Someone else’s shoes
A good user experience starts from the moment a client encounters your name – be it in print, web or otherwise. Geoff Meads talks about fostering trust in clients, before you’ve even talked to them.
As I write this, I have a broken toe. The effected foot is resting on our coffee table and my laptop is balanced on a cushion. My current predicament is my own silly fault. I was running through the house, enroute to answer the front door, when I stubbed my left foot on a doorway. There were swear words, they were multitude.
I knew instantly this was not a usual stubbed toe, this was serious. I’ll spare you the more gruesome details but, rest assured, I am currently far less mobile than normal, and this is a bigger problem than it usually might be. You see, we’re moving house next week, so our current property is a minefield of packing boxes. I now hobble / stumble, carefully, everywhere.
The Difficulty with Difficulty
It’s at times like these that you start to appreciate what life is like for other people. What additional challenges face those with long term or even permanent disabilities and how we might learn from a temporary change to our normal lives. For me, for now it means movements must be slower and more carefully negotiated. This will pass in a few days or weeks but for some it’s a permeant situation so I’m lucky really.
It’s not just physical disabilities that can challenge human beings. Cognitive issues can manifest in all sorts of ways and even otherwise ‘intelligent’ people can utterly fail to understand what some of us know instinctively. Technology is just such a subject. For those us that work in technology, particularly home technology, the concepts of control, data, audio and power are ingrained in our brain’s everyday thoughts. For our customers these concepts can be as alien as someone speaking a different language.
When teaching classes I often share the notion that we, as an industry, speak Klingon.
Imagine, for a moment, taking someone off the street and placing them on the show floor of a smart home trade show. They’d have not one clue what we were talking about. Our use of industry terms, jargon, colloquiums, and our obsession with acronyms would make their head spin and probably persuade them to head for the door with great speed.
Unless they had a broken toe, then they’d probably hobble!
With this in mind, a clever integrator realises that the ‘User Experience’ for our customers does not start with a keypad or remote handset on a wall in a home. It starts with our marketing collateral (emails, website, brochures, social feeds etc.) and continues through meetings, phone calls, handovers and the general on-going relationship.
The desire for a great ‘user experience’ should be pervasive through an entire business. All parts of a business can contribute to both positive and negative impressions, and we should always have this in mind.
I’m sure you’d wish a great experience for everyone when dealing with your company. Hopefully it’s also clear that the User Experience of any company is not just about the direct products or services that it provides but also its wider communications. So how do we find out what our current User Experience is like and, once we know where we are, how do we improve? The answer can be found in places called ‘touch points’.
Put simply, a ‘touch point’ is any time or place when a customer interacts with your company. When we say ‘your company’ we don’t just mean the people that work for the company but also the technology that the company uses or provides.
Let’s take an example of a sales enquiry:
Enquiries can come from a multitude of sources. Maybe it’s a referral, maybe it’s from a Google Search or maybe it’s something more direct like a magazine advert or mail campaign. With each of these we are making a first impression with something that is not human. We all know how important that first impression is too!
At first contact you may be thinking that you’d like to get your sales message out to the person enquiring before they get distracted and look elsewhere. Afterall, the world is a noisy place. That’s a legitimate concern for anyone in sales. However, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the customer, we find they often have other concerns that take a higher priority.
Taking the example of a homeowner looking for an integrator, they might we wondering things like ‘are they to be trusted in my home’, ‘will they be really expensive’ or ‘will I be able to use the technology they install or will it just baffle and frustrate me?’
The wording of your website, email or advertisement needs to address these concerns and so do your salespeople when they answer a phone call or email.
What’s more, it is the responsibility of everyone in the company, from sales to accounts and beyond, to make sure the experience of dealing with you is a good one and a consistent one. This is where a well-crafted user experience can start to build a great relationship, even before any human representatives get involved.
McDonalds, Amazon and Beyond
Managing the user experience of a whole company can be a daunting proposition. If you’re a sole trader then you already have complete control and you can take measurements, make changes and gauge success really easily. If you’re a large company, especially if you are a multi-national, then you probably have a whole marketing department looking after this already.
However, most companies in the smart home industry are mid-sized, maybe 4-10 people or so, and this is where it’s most tricky to get it right.
My suggestion here is ‘little by little’. Engage the whole team of course but, each week, try and look at the experience of one touch point from a customer’s perspective. You can take turns ‘playing customer’ or even ask friends and family to acts as potential customers and report back. Build scenarios that mirror common customer traits and see how the company performs.
A great user experience is, in my opinion, not about driving initial sales (although it does help with that), it is about developing that most difficult of behaviours – customer loyalty.