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Seventeen Customer Directives

When we get in the way of what customers want to do on the Web, they get frustrated. What they want to do will comprise getting around a site and making use of the content and functionality it offers.

There are some complaints, or requests, I've heard over and over again, in relation to a whole range of Web sites and industries. Customers don't know all the marketing and business reasons behind the way a business has done things, they just know what they want it to do, and they'll state it in simple terms they understand.

Here I will share with you what I have come to know as fundamental customer directives. There are 17 of them, and they're all given in customers' words. I have also provided examples to illustrate the types of roadblocks that drive customers mad. These examples are hypothetical but are closely related to real-life experiences that customers have had. I have called them "blunders," because that is how customers describe them. We know the reasons why these things happen, but customers don't.

That doesn't mean to say that customers will be equally frustrated by all these blunders. They will be most frustrated by what gets in the way of the things they want to do the most (and this will change depending on where the customer is at). Also, customers will take your Web site on balance. If you give them some very useful things, they may put up with some blunders and learn how to get around them (but that's not an excuse for making the blunder).

The following customer directives will give you some triggers for thinking about all of the factors that contribute to a frustrating customer experience, the thinking and planning that goes into a site, the content that ends up there, the visual interface and interactive functionality, and the performance of the system in general. All of these dynamics will be explored in depth in this book, and these customer directives will set a frame of reference for later. If businesses and Web site designers are aware of what frustrates customers they will be more likely to direct their energy into areas most likely to result in customer effectiveness.

And, remember, nothing can replace the value of doing customer testing tailored to your own customers and service offerings. The next chapter looks at ways you can do effective customer testing and the methods used to uncover these customer directives.

An overview of the seventeen customer directives is provided in Table 2-1. Now let's explore each of these customer directives in more depth. We will look at examples of some blunders being made on Web sites to illustrate just how often businesses are unwittingly violating these simple customer directives. (The Web sites making the blunders, have not been identified, but the scenarios given are based on experiences customers are having on those, and similar, Web sites).

Table 2-1 Seventeen customer directives and their implications

Customer Directive Implication

1 This better be worth the wait

Every piece of content , functionality and design should be complete and have a clear purpose.

2. Tell me what I get if I do this

Make the results of interactions, such as registration, very clear to e-customers. Never ask for information without stating what the e-customer will get in return, especially if some e-customers are excluded or a significant time investment is required.

3. I'll ID myself when I'm ready

Be sensitive about when e-customers want to be anonymous and when they don't. Make it clear when e-customers are well known to businesses but are anonymous on their Web sites.

4 Use what I give you

Every action should have a logical consequence.

5. Let me build my knowledge

Offer information and functionality that lets e-customers build on what they already know about a business.

6. Let me make a valid comparison

Make it easy for e-customers to compare products within and across Web-sites.

7. Don't expect me to make a decision without the facts

Don't prompt actions at inappropriate points in e-customers' decision-making processes.

8. Be careful second-guessing my needs

Don't make recommendations or offer personalized content unless you know enough about the e-customer to be relevant and useful.

9. Let me get to where I need to go

Let e-customers go straight to important parts of a Web site, such as those related to frequently required service requests.

10. Yes, I want it now, what?

If e-customers can express their desire for a product or service they should be able to go about getting it right then and there.

11. Signpost my journey

Provide a centralized, consistent and helpful navigation system that doesn't send e-customers off to disparate sub-sites. Always show e-customers where they are, where they've been and where they can go next.

12. Don't lock me out

Don't invite e-customers to engage in any interaction, such as authenticating themselves, when they may be excluded from the results of that interaction. Make it very clear when different e-customers have different privileges.

13. Don't limit my choices

Whenever Web sites offer selection criteria to e-customers, there is a risk the criteria will be wrong or incomplete. E-customers should have as much control as possible over what content they receive in relation to certain criteria.

14. Give me digestable chunks

Use the interactivity of the Web to layer the delivery of information so that e-customers don't get overloaded with more information than they need at one time.

15. Call a spade a spade

Be honest about what Web site functions will do for e-customers. Avoid using fancy labels that overstate the usefulness or sophistication of Web site components.

16. Tell me the info you need

E-customers should not have to use trial and error to complete an online process such as ordering or sending an e-mail form. All mandatory fields should be clearly stated and error messages should be specific and relate to all errors generated in the previous interaction.

17 Don't ignore important relationships

If e-customers have important relationships with people in businesses, they will expect that to carry over to their Web sites. This is particularly relevant in the case of business-to-business relationships.

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