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Can we go back to your place?

Can we go back to your place?

The quality of our websites, and consequently our competitiveness, relationship with our customers, and our export capability, would increase beyond all recognition if people who built websites were forced to sit beside people who used those websites, for a year after they were built.

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?  If a man says something, and no women is within earshot to hear him say it, is he still wrong?  Like the tree falling in the forest, all over the world, customers are screaming at websites which aren’t meeting their needs, and we’re not there to listen.

We don’t plan to hack off our customers so badly when we build websites, so how does it happen?

Two big crimes.  Firstly, we make massive assumptions about our customers and what they want.  And secondly, we don’t listen to them when they provide feedback.

In short, we’re absolutely petrified that what they might want to hear isn’t what we might want to say.  We can barely take in that they don’t want a shiny welcome from our CEO, a bouncy splash page with our logo hopping around, or a corporate history on the home page.  We are horrified to learn that they don’t want to read about the R&D on our latest product, or the image gallery of our production process.

How dare they!

Like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer we scream “I HAVE THE MICROPHONE AND YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME!”  And louder we shout the less people listen.

Because if we don’t listen before we speak we are an irrelevance.

We could learn so much from the people of Quicken.  The software company, specialising in accounting and finance products, launched their “follow me home” campaign two years ago.  It comprised Quicken agents loitering by the door of software stores, and as customers who had just bought Quicken software exited, they would ask if they could go home with them to watch them install the software and see what their initial reactions were.

Through the program employees quickly learned how people used Quicken, what they liked, and just as importantly what they didn’t like.  Wendy Padmos from the West Coast of the States reluctantly agreed to allow someone to “follow her home” and comments “When the Quicken team came to my house, I thought they just wanted to find out how they could better advertise to me and people like me, but it wasn’t that at all.  It was much more customer–focused. They wanted to know how I used their product, what was important to me, and what was not important to me. I told them I would like the ability to see my current spending against my average spending over the last 12 months, and now it’s in the product!”

They also gained competitive advantage by adopting their product to meet actual customer demand, rather than assumed customer demand.  They upgraded their product to allow data editing directly within reports, added five new reports providing great insight into spending trends, and provided the ability to automatically turn invoices into PDFs and email them.

Online tickets sales company followed the lead set by Quicken and went out to rail stations all over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to ask its customers what they wanted from online ticketing.  They were shocked to learn that top of their customers minds was uncertainty around the distance between stations and town centres, the difference in priorities between business and leisure travellers, the need to soften some of their sales messages, and the need for flexible buying.

They haven’t published the actual commercial figures but confirm that customer numbers are up more than 10%, revenues from their customers pro rata is up 23%.  The moral of the story is simple, the business case for listening before talking is more compelling than ever.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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