It seems that Congress is becoming an inreasingly ineffective body. In attempting to stop foreign piracy of copyrighted U.S. material, their best idea is to create draconian laws that would expose many American Internet providers to shutdowns at the whim of large media providers. ‘To solve a problem for one group let’s create one for another, seems to be the congressional mode. This, coming on the heels of inept work on health care and the debt ceiling, budget , the deficit, or ANY fiscal matter, shows a congress more concerned with partisan bickering than solving problems. We as citizens need to do a better job sending people to Washington.
Websites are a great medium for organizations to communicate and conduct transactions. Websites are “open for business ” 24/7/365, assuming they are well-built and hosted in a secure environment. Unfortunately, too often, people build websites for themselves, and not for their constituents who will be using the site. These websites, sometimes called “brochureware,” tend to talk a lot about themselves, informing the visitor to the site of everything they ever wanted to know–and more–about the organization. These sites are difficult to navigate, and the visitor often finds themselves in a dead end spot that is hard to leave, or loses track of where they were, and they end up hitting the “back button” repeatedly to escape. The pages themselves on these sites are crammed with lots of verbiage, narrative prose content, and not much white space or images. It’s usually difficult to determine how the visitor can communicate with the organization–because they really aren’t that interested in hearing from you. These sites are called ‘brochureware” because most of them are just the organization’s marketing brochure copied and pasted on to a website.
Effective Websites are designed and built for the people who will be using them.
It takes more effort to design and build a site that anticipates the needs of the people who will be using the site. You can’t just copy your print media and slam it up there. You have to think of how the users will perceive the page, and what the will want to do, how they will want to navigate. When you get on a site that has been well-designed, you can feel it right away. We call this “intuitive”—
Is it easy to understand, easy to move around? Are things where you expect them to be? If so, it’s because somebody paid attention to those factors when they designed the site and loaded the content. One new site that manages to present a huge amount of information and functionality in a very attractive, appealing, intuitive, user-friendly site is www.boyertownpa.org, the website for the Building a Better Boyertown organization.Building a Better Boyertown (BBB) is a non-profit organization formed in 2002. BBB staff and volunteers develop and accomplish tasks that maintain Boyertown’s historical heritage, promote downtown Boyertown, and attract people to the community. Many people, from BBB Board members to downtown merchants and visitors rely on the site for timely information about news, events, and meetings.
As you will see when you visit the site, each page contains lots of information, displayed in an easy -to-see and understand format. Special care was taken in the design of the interactive calendar, because so many different constituents use it. The site is also designed to make it easy for local businesses and organizations to add and update their information on the site.
Care was also taken to make the donation function clear and easy to use. This site was designed for the people who need to use it. As a result, information will be updated in a timely fashion, and people will enjoy accessing the site for information they need. Because lots of thought and hard work went into the design, using the site will require less work and generate satisfaction, rather than frustration.
Shortly after we launched Blazing Systems, one of my friends–a colleague in the IT industry –asked me how we came to choose the name of our new company. He chuckled when he asked me, which is part of the answer to his question.
In this age of taking yourself too seriously, as in “Web Technology Solutions’, we wanted to show our sense of humor, our human side, and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We wanted to present a friendly image for customers. Many customers we encounter have been taken advantage of by technology companies who act like they are smart and the customer is not, like technology is some sort of mysterious stuff that only they can understand. (This is a posture which positions the company to over-charge and under-deliver.)
Technology, as practiced by those companies, can be impersonal and even threatening; so we wanted to project the opposite.
Technology doesn’t have to be painful, like the dentist–It can be fun and human -scale, like the movie. The name Blazing Systems starts things out on a friendly note. “What about people who don’t get it?” my friend asked. “What if they don’t appreciate the humor, and they decide not to do business with you? What if they do get it, but have no sense of humor, and don’t think it’s funny, or if they think it’s stupid? My answer was , “Fine.We probably wouldn’t want to work with them , anyway.
We continue to hear of instances and policies of shoddy customer service from technology companies, even though the industry has just completed a two-decade- long era of service development. Last week we heard of one non-profit organization whose donation processing application went down —and THEY COULDN’T EVEN GET THEIR WEBSITE PROVIDER TO RETURN THEIR CALLS! For non-profits, the last weeks of the calendar year are critical for donation revenue. Losing your donation processing capability at the end of the year is like Wal-Mart losing a point-of-sale device and shutting down a check-out line on Black Friday. Ignoring a service need by the non-profit customer this time of the year was especially poor service performance by the website company.
Service Used to be Low Priority
In the early years of the computer technology industry customer service was regarded as nothing more than a necessary evil within many product manufacturers.Those companies were reluctant to commit funding or investment for service. Product development and manufacturing got all the attention and dollars. This was because most of those companies viewed themselves strategically and operationally as product-driven. They made big margins on the sale of the products, not services. This product-driven model started to change in the mid-80s, as independent service companies brought competition to the post-sale service and support market. In 1987 IBM declared “The
Year of the Customer,”and launched aggressive marketing campaigns into the customer base for services. Today, software and hardware provider Oracle is even trying to control product sales in enduser accounts by using service as leverage.
Readiness to Serve
So, while most technology companies have been developing their service delivery and improving the level of service provided to customers, some companies–like the one cited above —are a going in the opposite direction, still treating service as a low priority. Examples of this are “Call Avoidance” strategies and “Resource Optimization ” programs. If you have given up, and hung up the phone after being bounced around by a call-router (“dial 3 if you want pay your bill, dial 4 if you are reporting a technical problem”), and then listening to 35 minutes of elevator music—if you have given up, and hung up, then you have just participated in a successful “call avoidance” incident with the service organization,— and yes, they measure “abandonment rate”—how many people give up. You have saved them some money, because they didn’t have to have somebody on duty available to talk with you about your problem. And they don’t care—they already got your money when you bought the product—it’s the old product view again.
So–Why do some technology companies provide poor customer service ? Same old, same old—MONEY.
It costs money to sustain readiness to serve–to have the right person with the right skill set available at the right time (when you need them); and companies who are locked in the old ‘we make the money when we sell the product’ mentality tend not to spend the money to have sufficient resources available —readiness to serve. These same companies willingly hire extra developers to help complete the initial work needed for a new customer, but they tend not to commit any cost to being ready to support the product they’ve built and installed.
The Service Mentality
Technology companies who have sustained growth an d achieved high levels of customer satisfaction have adopted a service, rather than product-driven model. They build infrastructure to provide ongoing service delivery to the customers–every day, not just the day they sell the first application. They commit themselves to operating at a state of readiness to serve their customers’ needs; and –oh, yes, they answer the phone when the customer calls.