It’s complicated

When a process becomes too long (or appears to long) you will lose customers. It’s a simple fact of life. This couldn’t have been made clearer during a recent call with intuit.

One of our customers computers recently kicked the bucket, and they asked us to come in and transfer what we could to their new machine. While not one of our normal services, they have been a long time customer, and we decided to see if we could help.

One of the biggest things that needed to be done was to transfer their Quickbooks. Installing and transferring the backups (Thankfully we had implemented a very robust backup system for them a few months ago) was absolutely painless, however when it came time to re-activate the program with intuit, the conversation lasted almost 14 minutes, which was longer than the time it took us to install and restore the backups. After providing the license number and product key, the agent took the time to ask our client almost every question under the sun short of “what color underwear where you wearing when you originally registered this product”, most of which she had forgotten in the 2 years since she had first installed it.

Once the agent was finally convinced, he still wouldn’t release the activation code, but tried to sell her upgrades and new products and so on (Bad timing, she was already pissed at him, and that was the worst time to try to pitch). In the end we got the activation code and were able to continue. While we don’t condone software piracy, had we decided to, it would have taken all of 2 seconds to bypass that activation vs the 14 minutes we wasted on the phone. Their overzealous anti-piracy measures are penalizing paying customers. This post isn’t about this particular incident however, but rather serves to highlight that service like that loses you customers.

This doesn’t just apply to quickbook, or phone service, but also to website and software usability. If your customers are forced to jump through hoops to get at what they want, or the experience is too confusing, they’ll say “forget it” and move on to try to get that information/service/functionality from somewhere that is more accessible.

Look at an online form, if you had two forms for a similar service, one of them asking only your email address, the other asking your name, email address, physical address, and phone number, which form would you be more likely to fill out? How much information do you really need at that stage vs what can you get later during a follow up.

Bad Interface
Inkscapes UI

If you look at the tools that designers are using to design webpages, you’ll hear a lot about the two giants of Adobe: illustrator and Photoshop. Adobe also has a less talked about but more suitable tool called Fireworks, and there is a fantastic free and open source vector tool called inkscape. Why are these not being used as much as they should be in the industry? It’s because the UI is awful. What takes 30 seconds in Illustrator can take 2 minutes in inkscape or fireworks, and even longer for someone not familiar with their complex UI. This is why many designers don’t use them.

When it comes to usability, make choices for the user, and allow them to change it after. Don’t overwhelm them with too many questions, or distracting options, or sales pitches. Keep it as simple as it needs to be. In short, I don’t want to have to email you for a demo, I don’t want to have to give you my life story to subscribe to your news letter, and I yes your flash intro is nice, but I really want to skip it and find out when your opening hours are. If I open you software and it has all sorts of menus and tools on all 4 sides, I don’t care how good the software might be, the usability is not there, and I’m going to look for something that is more usable, and if I call your customer service, I expect the process to be easy and trouble free, especially if I paid money to use your product, because if it isn’t you have lost a customer