Doing a first-time UX consultation, I sometimes feel like an auto mechanic walking into a buggy shop circa 1905 and trying to tell the carriage maker that the horses will soon be outclassed. It’s hard to consult from a defensive position, even when the writing is on the wall that things are changing. The main issue is that the service I offer is often seen as either redundant to current efforts or entirely unnecessary… or even nonexistent.
Even with the prevalence of social media in our culture and the fact that customers are becoming extraordinarily sophisticated in their methods and ability to access online media, there still remains a level of disconnect. The old methodologies of dealing with customers is amazingly stuck in the past. It is often driven by the marketing department and utilizes communications techniques used in traditional advertising. The message is broadcast, the results are monitored and changes are made to correct any missed opportunities. Analytics suites and lead tracking software have added useful tools to find and collate information, but the the overall method itself hasn’t changed in its basic philosophy. One thing that has changed is the speed with which a customer or user can change direction: one click and they are gone, usually for good.
This isn’t because businesses don’t want to change. The technology is everywhere… most people carry a computer in their pocket that is much more powerful than the most expensive desktop machines of ten years ago. The relationship businesses hope to have with customers through these new devices is clear, but the method being used is, at its root, one-sided.
Brian Solis of Fast Company Magazine wrote in a recent article :
“Rather than examine the role new technologies and platforms can play in improving customer relationships and experiences, many businesses invest in “attendance” strategies where a brand is present in both trendy and established channels, but not defining meaningful experiences or outcomes. Simply stated, businesses are underestimating the significance of customer experiences.
…As smart and connected technology matures beyond a luxury into everyday commodities, consumer expectations only inflate. As a result, functionality, connectedness, and experiences emerge as the lures for attention. For brands to compete for attention now takes something greater than mere presences in the right channels or support for the most popular devices. User experience (UX) is now becoming a critical point in customer engagement in order to compete for attention now and in the future. For without thoughtful UX, consumers meander without direction, reward, or utility. And their attention, and ultimately loyalty, follows. “
It comes back to the simple questions that businesses need to be asking:
- Who are your customers?
- Why do they like you?
- How do they buy from you?
One problem is that marketing departments often believe they know the answers to these questions, but when pressed will admit that there is little empirical evidence to support their beliefs. Creative campaigns are often based on clever concepts, but don’t incorporate engaging experience design. Sometimes this can pay off and a campaign will be incredibly successful, but sometimes it can bomb. It need not be random because a clever idea can be paired with an engaging experience every time… but only if it is designed that way from the start.