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Customers and Organizations

Now, having thought about what customers want to do on the Web, and the directives they might give us in providing what they want, we are faced with a very fundamental issue-customers and businesses don't necessarily want the same things. Businesses often want to create or change customer behavior. Businesses want to influence the services customers use in different situations and the way they use them. This may not always line up with what the customer is trying to do. While businesses can use Web sites as a means to influence e-customers, that influence should be in harmony with what e-customers are trying to do. When businesses try to explicitly mould a customer's Web site experience, contrary to a customer's natural expectations, it is seen as obtrusive and the customer becomes frustrated.

Conflict between business and e-customer goals becomes very apparent in cases where bricks-and-mortar companies begin to migrate some of their services online. Sometimes bricks-and-mortar companies will introduce new service processes and relationships on their Web site, and they can be contrary to what the customer normally experiences offline, and potentially expects online. This won't be a problem for bricks-and-mortar companies or their customers, as long as customers needs are recognized and the company works with customers to change service processes over time in a way that makes sense. If bricks-and-mortar companies are seen to immediately offer a lesser quality of service (through the absence of physical contacts and services, for example), then there will be a direct conflict between what companies and customers are trying to achieve.

It is unlikely that we will be able to provide all of the content and functionality required to service every need customers have. Some of those needs just can't be met (well, not now anyway), and sometimes the business chooses not to meet them for their own reasons. For starters, it may not be technologically possible to provide customers with the experience they want.

Creating customer-effective Web sites can be a win-win proposition-it's just a balancing act. A company has to deliberately consider the customer needs they cannot meet and work out how that is going to be handled.

A business that does not consider the balancing of organizational and customer needs may be seen to be ignoring its customers and offering inferior customer service. And a company's apparent silence on the matter will make it "guilty as charged." In addition, if a business gets its first attempt at electronic service so wrong that customers have a bad experience, it may not be given a second chance to get it right.

Ways that businesses can establish their requirements with customers' needs in mind, understand the balancing act required, and manage and implement Web sites that effectively meet customer needs are explored further in Chapters 4 and 5.

Meanwhile, we will look at customer testing and some ways to go about getting quality information from our customers.

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