Got a faulty user experience? Your customers will out you publicly

October 20, 2009

Having a poor website has never been excusable, if you want to have a presence online then you need to make it engaging, simple to use and easy to grok (understand). You want to have minimal barriers to conversion in your UI and you need to have easy routes to allow feedback and for your customers to talk to you.

In the past if you did screw up and disappoint a user or customer they’d generally talk to you about it through the usual channels of email or a phone call (if you’d been sensible enough to put a phone number on your website) where you could deal with the customer’s issue as best you could and at least half on your terms.

Now you’re more likely to get talked about in places where you have no control and possibly very little influence as customers vent their frustrations at a poor online experience on various social channels. A new survey by Tealeaf and Harris Interactive shows that the number of users who encounter an issue on a website and then share that experience on blogs and social networks has doubled from 6%-12% of the people they surveyed in the last year. While use of social networks as channels for letting off steam is increasing the same survey shows that the number of people who would try to contact a company through their website or call centre has dropped.

Help I hear you cry, does this mean we’re (brands) losing control of our relationship with our customers? It may well feel like it and any brand who’s experienced the power of crowd opinion on social networks when they screw up without being prepared will tell you it can be a scary experience. And preparation is what it’s all about.

Obviously you need to iron out the kinks in your web experience to try to stop complaints happening in the first place, optimise your customer care processes and make sure you have clear ways to contact you on your website.

If you really want to meet this new threat* head on and be ready to douse the flames before they get too hot, then the best way to prepare yourself for a situation like this happening is to embrace social media and make it a part of your business. Open up, interact and join the conversation so that you’re right at the hub of the discussion about your brand, ready to solve peoples problems, admit your failings and generally provide great customer service through social channels. It’s not just usability (as in making your website or product easier to use), it’s about social or brand usability (as in making your brand sociable, approachable, responsive and interactive).

*Of course this isn't a threat really. It's possibly the best opportunity you 
have ever had to really generate loyalty and brand alignment amongst your users and customers.
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