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Customer experience isn’t someone else’s job

Customer experience isn’t someone else’s job

When taking time out from being an all–round legend, my father is a retired architect and thus is occasionally asked to check out houses by family members when they are considering moving.  In virtually every room he visits, when everyone else is checking walls, doors and fittings he heads straight for the window “North is this direction so the sun rises here and sets here so this room would look great in the morning and darker in the afternoon, etc.”  He sees the world from an architectural perspective, and acutely aware of the role which light plays in architecture, all of his judgments and opinions are formed through that lens.

In 2004 the then retiring Irish state pathologist John Harbison, who for over three decades had been amongst the first to arrive on the scene of the most notorious crimes in the country gave an interview to The Irish Times.  He observed that by the end of his career his intuition became so well honed that he could enter a crime scene and quickly understand the nature of the crime, where the perpetrator was likely to have entered and exited the scene, the type of crime it was and even if it was likely to have been premeditated.  Effectively his training and life’s passion was such that he was able to see what no one else could see despite looking at exactly the same thing.

There is a lens which everyone involved in digital needs to see the world through and that is the lens of the user.  It is everyone’s job to intuitively see something that others don’t, which is the world through the user’s eyes.

This may sound self–evident, obvious almost, but it remains sadly lacking in too many digital projects.

Recently I had to work late to clear up lots of admin I had been putting off for too long.  After a busy day I fancied a change of scenery and decided to walk down a few doors on our street to the coffee shop for a mug of their finest Guatemalan to give me the burst needed to get through the death–by–Excel I was bracing myself for.  I quickly checked their website which confirmed they didn’t close until 7pm, so excited for caffeine and a bright environment to tackle the job I’d been putting off for too long, I settled into a quiet corner and got to work.  All was going well until 5:55pm when the owner asked me to finish up as they were closing.  I explained I was there until 7pm and that their website said they were open to 7pm, but he responded that the shop had closed at 6pm for a few months now.

So my customer experience was pretty lousy because their site let me down.  And amongst my frustration was the notion that when the site was being built no time, thought or priority was given to a piece of information which played a disproportionately important role in how I experienced the brand of that coffee shop.

So who was to blame?

Was it Dave, who designed the logo, the inside of the shop and the website?  No, well he’s the designer, he doesn’t need to concern himself with the customer experience.  Perhaps the fault lies with Sarah who developed the HTML, wrote the CSS, plugged in the content management system and found somewhere to host the site?  No, well she’s the techie, she doesn’t need to concern herself with the customer experience.  Well in that case it must be Karl’s problem, who owns and runs the coffee shop?  No, well he’s the boss–man, who is too busy either serving plates or else spinning them, trying to make sure that everything in the shop runs well.

So who defined the online customer experience?

They all did.

Just because they didn’t design it, doesn’t mean they didn’t define it.

I, in common with all of their customers, had an experience on their website, whether they designed it or not.  The things they focused on during the design and build process defined how their customers felt when they arrived on the site.

It turns out that Dave and Sarah and Karl are all responsible, because the web confiscates the luxury of the silo.  On the web your user’s experience becomes your brand.

And that belongs to everyone.

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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