The Internet today is a utility, not a novelty. And the people using the Internet have changed - they are wising up, and they are learning to get what they want, when they want it.
Tired of being overwhelmed with companies and under whelmed by their experiences, consumers are beginning to assert themselves through their choices. So, companies have to start delivering, or consumers will move on.
But not only are consumers planning to hold a company's feet to the fire unless they are provided with quality content and satisfying information, but they do actually care about what kind of service a company offers them.
A recent Harris poll found that if a consumer were to try a company's brand and it either didn't work or didn't meet his or her needs once, 76 percent would find it difficult to trust that company again.
The poll also found that 93 percent of customers agreed with the statement: "If a company's customer service department or Web site is responsive to my questions, I am more likely to trust that company."
In addition, the poll found that regular users want more than just easy navigation and basic content. They want personalized information and sites that are relevant to their specific needs, and good search facilities and regularly updated content will also help improve their experiences.
Why then, if it is laid out so clearly, do so many companies still offer web sites that are so irksome?
Why are these companies still giving their users poor customer service? Why are they not meeting the needs of their customers? And why do they insist on providing features that look good to executives but not to their users?
I would have thought that such poll results would be sufficient to convince companies that they need to focus on making users happy from the start. But perhaps the eventual attrition of their displeased customers as they fail to meet their needs is what will call them to action.
For those aware that something is wrong, but who haven't quite figured out why they can't seem to satisfy their online customers, have a look through these...
Show off that flash! If you have put in the effort to create a jazzy intro, the least a customer can do is sit through it on every visit, right? Wrong. Not all users adore animation; so always provide users with the option to skip your Flash introductions.
Get loud! Think that workers surfing at the office really enjoy sharing a blast from their speakers with the boss two offices away? Have mercy...
Moving forward. Minimizing users' indecision by making sure that the 'back' button keeps them locked securely in your domain is not a good idea.
Hide and seek. Hiding essential information is a sure-fire way to upset users. Especially if they know what they are looking for but cannot find it!
Linger longer. Framing your pages as a single scrollable unit in a non-resizable window is not a good idea. It does not make navigation a challenge; instead it serves as a source of rage.
So, what exactly does all this mean? That companies have to work harder at giving customers what they want. They have to build good web sites and make them user friendly, actively listen to their customers, and provide them with timely service and results.
And remember that online customer service is a must; remember that people want to talk with people; and remember that the simple things count.
Ultimately, online customer satisfaction is possible. You just have to want to give it.
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