To help demonstrate my point, here is a brief quiz for UX professionals and other members of your product team:
- When building personas for use in your UI evaluations what role did your Marketing or Marketing Research department play in helping you build those personas?
- When was the last time you or your CIO read the results of a customer marketing research or branding study that your marketing team conducted?
- If you wanted to get your hands on such a study, how easy would it be?
- Your company’s ad agency has spent numerous billable hours writing a detailed advertising and communications plan for your product, service, or brand. Tell me some details about these four key components: ad strategy, brand definition, brand positioning, and intended customer communications take-aways.
- When was the last time you attended a meeting in which someone from senior management or marketing discussed goals for satisfying customer experiences—both online and offline—across a broad range of communications channels?
If you had trouble answering the above questions, you are not alone.
According to Forrester Research, 82% of senior management in the major companies they polled believe customer experience plays a “critical” or “very important” role in their business, yet a full 57% admit to an “undisciplined approach” to customer experience. (Source: Forrester’s Q4 2006 Customer Experience Peer Research Panel Survey)
Why is this happening? As the Web and other interactive media have evolved from being a supplemental communications channel to being central to the way a company does business, many firms have not realigned their internal customer intelligence structures to meet the needs of this new paradigm. They are treating customer experience as a function that may reside within disparate departments rather than as a core competency that should be woven into the fabric of the entire organization.
Marketing managers expect their company Web site to be both usable and persuasive, but often treat these two important goals as if they were unrelated. If the goal is to optimize the customer experience, you can’t have one team working on usability and another on the elements of persuasion without their talking to one other.
“One of the biggest challenges in larger organizations is communication and usability,” claims a Director of Usability in a business services firm I spoke to recently. “Usability is part of corporate, and then we have four large business units, each with their own marketing and development teams. Usability gets a lot of lip service, but it’s often sorry, we don’t have the budget.” This is a firm in which virtually every one of their services has an integrated online component.
I once proposed to a financial services client that I present the results of a recent user experience evaluation to the broader marketing team and the Web teams of other divisions whose sites were tackling similar UI challenges. “No one is going to show up to that meeting,” he replied. “I can send them the report, but they won’t read it.” Not only did the product marketing team not care what was going on in usability, the sister site’s Web division didn’t care about issues that were directly relevant to the overall design and presentation of similar content on their site!