Five sure-fire ways to annoy users
User experience isn’t just based on your product but on the way you conduct every facet of your business. Geoff Meads highlights his top five headaches.
The owner of a well-known London integration company once told me a story. It went something like this:
After working weeks on a particular project, with many late nights, the boss of the company found himself in the customer’s home late one Friday night. He was the last one on site and desperately trying to get the programming finished. In walked the customer and said: “You have no idea how long this stuff takes do you? I’m also guessing you have no idea how much to really charge for it either!”
By the integrator’s own admission, the customer was dead right.
It was a turning point for his business, and he went on to do some serious re-organisation, in-depth time tracking and changing his future quotes as a result. It’s tempting to think of this story just in terms of the long-term profitability (and sanity) of the integrator.
But to me the more interesting story is how the integrator looked in front of the customer. Clearly, the customer could see the integrator was failing. He had no idea how long the various parts of the project took and had not considered how the customer viewed the large number of hours they were spending on site trying to get finished.
In short, the company looked unprofessional and were at serious risk of losing any referral business or worse, gaining a poor reputation.
I’ve said before in this column that user experience (or ‘UX’ for short) isn’t just about equipment and user interfaces. It’s about the impression your company gives to the outside world across all its communications, including all installed systems and the work that goes on to install them.
So, this issue, for your delight, is my top five ‘pet peeves’ when it comes to dealing with a company and the bad impressions they leave.
How many times have you been promised something, especially during a support phone call, and it is never delivered? How about features promised by a manufacturer then left out of a software update?
Recently, while dealing with our local telecom provider, I had been promised an accounting error would be corrected no less than seven times. On each phone call I had been promised it would be resolved. Today we just got our latest bill and it’s still wrong.
Company structures are all about organisational departments. Sales, accounts, manufacturing etc. It makes sense for the company as colleagues in the same department can cover for each other during holidays etc. and progress up through a department structure as their knowledge and skills increase.
But do these structures best serve the customer?
How many times have you called a company with a question and been bounced around department representatives who can’t help because your question falls between two department’s remit or between specific job rolls? What should be a user-centred experience becomes one that can quickly lead to customer annoyance.
Incomplete directions / signage
Let’s use a real-life example here. Last week my wife and I went to the cinema. Arriving at the car park next door to the cinema at 6.20pm we noticed a sign at the payment machine saying: “This car park closes at 6.30pm and reopens at 7am.”
So, our first thought was: “We need to find somewhere else to park or we risk having our car locked in until tomorrow morning!”
However, walking around, I couldn’t see any gate on the exit of the car park that might be used to lock us in. Confused, and after ten minutes of looking around, I found a member of staff to speak to and it turns out the car park doesn’t close but just stops people entering between 6.30pm and 7am; you could leave whenever you like. One simple change to the signage could have made the whole situation so much clearer.
Somewhere, in the deepest depths of hell I should imagine, there is a school that teaches people how to program those telephone systems that offer you options like ‘Press 1 to be ignored, 2 to speak to someone who isn’t trained, 3 for 56 more options or 4 to connect to an operator who will never actually pick up the phone’.
Recently I experienced this sort of scenario. I had a simple product question so, having had no response to an initial email enquiry to the company, I phoned the number of their website. It took 15 mins to establish that no combination of their phone system options led to ‘technical support’.
So, I opted to speak to the ‘operator’, an option which was about three levels deep in their options list. The operator / receptionist listened to my question and quickly put me through to someone who could help. Quite why this eight-person company feels the need for an automated phone system rather than just trusting in their receptionist to quickly and efficiently route calls is beyond me.
While I love travelling in the USA and have many friends and family who are US citizens, I often find the general demeanour of the customer facing people there patronising, sometimes to extremes.
For example, I’m often asked by US checkout staff: “How is your day going today?”.
I’ll let you into a secret, they don’t really care. But that’s what they are trained to say so that’s what you’ll get, regardless of how ridiculous a question it is in that situation.
It’s probably a cultural thing but that just goes to show that understanding how your words and actions are seen by other cultures and adjusting accordingly is important. Indeed, I know my friends and family find the demeanour of British serving staff just as odd!
If you’re thinking I’m on a bit of a rant this month then you’d be spot on. But there is method in my madness. You see, it doesn’t take much to correct and / or prevent these issues in your company. You simply need to think like the customer that you are in your other endeavours, and you’ll soon see the opportunities, not only to delight your customers, but to truly standout from your competitors.