These past couple of weeks have brought me one bad customer experience after another. In the midst of a global recession you would think businesses would make customer happiness a priority. Client retention should be of paramount importance as they are fighting over fewer spending dollars. In honor of this less-than-stellar treatment, this week’s bitesize is going to be dedicated to bad user experiences and their impact on the business.
How *NOT* to treat your customers:
1. Aroma Cafe Tel Aviv – Not exactly Internet related, but an experience worth sharing. I hosted a VC Cafe start up roundtable in the Tel Aviv port branch of Aroma Cafe earlier this month, after a successful experience last year. My short interaction with the branch included the manager hanging up on me, yelling at me in front of the 50 Roundtable guests and threatening to call the police if we don’t get off his property. The story “An Aroma of Rudeness“ was published yesterday on Ynet, Israel’s most circulated newspaper (Hebrew). There are more than 215 comments on the post already.
Bottom line: being rude and confrontational is not going to result in happy customers – but it’s a great way to get people to gather against you.
2. FeedBurner – when it comes to start ups, both the entrepreneur and the investor dream of the big exit. But did you notice that there’s almost always a decline in quality and user experience for companies that get bought?Feedburner is a great example. Since getting acquired by Google, Feedburner discontinued its blog, and there’s no way to get a response from a customer service representative. They direct you to a Google Group which seems to be a ghost town. Meanwhile, my feed is down and there’s no one to talk to. I ended up using Feed Validator to remedy the problem myself. We’re talking about Google – not a rogue start up.
Bottom line: good customer service = happy customers = better retention. If your site is based on a long lasting relationship (like feedburner, or a social network/UGC site), make sure you don’t neglect your customers needs. You will drop users like crazy, I’ve seen it happen. I would recommend using GetSatisfaction or Fixya to crowdsource customer service.
3. Citicards – why do credit card sites have to be complicated? My conspiracy theory is that they are trying to confuse you, so you miss your payment and they make more money. Citicards.com, where I pay my credit card bills, has a habit of redesigning the UI of the site every other week (nevermind the constant shifting of the payment due date each month).
Bottom line: Consistency matters! It’s ok to do a major overhaul every now and then (once a year is enough), but incremental improvements need to be as subtle as possible. How would you feel if I changed the order of your keyboard keys? It would probably drive you nuts a little. Learn from the big search engines – you can barely feel a difference when you are in a test environment. A/B testing is crucial, so make sure you expose a small subset of your users to the change before you roll it out for everyone.
I’ll let Dilbert summarize it for us: