It's not nice to frustrate your customers.I had an idea about 2 weeks ago for a new web site. I spent some money to buy an established domain name, rather than starting from scratch. This first step wasn’t perfect, but it went pretty well.

Step Two was to acquire a script to power the site. I purchased a relatively new script from a company from whom I’d purchased some pretty good directory software in the past. Their previous software was relatively easy to use and… despite sluggish (and occasionally sloppy) technical support, got the job done. So I shelled out $160 for this new script and, after enduring several days of unnecessary delays on their part, finally got it installed and customized and started putting it through its paces by behaving as a customer would if they arrived at the site and wanted to take advantage of what it had to offer.

At first, I was just disappointed to find that things didn’t work smoothly. Then, after A DOZEN attempts to complete the very most basic task that customers would be trying to complete after they arrived at the site…I started to get angry. What’s the point of even releasing a product that’s not ready to serve customers?? After wrestling with it for quite awhile, I realized that this software was, at best, at beta level…not ready for my customers to see it. So, I might be out $160 at the moment…but it’s way better for me to find this out for myself than to start putting the word out about this cool new site…only to have customers arrive and to have THEM get frustrated! After all, you don’t get that many chances to get people in the door.

This was my fault. I should have researched the products better before buying. Now that I’ve done so…I’ve found a script that’s much more mature. Yes, it’s $300 instead of $160…but look at all the hours I’ve lost killing myself trying to make this other piece of junk work. Can you say “small price to pay”?

Sadly, this is a pattern I see often in businesses large and small. Obviously, many products, processes and services are created strictly from the creator’s/owner’s/administrator’s point of view. It’s clear that little-to-no customer experience was involved. I KNOW this is true with phone support for most companies. The person who has designed the customer service/tech support process clearly never has watched someone who is unfamilar with the system sit down and try to navigate their ridiculous series of phone prompts. Otherwise:

  • they wouldn’t be so poorly labeled (“gee, I don’t know…I lost my cell phone. Do I need customer service, billing or tech support?”
  • they wouldn’t limit you to just 3 choices (none of which cover the one thing I always seem to be calling for)
  • they wouldn’t require you to start again from scratch if your call was unexpectedly terminated
  • they wouldn’t ask you to select English as your primary language when that will obviously be the default language of the vast majority of their customers
  • they wouldn’t ask you to enter your PIN 5 times in each call…the first time you did it would be enough
  • they wouldn’t force their customer service folks to engage you in “happy talk”, pretending that that helps somehow
  • they wouldn’t force service reps in India to identify themselves as “Jack” to make them seem “more American” (whoever thought THIS one up?)
  • they would ALWAYS permit you to dump out and talk to a live person before hanging up in frustration

As a voiceover artist, my strongest recommendation to those who hire me is to read their own script OUT LOUD before sending it to me. Better yet, they should have someone read it TO THEM. Why? Because they are hiring me (and paying me very well) to read it for them. But flaws in the script can be revealed ahead of time by having it read out loud by anyone. Better to have a friend do it first…for free…than to pay me to do it for them. This not only saves time, but money as well…if they need to go back and get changes approved by their client before getting the script to me.

This is the reason I ALWAYS take the time to “act like a customer” first when implementing a new process in one of my businesses. I want to know what the process looks, sounds and feels like before asking others to walk through it to get to the stuff they came for. Take my word for it:

  • sign out of your admin panel so you are at a customer level, not that of an admin
  • visit your site in several different browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari)
  • try to follow the directions on your own site to read something, watch something, download something, and purchase something

You’ll be AMAZED how often things don’t go as you expect them to. Sometimes, the process needs to be “fixed”. Other times, it might be an issue of simply giving better directions.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You’ll be glad you did, and your customers won’t have to know how bad it would have been if you didn’t.