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eCommerce Web Interfaces: If It Ain't Useful, It Ain't Valuable

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If it's not usable, then it's not useful. The e-customer wants usability. He may not be able to state exactly how to provide it to him but he DOES know what the experience of dealing with you should be like. And if you don't deliver it, the business will go elsewhere. Max McKeown tells you what to pay attention to.
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We have to assume that nobody goes out of their way to cause anguish or boredom to those e-customers visiting their electronic presence. And yet that is still what happens to too many unwary life-loving visitors.

If we discount sadism, then we are left with two more likely explanations. It is possible that the original pure and enjoyable objectives of the project were hijacked by well-meaning, boring, visionless committees who translated the thrilling mission of the e-project into grey, soulless, pedantic slop.

Alternatively, the people who set the project up in the first place didn't have a clue about what e-customers really want and how to translate that into the electronic medium.


"The point on a much deeper and more creative level, is simply to get to know and understand each other better, and to derive from that mutual understanding the sort of ideas that will never occur in the most well-intentioned internal brainstorming session."

—Article from conversation between Vincent DeVeau and Janet French who works in international marketing since the 1970s.

That there should be some misunderstanding or resistance to meeting the e-customers' needs by a business entity is perfectly natural. This is because most organisations have fitted "customer empathy dampeners" on the doors to their premises.

It appears that they forget that they have ever bought anything as soon as they enter the building. They switch roles. They are busy looking after their day job. Accountants look after spreadsheets. Programmers look after technology. Marketing look after brochures and corporate events. And many people look after number 1. And number 1 is certainly not the e-customer.

Another reason they forget is that it is simply too painful to try to reach the e-customer through all the barriers including rules, traditions, procedures, legalities, incompatibilities, cost and time.

Projects, new initiatives, and individual performance should all be judged on "whether they add value in the perception of the e-customer" or "whether they make our e-customers lives noticeably better" or "whether the e-customer notices the difference and thank us for it."

Usefulness Is King!

The e-customer wants usability. He may not be able to state exactly how to provide it to him but he DOES know what the experience of dealing with you should be like.

If it's not usable, then it's not useful. If it's not useful, then it's not worth spending his time or money on. Value and Usability are inherently related. It is the ingredient that keeps the loyalty rising in the relationship.

The purpose of electronic channels is to IMPROVE the lifestyle of the e-customer. Business should exist to SERVE the e-customer. The best way of doing that is to create a business that allows the people within it to grow strong and independent in pursuit of the fulfilment that comes from serving other people.

So often the focus tends to be on "Costs" rather than "Value" as a means of increasing profits. Such an approach leads companies to shrink their staff into nothingness with a resulting lack of dynamism and flexibility. Reliance on cost cutting rather than value adding is the managerial way.

Are you different? Of course you are. But how different? What are your plans this year to revolutionize the service that you offer to your e-customer? To create entirely new services, "Is this relevant?" you may be asking, "How is this relevant to me?" Well, if I can take the assumption that as a reader of this newsletter you are in the business of using channels to make money in the field of financial services.

So I am going to DARE you to do something that will set you apart from your competitors. Most of those that read this will dismiss it because being different, leaving the herd, is unnatural for financial institutions and those that work for them.

The majority has approached each new innovation with either fear of change or loathing of people. It's a BAD approach. It doesn't increase profits. It doesn't inspire people. And so the people do not become valuable or valued.

Which is exactly why staff numbers are the first to go at companies that do not care for their customers and have not invested in their people. KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL is the only source of wealth, BUT it is so pitifully utilized. If you knew how much people and the knowledge that they have are worth, if you had invested in them, you would not fire them so quickly, so instinctively, so thoughtlessly.

If you care about customers, and you care about increasing profits, then you will constantly innovate with technology to create wonderfully useful services. The trouble is that too many financial businesses believe either that electronic channels exist to cut costs, display pretty branded pictures, or waste their precious time. Brand is only valuable if the promises of the brand are delivered.

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