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October 12, 2002

Customer-Effective Web Sites

By Jodie Dalgleish

Good Versus Customer-Effective Web Sites
Customer-effective Web sites allow customers to do things they need to do as customers, such as set-up, change, or discontinue products and services. Customers adopt customer-effective Web sites into their everyday lives because it makes their dealings with businesses easier, more efficient and more rewarding.

Customers don’t understand connectivity, interface design, information architecture, navigation, or business process design, and in general, they don’t want to. We may do a good job on all these fronts and still fail to be customer-effective.

What Customers Want
In a nutshell, customers want e-services that are better, faster, and smarter. And you may only get one chance to provide them.

As I’ve stood behind customers, in the moment before they experience a business’ Web site for the first time, I’ve been poignantly aware of all the expectations they have poised in their fingertips as they anticipate swinging into action once the home page downloads.

I have found that, basically, customers expect a Web site to improve the service they receive from the business in question. To a customer, this means getting things done easier, faster, and smarter. As soon as customers download a Web site, they expect to experience something superior; they expect businesses to have applied this great, new technology to enhance their service experience and to help them, personally, get things done.

Customer Directive Implication
1. This better be worth the wait Every piece of content , functionality and design should be complete and have a clear purpose.
2. Tell me what I get if I do this Make the results of interactions, such as registration, very clear to e-customers. Never ask for information without stating what the e-customer will get in return, especially if some e-customers are excluded or a significant time investment is required.
3. I’ll ID myself when I’m ready Be sensitive about when e-customers want to be anonymous and when they don’t. Make it clear when e-customers are well known to businesses but are anonymous on their Web sites.
4. Use what I give you Every action should have a logical consequence.
5. Let me build my knowledge Offer information and functionality that lets e-customers build on what they already know about a business.
6. Let me make a valid comparison Make it easy for e-customers to compare products within and across Web-sites.
7. Don’t expect me to make a decision without the facts Don’t prompt actions at inappropriate points in e-customers’ decision-making processes.
8. Be careful second-guessing my needs Don’t make recommendations or offer personalized content unless you know enough about the e-customer to be relevant and useful.
9. Let me get to where I need to go Let e-customers go straight to important parts of a Web site, such as those related to frequently required service requests.
10. Yes, I want it now, what? If e-customers can express their desire for a product or service they should be able to go about getting it right then and there.
11. Signpost my journey Provide a centralized, consistent and helpful navigation system that doesn’t send e-customers off to disparate sub-sites. Always show e-customers where they are, where they’ve been and where they can go next.
12. Don’t lock me out Don’t invite e-customers to engage in any interaction, such as authenticating themselves, when they may be excluded from the results of that interaction. Make it very clear when different e-customers have different privileges.
13. Don’t limit my choices Whenever Web sites offer selection criteria to e-customers, there is a risk the criteria will be wrong or incomplete. E-customers should have as much control as possible over what content they receive in relation to certain criteria.
14. Give me digestable chunks Use the interactivity of the Web to layer the delivery of information so that e-customers don’t get overloaded with more information than they need at one time.
15. Call a spade a spade Be honest about what Web site functions will do for e-customers. Avoid using fancy labels that overstate the usefulness or sophistication of Web site components.
16. Tell me the info you need E-customers should not have to use trial and error to complete an online process such as ordering or sending an e-mail form. All mandatory fields should be clearly stated and error messages should be specific and relate to all errors generated in the previous interaction.
17. Don’t ignore important relationships If e-customers have important relationships with people in businesses, they will expect that to carry over to their Web sites. This is particularly relevant in the case of business-to-business relationships.

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