How’s your user experience?

Do you make it easy to do business with your organization?


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There has been plenty of discussion in recent years about “user experience,” especially regarding how website visitors find what they’re looking for on, and interact with, an organization’s website.

There are examples of exceptional user experience, like shopping at Amazon.com, and poor user experience, like the debacle that was the first rollout of Healthcare.gov.

At Amazon, shoppers can get from interest to decision to purchase quickly and easily. A quick search will pull up a list of products they may be interested in, customer reviews are easy to scan, they can click once to view a detailed description and product information, and once they’ve made a decision, the purchase and shipping confirmation are just two more clicks away.

If they choose to leave the site without completing the purchase, Amazon will remember the item and even remind them via email and/or display ads on other websites. They make it easy to make a purchase and therefore make it easy to grow their own revenue. 

User experience is relatively easy to define and understand, yet often misses the mark when tested in real-life situations. The reason is that the people who are building the experience have too much information about how it’s “supposed” to work to be able to interact with it as an outsider. For this reason, many marketing firms and web designers will bring in an unbiased group of people to navigate the website and provide feedback, which provides a much better understanding of the experience from the end-user’s point of view. 

But what about your internal user experience – as in the live interactions that your prospects and customers actually have with you? How easy is it to do business with your organization?

Before you say, “Of course we have a great user experience,” consider whether anyone without an insider’s bias has truly interacted with your organization and provided feedback to you. I’d bet that this has never happened. 

I recently had an experience at Panera Bread that spurred my thinking about this subject. I am a loyal MyPanera club member, and I am generally very happy with my experience. So overall, I have no reason to say anything negative.

But recently, one of the Panera Bread locations that I frequent introduced “Fast Lane Kiosks,” allowing customers to place their orders digitally, without the assistance of a cashier. I would imagine that when they came up with this idea, the vision was a system that would allow them to get more customer orders processed with less time spent waiting in line, all while reducing the labor costs of on-site cashiers. 

The reality is far less efficient, convenient or satisfactory. 

The kiosk itself is not the problem. Where it all fell apart, on multiple occasions, was in the user experience between the kiosk and the actual processes of the restaurant. 

Upon placing my order and taking a pager, I proceeded to wait for my meal. The food was delivered as expected, but my drink was missing. When I inquired, I was informed that “the cashier was supposed to give that to me.” What had gone wrong was that they eliminated the cashier from the ordering process, but had neglected to change the delivery process to make up for this.

On another occasion, I ordered a sandwich and a fruit cup. As with the first example, the sandwich was delivered, but the fruit cup was missing. As I grew frustrated, I realized that this “more efficient” system was increasing my wait time and annoyance. On my third and final interaction, I attempted to print a receipt, only to be informed by the nearby cashier that kiosks don’t have the ability to print receipts and she’d have to get her manager to do that for me. 

The bottom line is that there was obviously an intended user experience improvement here that is not playing out well in actual customer situations. The bigger problem for Panera is whether they are even aware of this, and whether they performed any customer testing to get this feedback before rolling out the system to customers. 

It is likely that many organizations are completely unaware of similar issues that frustrate their customers and cost them business. Now is as good a time as any to take a step back and ask for feedback from truly unbiased reviewers so you have the information you need to improve processes and keep customers happy and loyal for the long term.  

Melissa Albano-Davis, principal of Grapevine Marketing, Manchester, can be reached at 603-685-4782, ext. 101, or melissa@grapevinemktg.com.

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