Those who enjoy serving customers will be the ones who create successful web careers. A website is self-service. Customers do things on websites that they would otherwise have needed help doing. Self-service is attractive to organizations because it reduces staff costs. It is attractive to customers because it is convenient, fast and generally discounted.
Self-service is made up of two words: "self" and "service." The customer is the "self". Who is the "service"? It is the organization, or more precisely, those responsible for managing the website.
It is impossible to create a website with excellent service if there is not a culture of service within the web team that manages the website. All great web teams are founded on a philosophy of service. They like and are interested in their customers. They are constantly thinking about their customers' needs. They want and like to serve.
Many web teams are unfortunately filled with people who have little interest in serving. In fact, many web teams don't even accept that their primary job is to serve customers.
Some web teams think that their job is to manage technology. They spend their time thinking about technology. They get excited by talk of content management systems, search engines, portals, RSS feeds and mobile computing.
Some web teams think about traditional communications. They have all this content to put up. They think that their job ends after they have written the content. The want to communicate at, rather than to, customers, and they expect customers to listen.
Some web teams are excited by things like branding and graphic design. They often change a website because they're bored with the old one. They secretly long for Flash Intros and sometimes create website designs more for their peers to admire than for customers to do stuff on.
Web teams tend to be isolated from customers, and because of this isolation a culture of service rarely exists. In some organizations, web teams are not even allowed to talk to customers!
It is simply impossible to design an effective self-service website without a deep understanding of, and ongoing interaction with, customers. Great web teams constantly talk about the needs of their customers. The technology, the content, and the graphics only exist in the context of creating a more effective self-service environment.
The future of website management is about helping customers serve themselves. Do you have what it takes to be a website manager? If you answer the following questions in the affirmative, then you do:
* The first thing I think about in the morning is my customers and the last thing I think about in the evening is my customers.
* I like being around customers. I love observing them as they use my website. I'm a good listener and observer.
* I believe that website management is a process of continuous improvement and I am very wary of major re-designs.
* I'm prepared to make enemies within my organization in order to better serve my customers.
* There is one thing I know more than anything else: I am not my customer.
Create a website that is self-service, not self-serving.
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.