Communication basics make websites really work
03 March 2010
What are the basic steps to great online experience for your customers?
Like writing a letter, or having a one-on-one meeting, the internet is just another means of communication. This is a basic fact that we often lose sight of in all the hoopla.
So – all online experiences are about communication between two parties, you and your customers.
In order to make this work there are a few basic first steps to settle, before we start getting too technical. The goal is to create a win/win interaction, in which each party achieves their primary objectives – you communicate your message, and the customer gets the information, the service or the product that they require
First, define and rank your business objectives. What are you trying to achieve with your online presence? Increased subscriptions, more sales leads, cutting delivery costs…?
While you may have lots of business objectives, it’s critical to identify your primary objective – otherwise it’s easy to lose focus and let secondary desires get in the way of your primary mission. This can happen where more than one person or team is trying to drive the process. At the end of the day, your success will be measured on your ability to deliver on the primary objective.
Second, get a clear understanding of what you users need and want. Then consider what you can do to help your users achieve both their goals and yours?
Create simple scenarios involving your company and its customers. Identify potential solutions that solve the key problems outlined in the scenarios. For instance, your primary objective is to inform customers about new products, and you discover the main decision driver for the customer is price. Ensure that new products are grouped in one place, clearly linked from the homepage, and price information is situated at the top of every product window. If the price appears at the start of every product page, it is more likely to appear in search result summaries as well.
Finally, use your primary objective as the decision-making filter: Does the information, the technology and the design presented in your site help you achieve your primary objective – or not?
A frequent conflict is the desire to collect as much information about the visitor as possible. Many sites unwittingly make this the dominant impression for customers, often by making it impossible for them to ask the simplest question without giving you a comprehensive set of personal data. While you may want to know more about your prospects, your prospect may not be ready to share that information with you. So how do you decide between the two desires?
If your primary goal is to increase sales and customer satisfaction, e.g. then the answer is simple: Do whatever will help you achieve that goal – and that typically means removing anything that reduces your conversion rates, such as filling out lengthy forms. If your customers realise that you have what fulfils their needs, they’ll voluntarily give you the information you need when you give them the chance. The key thing is to make it seem in their interests, rather than yours.
If you get these basic communication issues straight, both your customers and you will get what you want from your website. Every one of these little successful interactions will go on to build the bigger business success we all need.