Thank you!

I’ve been writing this column for 11 years. Its name has changed over the years but my focus has not. It’s never been primarily about ROI or even about conversion rate optimization; instead it’s always been about customer-centricity. The bottom line has always been what I wrote in one of my first columns in 2001: to achieve your goals, customers must first achieve their goals.

Over the years, my brother and business partner Jeffrey and I have tried to explain fairly complex ideas and tools like personas, web analytics, social commerce, and persuasive design in this column. It’s had an impact and we’re proud to say that so much has become part of the mainstream.

So why all the preamble? Perhaps because I’m about to sound like Andy Rooney and Miss Manners all at once.

Why are so many online marketers unconsciously discourteous to their visitors and customers? I know the answer to that. Very few marketers design measurable scenarios that plan every click and every interaction as part of an experience they want to create. However, I promised to keep it simple.

What follows, in no particular order, are just a few examples of discourtesy that come from industry leading websites. I’m not naming names, to protect the not-so-innocent. If you recognize yourself in these mini-rants don’t talk about it. It’s not therapeutic, just stop it!

  • Thank you emails that are generated by the IT department suck. Go read yours. Does it really express gratitude? Does it deepen your relationship with your customer or prospective customer? Ditto for your Thank You page confirmation.
  • Requests for 10 to 15 minutes of time to fill out your survey are ludicrous. Very few people have that amount of time to give up for you and I seriously question the motivation of people willing to commit their time that way.
  • Forms that are not coded correctly to be auto-filled are annoying. It doesn’t take more than using the HTML  
  • Requests to “Like” you might be a lot more compelling if your customer knew what was in it for them. For many marketers, it’s obvious this is just another task to get out of the way – “To Do: Get customer to Like us on Facebook.” Do they get something now or is there any benefit in the future? A “Like” is an opportunity to deepen a relationship, treat it as such.
  • Some companies selling goods make shipping costs a mystery. If you need an excuse to go fix it, then say you’re trying to reduce shopping cart abandonment. It will help with that. Your customers should not have to work so hard to figure out what their total cost will be.
  • Lots of people in our industry are young, bless their hearts. For those of us who’ve already seen our 40th birthday, small fonts are no fun. If your customers aren’t all under 30, then this needs to be fixed..
  • Broadband is not an excuse to hog our bandwidth or our time! Load times are just as critical now as when we used dial-up modems. Optimize your pages to reduce load times. Customers still experience any delay of more than a second as waiting.
  • We have smartphones. We have tablets. We have all sorts of devices and we expect to be able to read your website with them. There are often huge costs involved. Think about at least providing contact information and store hours in a format anybody can read.
  • Nobody likes to wait for a response. If you can’t respond immediately then set the right expectations and mind that you exceed those expectations. If you think a few minutes don’t matter, then you are fooling yourself. In B2B lead generation the difference between responding in five minutes versus an hour can be as much as 20x more valuable lead. Keep in mind that consumers are way more demanding that B2B clients.
  • Let it be your fault. Your error messages and 404 pages should not be written by the IT department. Accept the responsibility, make the customer feel smart and valuable, and then offer them a way back to the right path.

This list was not meant to be exhaustive so please let your fellow online marketers know what else they can do. We should all look forward to the collective feedback.