Many customers think first about the product they have; even when they are looking for support for that product.
If the battery of your iPhone 4s is performing slowly how do customers go about solving that problem? Some will think support and troubleshooting first. Others will think product first. They’ll want to get to the homepage of the iPhone 4s and then look for support.
In fact, for a great many tasks, customers want to first and foremost get to the homepage of the product or service they have (or are thinking of buying) and then look for the installation guide, the pricing, troubleshooting, software download, etc.
At Cisco, this is called the “Product is the Hub” concept. This involves unifying all content, tools and resources for any particular product into a more singular experience for the customer. As customers were observed trying to complete tasks it became clear that they expected to find a single product "homepage" where they could carry out all the top tasks for that product.
The continuous testing research gave Cisco “strong evidence that our customers are 'product-centric' when they come to our site,” Bill Skeet, Senior Manager of Customer Experience for Cisco Digital Support explains. “This means that when they are looking for support information, they start their task with a product in mind. They expect to find everything about a product in one place and don't want to have to go to a multitude of pages. They don’t care which organization created it or who published it. Thus, they desire a product 'hub' page where it's one-stop-shopping for the information for a particular product.”
This has major implications for technology company websites particularly. Often, information about the product is siloed in many different places. We have product pages whose objective is to "market" the product. If you dig you will find product information in the Communities site. In fact, across the social media spectrum you will find bits and pieces of information about the product. You will find software downloads in the software download section. You will find documentation in the documentation section. And who knows what you’ll find in the incredibly named "Knowledge Base." (A top candidate for the title of most meaningless phrase ever invented.)
For customers trying to solve problems these information silos make up a Kafkaesque landscape of dead ends, false paths and wasted time. And here we come up against the Simplicity Paradox: The simpler you make it for the customer, the more complex you make it for the organization.
It is much easier and cheaper for an organization to leave things in information silos. Why? Because they reflect the way the organization is structured. There is a marketing department, there is a support department, etc. Even within marketing, for example, the social media team is often separate from the website team. And there are different systems managing all this information. They don’t interlink or integrate.
Creating a seamless, integrated experience for customers will result in higher task completion, more sales and greater loyalty, but it will come at the cost of greater organizational complexity.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.
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