to be particularly helpful.

Frustration also commonly arises when customers can't transfer their everyday transactions to the online medium. The level of that frustration will increase if those transactions are routine and frequently performed.

Customers also get frustrated when they can't access their personal information online, especially if they think it is required to perform routine, everyday transactions. Of course, access to personal information is a lot easier than it sounds. Customers generally don't understand the complexities of providing access to internally held information via the Web.

Customers expect to be able to get closer to the company they're doing business with, and noncapitulation is often taken by customers to be inferior customer service. These customer expectations were illustrated by Figure 1-1 in Chapter 1.

Information classification

Information has to be classified into areas that customers can access. That information can be cut many different ways, and the particular approach adopted may help or hinder customers.

There is a lot of debate over the most effective way to categorize information. I too have been involved in this debate and have observed customers' preferences with interest, keen to discover "one best way of doing it." However, I can't say there is "one best way." What I can say is that, when information classification gets in the way of customers doing the things they need to do, they get annoyed and frustrated.

Needless to say, few Web sites classify information on the basis of what customers want to do or tasks they want to perform. Often the necessary utility is buried deep in a site and the customer has to ferret it out. Some Web sites don't even provide obvious links to frequently required utility.

Obtrusive content

Customers get frustrated when they come to a Web site already knowing what they want and end up going through an interminable process of unnecessary persuasion. They want to go straight to the object of their desire, not churn through marketing blurb.

Frustration increases when customers are very familiar with a company's products; they may even know the name of the product they want (which is no small feat if brand names are given to different products). If a company has a high market profile, at a product level, customers need to make direct access to those products as quickly and easily as possible.

Blunders

Hidden utility

A customer finds out that their electricity supplier now has a Web site, and they have heard that it's supposed to offer good customer service. This customer is about to move to another home in a few weeks and wants to notify their supplier. Rather than sit in a long phone queue, the customer decides to advise their supplier online.

The customer goes to the Web site. The home page presents "Electricity for the Home" as an area for selection, and the customer clicks on that. Then the customer gets the "Home Page" for "Electricity for the Home." There is no obvious link to the type of activity the customer wants to perform, but there is a section called "Customer Service." The customer clicks on "Customer Service" and goes to a page that categorizes services under a few headings. The customer is not sure which one is exactly the closest to the activity they want to perform, but thinks "The Bill" is probably closest, since they will need the bill sent to the new address. The customer clicks on "The Bill" and gets a page that explains a typical bill. Just when the customer thinks that they haven't found what they're looking for, they remember to scroll down. And there it is, "Notify Change of Address." Clicking on this brings up a form that the customer fills in and sends.

It was there, just four layers down.

Helpfulness as hindrance

A customer goes to a car manufacturer's Web site. This customer knows exactly the make and model of the car they are interested in, they've seen it advertised everywhere recently. They go to the Web site and, on the home page, are met by a "guide" that offers to help the customer plug in some simple requirements to generate a list of models that meet those general requirements. The customer doesn't want to head down that route, because they already know what they want.

The customer notices that they can click through to a product search at this point, or they can click on a few other areas, but these are general categories and the customer is not sure which category this particular model would fall under. So the customer decides to risk the search function (their experience with search engines is checkered at best). After clicking on "Product Search" the customer receives a page that just lists the same product categories as were presented on the home page. At this point the customer scratches their head and asks themselves "How am I supposed to get to this product?"

Depending on how keen the customer is, they may go back to the home page and try to generate a recommendation for the model they want, so they can click through from there. Or, they may just go make a cup of coffee instead.

The sequence the customer goes through is shown in Figure 2-4.

Figure 2-4 Helpfulness as hindrance.

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