A former colleague recounted a tale to me recently. Early in his career he’d worked on an account for the UK government, and they were investing heavily in digital infrastructure with a view to moving much of their social services online. One of the websites they built was to offer help to people who had been unemployed for a long time. Build it and they will come, they said. Only they didn’t, and the few that did, didn’t do what they were supposed to do. So why was this?
Primarily because they hadn’t thought about the customer. They knew what they wanted to say but were cognitively blind to the realities of the long-term unemployed. The majority of those in long-term unemployment were less able to access a computer or certainly own one. And their educational level was more likely to be below average, so a reading age of 16yrs, think The Irish Times, was confusing.
The site had to be re-built.
A cautionary tale that paved the way for more inclusive experience design across our industry, but in some ways the challenges of delivering great digital experiences are the same as they’ve always been. Clearly defining the problem to solve and listening to and observing customers.
Times have changed. The world has sped up considerably. People aren’t ‘going online’ anymore, they live their lives through the internet, day in, day out.
So, we’re past the point of a one-off set of focus groups or a couple of ethnographic studies when it comes to building digital products. This heightened need for customer centric design means that teams building digital experiences need to move at the same pace as the customer. They need an ongoing relationship, always testing and looking for improvements.
In addition, markets have become more saturated so products with features and functions don’t cut it anymore. Brands need to offer services and experiences that offer an emotional benefit too.
The experience you offer to your customers, the content and quality of all the interactions they have with your business, are more powerful than any form of advertising and a key pillar in developing your brand and reputation.
It goes without saying that it is imperative to deliver a quality experience across all channels and touchpoints.
It needs to feel like a consistent and seamless experience so it’s important to consider where and how and by what means customers wish to interact, whether that be by phone, email or chatbot.
Brands also need to offer opportunities for feedback in real time. To let their customers, have a say in their experience. Surveys are one way of doing this but using social listening tools to measure sentiment and creating a VIP club for valued customers to share their views are arguably more useful.
Great customer experience is for a large part driven by responsiveness, how quick and how helpful you are to their requests. Increasingly, we are seeing the use of chatbots and virtual assistants to put customers in touch with the right information or the right human being. Friction in a customer experience is something to be avoided.
Although it’s important to note that many people would rather not deal with customer services so ensure your digital interface is built with self-serving options such as FAQ’s or a ‘how-to’ video.
Products, services and experiences are becoming increasingly difficult to separate. So, brands wishing to deliver an exceptional experience need to look at them in the whole rather than focus on the component parts such as interface and fulfillment, because that is what their customers will do.
Digitally native brands like Instagram, Apple or Google do this really well. There is a huge amount of heavy lifting that goes on behind the scenes for these businesses, but you can’t see the gaps, the experience is as seamless as it is simple and intuitive.
For want of a more down to earth analogy, think of a visit to a restaurant. The component parts – If the shop front, the menu, the food, the decor and the service are all exceptional the experience is, and you’ll go there again or recommend it. But if one of those component parts is out of tune the experience can be ruined.
Experience is Brand. How you make people feel. So, thinking about the experience you deliver and investing in it is critical to building your brand in the digital economy. Remember, nowadays people vote with their thumbs.
Michelle Davis is one of our Managing Partners at MediaCom Ireland