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The subtle but perilous danger of assumption

The subtle but perilous danger of assumption

Benjamin Zander believes passionately that no one is tone deaf.  Sure, not everyone can sing, but there is a big difference between being insensitive to tone and pitch, and being tone deaf.  He should know – he’s the Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestras, and regular guest Conductor with London Philharmonic Orchestra.

He argues that as soon as you hear a loved one, or a familiar voice, on the phone for instance, that you instantly know who they are, what mood they are in, what they might need, and how you should respond.  When my wife asks “Will you be back late?” her voice gives me strong clues about what the answer should be!  When a customer tells me “I’ve just called to give you some feedback on the service you’ve provided” I have a good idea what is coming before it arrives.

The closeness of our various relationships gives us very important clues on how to handle situations as they arise.  We don’t have the luxury of this closeness on the internet.

I am sure we have all heard of email conversations similar to the following:

Supplier: Did you receive the email I sent you yesterday for your boss?

Customer: I did and I resent it. Will call you tomorrow to discuss.

Supplier: You resented it?  Why?

Customer: Because it didn’t get to him the first time.  So I re–sent it.

The all important hyphen!  That misunderstanding would never have happened face to face or voice to voice.

By the same principle, when we’re building websites it’s essential that we redouble our efforts to work out what our customers need to know.  If we don’t know what matters to them, how can we ever hope to solve their problems and close the sale?  If we make wild assumptions about our customers we’re doomed, dead in the water.

We don’t have all of the normal luxuries which guide our customer interactions in terms of building rapport, teasing out what their priorities are, answering difficult questions, and dealing proactively with objections.  So in the absence of that we MUST be relevant.

How can you spot a website that doesn’t know its customers?

It opens with a Chairman’s welcome or a picture of the CEO

It has the corporate plan or brochure available as a 8MB PDF download

It has press releases explaining how delighted they are about X or how thrilled they are to announce Y

It talks about itself in the third person – Gareth Dunlop hates people talking about themselves in the third person

It start sentences with bland theorising “we all know that business is tough at the minute, that’s why…”

It is ranked as an irrelevance by Google

It generates no leads

It doesn’t make the phone ring

In short, in the absence of actually knowing anything about their customers or their needs, it fills the empty spaces with noise, words, anything to fill the gap.

The emerging world of online communication demands that we embrace the new discipline of customer journey planning, to help our customers answer their most burning questions.  As a start we need to understand that structuring a site, and defining customer journeys is more important than agreeing its colours.  Online, design is not just about how a website looks, but also how a website works.

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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