Serving Our Customers–From Booze to Bits
It seems not that long ago my career was as a bartender. I worked in restaurants, lounges and night clubs for many years and that former career has served me very well in my new career as a designer and now leader and partner of a design agency Post+Beam. It was a great, fun time in my life and though it delayed my current career I never think of it that way. I look at my bartending/service industry experience as a masters degree in human interaction and service. I’m sure anyone reading this who has worked in the service industry would agree with me. You deal with the lowest of the low personalities and you also meet the best, most fascinating personalities.
Anyway, the point of this article is about how thinking of customers’ needs first applies to everything we do. Let’s compare some bartending practices to website usability practices shall we.
- Always greet your customers with a nice “hello” and a friendly smile.
- Promptly take their order for their drinks.
- Make the drinks, never sacrificing quality. Example: If you splash mix over the outside of the glass while making a drink you get a new clean glass.
- Serve the drinks to the customers. Ladies first.
- If there is a problem with the drinks (Wrong drink, they just don’t like it, whatever) you apologise and offer another drink to them for no charge. It is never worth arguing* with a customer. You never win.
*Beligerent drunks are exempt from this. There are always a few that you have to remove from the bar.
- Be sure to check back occasionally to see if the customers require anything else. Don’t hover and check too often as this can be a disruption and annoy the customers.
- When the customer would like to pay give them their bill as fast as you can and thank them for coming to your bar. Complete the transaction right away. Don’t make them wait.
- Warmly say goodnight and see you again soon.
Now how could this translate to a web experience? Let’s go through those eight steps and apply them to a website.
Customers on the Web
- Always greet your customers with a friendly and welcoming home page to your site. Keep it simple as to say hello. The home page doesn’t have to try to tell everthing right away.
- Offer a quick easy way of navigation/architecture of your site as to make it as quick as possible for your customer to find what they want.
- Once they know what they want (product, customer service, information, etc.) make sure that it is high quality and what the customer wants.
- Deliver what the customer wants to them as easily as possible.
- If there is a problem during the customer experience or buy flow make sure there is always a way for them to change what they want. If the customer wants to change a type of product as they are half way through a purchase path they should be able to change it without starting over.
- Offer the customer a way to offer feedback or get support. If the site has identity management and the customer returns perhaps target offers towards them. However, be sure not to annoy the customer by contacting them too much. Unsolicited emails, phone calls etc. can and will annoy customers.
- When the customer wants to complete an online transaction make it as easy as possible to complete and then thank them for using your company and website. Besides saying thank you there are other customer rewards online like discounts, member points, free stuff etc.
- Thank them again and put out a welcome to come back to the site again.
So even though it doesn’t compare exactly I think you get my point. Good customer service is good customer service period. In this young age of the web we can learn from established industries that rely on customers. Gone are the days of just having a website, we now welcome an era of customer service tools that are designed for the customer.