I remember presenting to a digital team about how their website was massively too big, with thousands of pages of low quality, often out-of-date content. Metadata and general findability was terrible. There were apps hanging around that had never functioned properly. Everything was a big mess; a really terrible customer experience.

They listened politely as I spoke. Most agreed things were terrible. But not all. “It would be nice to fix these problems,” one person said. “But the team needs to also be able to do exciting things. We need to be able to innovate.”

A lot of the work involved in delivering an excellent customer / user experience is boring. Reviewing and removing out-of-date content is never going to be as exciting as creating and publishing new content. Getting involved in a project to create a marketing video is always going to be more interesting than writing a clear and easy to follow set of instructions on how to install a product.

In most organizations, those who sell and market are the "creatives" and the stars. Those who service and support are outsourced and ignored. Many marketers and communicators find it really difficult to give control to customers because that means giving up control.

When you come to most websites, they communicate a very clear message: "Here’s the one (or perhaps two-three) journeys we’ve designed for you. These are our priorities for the next quarter. Hope you enjoy." However, if you as a customer want to do anything other than the journeys defined by marketing, it’s hard. These websites are telling you that they have decided what experience they want you to have. They’re there to convert you.

That’s not the way it works on the web. Digital is do-land. To search is to try to find something. Every search begins with a word or a series of words, and these words reflect a need that you have to answer a question or solve a problem. Google is not a TV that tells you what you should search for today. Google is an empty canvas that you paint your journey upon.

We must align the needs and interests of digital professionals with the needs and interests of customers. Otherwise, we get products and services that are more designed for digital professionals, their managers and peers, than for customers.

Learning Opportunities

When you visit a city, how much of your experience is based on driving on a brand new motorway, riding a brand new subway, visiting a brand new restaurant or museum. Probably very little. You drive on motorways, ride subways, visit restaurants and museums that were built years ago.

We must encourage a digital team culture that takes pride and fulfilment in maintaining and evolving what already exists because the web is growing up. A lot has been built, and unfortunately very little of what has been built is being well maintained.

To change the culture, we must change the reward system. We must start rewarding more those who maintain, who care for, who evolve, who review, who take away, who prune, who simplify serve. The metrics need to shift from production to consumption.

If you really want to deliver excellent customer experience, then measure use and usefulness. Measure how easy it is for customers to find and use the things they want to find and use.

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