Cross Channel Usability

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Cross Channel Usability Can Make or Break an Organization

Most of the time when people in corporations think of usability, they think of web sites. The reality is usability can (and should!) be applied across multiple channels of a corporation. This is because customers do not solely interact with just a web site, or just a phone call. Most customers will interact with a company using multiple channels at multiple times. The customer experience then can and should be improved across all the channels, not just a web site. The problem is this is difficult, because each channel within a corporation has it’s own goals, strategies and tactics. Thus just trying to provide a consistent communication and customer experience across channels can be difficult to do well.

In a recent article by Colleen Jones at UXMatters.com, titled “Conversing Well Across Channels,” a point is made that trying to coordinate and enhance the customer’s experience by communicating in a consistent manner across all channels is good for the customer, and therefore good for business. As is stated in the article:

“The ideal experience lets customers carry on their conversation with a company whenever and wherever the customer desires, by whatever means is most appropriate.”.

She continues…

“The resulting challenge for businesses is conversing effectively with customers no matter what channel they choose. Do not underestimate the difficulty of this challenge! I find the challenge of cross-channel conversation particularly daunting. Successfully conversing across channels requires most companies to overhaul their traditional approaches to doing business.”

I like this article because I believe it succinctly describes the issues facing a corporation, and several possible solutions for helping to improve usability and the customer experience.

7 Practical Steps for Conversing Well

Among the solutions identified in the article there are 7 practical steps for conversing well across channels, I urge you to read the whole article, because Colleen provides additional detail, but to quickly summarize they are:

  1. Do a user experience or content project for a different channel.
  2. Start analyzing customer inquiries across channels.
  3. Aggregate any channel issues you discover through user or customer research or usability testing.
  4. Start listing inconsistencies across channels.
  5. Get permission to observe customer interactions in one of your company’s stores or call or chat centers.
  6. Start cleaning up your content—even in training materials and scripts.
  7. Promote any successes or insights you’ve gained through the other six steps throughout your organization.

Effecting Usability Improvements Across Channels

I believe beyond these good ideas, there are three additional points that must be considered if you are to actually improve the usability of the cross channel customer experience. They are:

1. Identify and track the metrics that are used by each channel to measure customer satisfaction, creating channel-specific and a compilation all-channels measurement.
Frankly, tracking a single set of metrics across channels may or may not be possible. Goals and metrics for success in a customer service unit as an example, may be completely different than those in a small business acquisition unit. This is why holistic metrics such as NetPromoter and the like were created. Using a single easy-to-capture metric across business units means everyone is measured the same, but as some experts will tell you a single metric may not be enough information to act upon. Most likely, some combination of customer satisfaction, usability and business metrics can be used to track performance. These metrics are important, as they will be used to determine the success or failure of the usability or customer experience improvements that will be made.

2. Enlist channel manager buy-in for usability or customer experience improvements by attaching the improvement projects to the manager’s goals and compensation.
Want to get something done? Just attach a manager’s bonus to a project, it’s amazing how much attention and energy will be focused on that project! By focusing a goal or compensation or both on a usability or customer experience improvement project, you can be assured of much more focus and help from channel managers. This by and of itself is most often enough to ensure almost any project will get the resources and help needed to succeed. Without this, you can still get your cross channel usability or customer experience improvement project accomplished, but you may find it more difficult obtaining resources or buy-in and support from the all-important channel managers. Of course, it’s almost impossible to get goals and compensation attached to a manager without executive support, thus…

3. Gain support from executives by clearly defining the Return On Investment (ROI) for the usability or customer experience improvements.
This is critical if point 2 above is to be approved and executed. You absolutely can accomplish usability or customer experience improvements without executive support, but it’s very much like rowing a boat upstream in a fast moving river. It’s smarter, and easier, to obtain the necessary support across channels by having a clear and direct sponsorship of the enhancement project from the top. The problem is, executives must clearly understand and appreciate the ROI attached to these projects, and that can be difficult to define. The other problem is once you’ve indicated a potential ROI, you will be expected to accomplish it, so set expectations accordingly. But don’t be surprised if a minor ROI obtains no or low support. The trick is to identify enough enhancements to make the cross channel projects worth doing, but to not promise improvements that are almost impossible to accomplish, or unobtainable.

Cross Channel Usability

So, there you have it. Three additional considerations for you if you decide to get your cross channel usability or enhancement projects off the ground and started. It’s not easy, but then again things of value seldom are.

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Do you have additional ideas on how to get cross channel usability or customer satisfaction projects started? Share them with your fellow readers!