Monthly Archives: March 2011

Tsumani Reporting as User Experience

In the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, there’s been an wide variation in the way information has been presented as media channels scrambled to be the first with images and news.  I’ve been as compelled as the next person, watching endless versions of the same video and  pictures  – to the point of horrified overload.

Then, thanks to friend’s Facebook postings, I happened upon the following, similar pages: one from ABC News Australia and the other from the New York Times.

Before/after tsunami image- ABC Australia

ABC Australia

Before/after tunami image from NYTimes

New York Times

Both do well what others did poorly, or not at all – they provide context. Each makes it possible to understand specific information in terms of the bigger picture.

If the objective is to inform us in a way that we can make sense of what we see, these pages hit a home run.

  • As information design, they excel:  they communicate clearly without needing a narrative, just simple captions.
  • As user experience, they excel: they’re straightforward, easy-to-use, the interactions follow a consistent pattern. -The user doesn’t have to work at all to “get it.”

Why is this important?
Each page on your site should make it easy for the user to achieve her/his goal in addition to serving your business purpose. Do your key pages resemble early tsunami information presentation? Or have you done the work, as the two sites above have, to make it simple for your user, and therefore more likely that they will do what you want them to do while there? Hopefully it won’t take a disaster to see the bigger picture.

Call Center Spoof is Full of Lessons

It wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so true. The video below first appeared on Belgium television in January 2011. Expand the description to read the story. If you can’t see the English captions, toggle the text bubble in the control panel.

So darn funny; it’s also pitch-perfect.  The creators managed to spoof almost every call center frustration. Who hasn’t been on the receiving end of an experience like this?

And if you’re the one with the call center? How many of the spoofed mistakes are you making by focusing on marketing or internal operational “efficiency” instead of what your customer actually needs in order to get help?

These basic questions just scratch the surface of what it takes to provide a good customer service experience. See how your answers stack up:

  • Do you train (and  monitor) Level 1 customer service reps (CSRs) on how to enter information into your system so that basic information and the customer’s story is clear to others to whom the customer may be transferred?
  • Do all CSRs, including management, have EASY access to the ongoing call record, so they actually refer to it?
  • Do you provide an easy way for the customer (or in the case of the video, the non-customer) to be identified in the system? One that doesn’t require a company-internal number?

Not to mention your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system –

  • Have you made choices specific instead of vague? And is there a clear option when none of the choices are a fit?
  • Can a customer reach a live person before becoming frustrated out of his/her mind?

So take 10 minutes and sit back and laugh. But if the video resembles your customer service in any way, you’re inadvertently driving customers away. You might want to do something about that!

Unexpected Delight – from a marketing call?!?

Interruptive marketing calls- we all hate them. The only reason I haven’t signed up for the National “Do Not Call” list is professional curiosity.

Well, I got a call last week from a company that said they were contacting me based on my responses to an online form that expressed interest in their service. Yeah, sure.  I asked which site the form was on (suspecting they wouldn’t have an answer),  asked them to take me off their call list, and moved on.

Yesterday, I received the following  snail mail:

Dir Sir or Madam:

First let me apologize for any inconvenience that we may have caused you. As you requested,we have placed your phone number on our internal Do Not Call list. I’ve also enclosed a copy of <company name’s> “Do Not Call” policy.

Again, I sincerely apologize and ask that you contact me directly at <real phone number> if I can be of any further assistance to you.

Vice President of Human Resources

Wow!  I was impressed.  The letter was dated, had the name and number of a real person, and a copy of their “Do Not Call” policy. Thorough, professional and completely unexpected. If I WAS interested in their services, this is exactly the sort of company I’d want to do business with.

In a world where most interactions are answered with computer-delivered confirmations, this response, even though it was basically a form letter,  seemed personal. Why is that? Because they

  • Responded directly to my specific concern
  • Provided a real person to contact
  • Provided specific information that created transparency (the policy, in this case)

My cynical side fully realizes that in fact, this also served as another opportunity to put their name in front of me. Yet I remain impressed. They turned a no-win situation into a win-win situation by using the opportunity to demonstrate their company values. In the process, they provided unexpected delight. A good return for not a lot of effort – and if I ever need their sort of service, they’ll be at the top of my list.

So – which customer equation could you change by applying the same principles?