Marriage Material? How Website Usability Affects Long-Term Client Relationships
If your company is like most of the companies we work with, a key business goal is to build long-term relationships with your own clients. But, while you’re fixing your website or SaaS to address ease of use issues (allowing users to accomplish the tasks they set out to accomplish), your competitors are optimizing their experiences to address aspects of the user experience that will turn first-time customers into long-term relationships.
While usability tests measure “ease of use” (if that wasn’t obvious), many of the tests we conduct also measure user satisfaction, how motivated they are to use the website or product, how they feel about the experience and the product, to name a few. “Ease of use” should be the bare minimum in creating user experiences. If a user can’t learn to use a website or product or easily locate the information they’re looking for, it’s pretty useless to them. Unfortunately, many companies are stuck measuring “ease of use” or learnability because they didn’t follow a user-centered process to begin with—they’re putting out “ease of use fires” and ignoring everything else.
If we think of this in terms of interpersonal relationships, we can use dating as an example. You start dating someone and things start off great. Initially, you were really impressed by this person and you ignored some things that probably should have given you pause (as often happens in the software sales process, where what is promised and what is delivered can be vastly different). As the relationship progresses, you start to notice that your friends’ significant others do thoughtful things for them and anticipate their needs. With this contrast, you’re suddenly feeling resentment.
It should come as no surprise that “relationships” with digital products are far more fickle—customers are noticing your competitors at the first sign of dissatisfaction. This process can start even in more established relationships. Industry “disruptors” can swoop in a woo your customers with a better customer experience.
How do you avoid this?
- If you haven’t already, establish baseline metrics that evaluate ease of use. Remember, ease of use is the bare minimum. Create a “test, refine, test” cycle and re-evaluate it periodically.
- Add in metrics that will evaluate subjective measures such as how people feel about the experience and what they walk away with. As with ease of use, create a “test, refine, test” cycle and re-evaluate it periodically.
- Talk to your customers or prospective customers often—this is the only way to measure “why is that?”
Time for the cliche: digital relationships, like interpersonal relationships, require work to make them last. Before computers, people built relationships in their communities that could either help or hurt their businesses. While the medium is different, the exercise of relationship building remains the same.