This Is Not Just a Door. It Is an Experience

Take a look at this door.  Unremarkable, isn't it?  Sure, it may look like any door in any multi-story car park, in any country.  But it's so much more than that - it is my nemesis!

Now, study it for a few moments longer.  What do you see?


A handle? You see a handle, don't you?

Yup, that's what I see too.  It's a PULL door, right?  Wrong!

Twice a week I pretty much dislocate my shoulder on this door.  As I go down the stairs bashing my shoulder off the wall like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, I curse myself for forgetting it is a push door but every time I do the same thing.

It is just a really badly designed user experience.  Their is a pull handle on it, compounded by the absence of a sign saying "PUSH".

We come across badly designed user experiences that frustrate, irritate and jar us every day; but my pet hate is a badly designed IVR.  When surveyed customers nearly always say that they hate IVRs - but they don't really - they hate the experience of using it.

Techies get excited when IVRs are mentioned because they think about rapidly advancing technology in voice recognition, self-service, intelligent call routing and so on.  Accountants are tickled pink by the thought of an IVR because self-service in the IVR reduces calls which reduces costs.  Data guys love IVRs because they are a rich source of call data - why did the customer call? And this inside-out thinking creates a Frankenstein's monster of systems and conflicting priorities that make the system practically unusable for the customer.  

It just doesn't have to be like that.  A well-designed IVR can actually enhance the customer experience - like approaching the front door of a really nice shop, where you are politely welcomed and gently guided in the right direction, assistants are visible and approachable - help is always at hand.  Designed well, an IVR can do that, it can welcome the customer and ready them for the interaction ahead.  It can give them helpful choices on how to proceed.

How can you design an IVR that will enhance the customer experience?  First of all, remember that the technology is just an enabler - badly plumbed technology with conflicted objectives is why customers say that they hate IVRs.  Now, suspend everything you know as an insider and treat your IVR like a door!

  1. walk towards the "door" as a customer.  Where do you get the number - is that consistent with the IVR experience or does it frustrate you?  How is the welcome, the tone and the accent?  Are you notified of any problems, that would save you the call?  Are there irritating tones or music?
  2. touch the handle as a customer.  How do the persistent self-service messages feel?  How many options do you have to remember?  If you know nothing about the brand are the options clear and logically organised?  Is it easy to recover if you make a mistake?
  3. pass through as a customer.  Does an agent ask you for information you have already given the IVR? Do you get to someone with the skills to help you without a transfer? Is the experience consistent between self-service and assisted service - do you have an option or are you forced down a route?
  4. and change everything that jars and makes you question your sanity.  Think like a customer, not an insider.

Do you ever feel as a customer that you are going through an experience that has been designed for someone else's convenience?  Tell us about it!