Architecting a Great Customer Experience

Every online tool offers many opportunities to surprise, delight, and connect with our customers. Recognizing that these opportunities exist, and taking advantage of them, is the key to success.  A consistent focus on business goals and customer experience helps us to see the opportunities as they arise.

Throughout the strategy, site architecture, visual design, and technical implementation phases of a project, we work to provide three things: great content, an effortless experience, and open communication.  Along the way, we also constantly focus on the customer by asking Why? What? and How? Why is the customer visiting this site or page, what do they want and need to accomplish, and how can we meet and exceed their needs, while also addressing our business goals?

Tips for creating a great customer experience

Great Content

Sites will fail if they don’t meet the customer’s need for content. So ask yourself how you can meet this need, and outshine your competitors by being the most-trusted expert in your area.

Define the areas of content you want to and should provide, then recruit subject matter experts from across the organization to contribute their knowledge to the content.

Write in a consistent voice: Establish policies and guidelines for writing for the web that address tone, word choice, reading level, grammar, and branding.

Make it work in context: Is your customer on a computer with the newest browser? A tablet on the couch? A smart phone in the car? A device that reads your content aloud? Offer content that is tailored to each environment, by adjusting the functionality, site navigation, the volume of content, and the layout of content.

Keep it timely: Commit to keeping your content up-to-date.

An Effortless Experience

Information design, visual design, and coding should work together to provide a smooth, frictionless, effortless experience for the customer. When done well, functionality is intuitive and the design is largely invisible. The site gets out of the way of the visitor.

Anticipate customer needs: Walk through the site architecture and look for opportunities to cross-promote tools, products, services and content. Offer a variety of ways for the customer to print, save, share, and reuse your content. Provide ways to both browse and search for site content.

Respect customer preferences: do not override browser preferences, always allow opt-out for subscriptions, and always keep customer data secure.

Keep it simple and focused: Let the content and the functionality drive design and coding, and avoid unnecessary content, visual design, and technological tricks. Information architecture, visual design, and technology should work together to support business goals and customer tasks.

Test your assumptions: Do walk-throughs of site tasks and functionality to make sure that the experience you are creating is intentional. Usability testing, with in-house staff and/or external customers, will help you gain valuable insight about how well your site works and meets the needs of your customers.

Open Communication

People enjoy connecting with other people. Use your online environment to connect to your customers directly.

Foster discussion: use a variety of social media, survey tools, and traditional contact forms to both market your organization and to gather feedback.

Be consistent: Address both praise and criticism immediately and see both as a way to improve your customer service.

Be responsive: Commit to regular upkeep and monitoring of your communication tools. And remember that site statistics are a very valuable form of customer communication. Keep an eye on your site statistics, so that you know what barriers to remove and what great content you should promote.

Build Trust and Credibility Through Iterative Design

Designing for the online experience is a moving target. Business and customer goals change. Every day, new technologies come out and we learn more about how to make sites more useful and usable.  Don’t wait for large redesign projects to make changes to your site. Use the feedback you get from your customers about content, functionality, and communication to constantly tweak, test, and improve the site and your customer’s experience.

For a look at the importance of customer service in the digital age, check out Carly’s article.

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About the Author

Andrea Richeson is TradeMark Media's Chief Operating Officer and Director of User Experience. She guides clients through the strategy, information architecture, visual design, and development phases of projects.

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