Usability Can and Should be Applied Across the Entire Customer Experience (Not Just a Web Site)
Many years ago, while working at a large health insurance company I stumbled across a great usability truth. It wasn’t by design that I found this truth, just dumb luck really. What was that truth? That usability is not just about web sites or web applications, that is has the potential to help the entire customer experience.
At the time, I was busy trying to make a difference for our company by conducting web site usability improvement projects. All of my attention was on the sales and marketing aspect of our web sites, how to improve conversion, make easier and fast sign up forms, etc.
As part of my job I visited a physician group and talked to the Director of the group. He was very excited about my visit, and gushed all kinds of great ideas on how our companies could partner together to offer a better experience for his customers (health care patients) and our customers (insured people) through improved telecommunications with enhanced IVRs, more efficient service with web-based applications and information sharing and by using ID Card readers in multiple physician locations.
Unfortunately, the main purpose of my visit was not to enable a better customer experience across these customer touch-points, and I was unable to act on any of his ideas. But I was very excited and couldn’t wait to discuss this with my boss.
My visit got me thinking; here was a ripe opportunity to apply usability, design and customer experience improvements to make a better experience for my company, the physician group AND our shared customers! That’s a Win-Win-Win all the way around!My boss at the time, although interested, was not able to act on this bold idea and as sometimes happens in the corporate world, this usability and customer experience improvement opportunity faded away.
Customer Service vs Customer Experience
I was recently reminded of this after reading a post by customer experience guru Bruce Temkin. In his post, “Don’t Confuse Customer Service with Customer Experience,” the point is made that the customer experience extends to all segments of a business. Bruce has a nice chart that visually demonstrates how customer service is but one aspect of the customer experience. The customer experience extends to all customer touch-points including sales, marketing, customer service, tech support, accounting, etc.
Usability is the Customer Experience
If you as a usability advocate replace “customer experience” with “usability” in the chart, you quickly realize that there are many, many opportunities to apply usability and design improvements across a company, and that the web site is just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunity to improve IVRs, web sites, customer service forms & communications, financial applications, etc. etc. etc. are almost endless. And any improvement you make on any of these touchpoints helps your company and your customers. These types of projects almost sell themselves!
Usability Can and Should be Applied Across the Customer Experience
Usability testing and enhancement techniques work quite well across all customer touch-points, including telecommunications, web sites, card readers or other technology devices and even locations like stores or offices.
For 2009, my suggestion is to make a determined effort to take advantage of usability testing and design enhancements beyond web sites, the improvement to the customer experience will be a win for you, your company and your customers.