All of a sudden, everyone everywhere is talking about customer experience – “use social media to build stronger customer relationships; find advocates that will help build your brand and reputation”.
It’s as if a massive light switch marked ‘the customer is king’ has suddenly been discovered. But why the surprise, and why has it taken the combined forces of an economic downturn and a collaborative revolution to make so many firms realise the importance of the customer?
The answer, quite simply, is that usability and the quality of the client experience has previously been taken for granted. And the web – despite its focus on collaboration – is one platform where the customer has often been left wanting more.
For many people, a quality experience is all about the look and feel of a site. Whether it’s the business themselves or the individual client, a cool-looking site with sexy visuals can be an appealing proposition.
Until, that is, download times are increased. Certain businesses are particularly guilty; many car manufacturers, for example, load their sites with dynamic content that forces the reader to sit and watch a ‘loading bar’ before entering the site.
Car companies are not alone. Media businesses have spent years creating smart sites that include flashy graphics and content heavy visuals, only to forget one key element – most users come to a media site through Google. What the customer wants is news quickly, not slow-loading pages.
Unfamiliarity – rather than familiarity – breeds contempt in the online world. There’s nothing worse than flicking between sites and being bamboozled by a new series of drop down menus. Go for familiarity across all sites; there’s a reason many successful sites look the same – it’s because they’re easy to use.
At the same time, do not be put off designing nice-looking web pages. As you design the site, continually make sure the site is usable. It’s no good creating a high-technology portal that takes minutes to download and then requires the user to take a crash course in navigation.
In this new age of interactivity, where the customer really is king, do not forget the basics – your customer will stay brand loyal on the web if your site is usable. Fail to take heed of this balance lesson and clients will soon lose their loving feeling for your brand.