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Want a Sticky Service? Eliminate Context Switching!

Much is and has been written about the importance of stickiness of web services, and for a good reason. While the discussion usually revolves around topics like optimal screen layouts , customer journeys and tools for detecting user leakage points, some key aspects remain often neglected.

One of them is the importance of keeping the user always in the context of the same service, i.e., within the single service window.

Bad experience costs; good experience pays off

Before moving forward, let’s bear in mind that it all comes down to the all-important user satisfaction – a thing so often mentioned, yet fairly seldom reached, as the following results show:

  • Only 37% of brands received good or excellent customer experience index scores in 2012 (source: Forrester Research)
  • 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience (source: RightNow).

It’s not only about loss, for there seems to be a concrete upside in meeting or exceeding the expectations. The consumers will simply pay more for a better experience:

  • 55% of consumers would pay more (source: Salesforce); or
  • even 86% of the consumers will pay 25% or more (source: RightNow)

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Get it right the first time…

The figures above point out how important it is to pay attention to the user experience, and it really pays off to do it right. It pays even more to get it right the first time. But how to achieve that?

In his fine blog, UXMatters, design expert Steven Hoober provides some answers, and states that any application design project should start from outlining the actions of the users in the context they use the service. Task flow charts that cover all the touchpoints of the user come in handy. So do storyboards covering the customer journey.

They form the basis for development of the real features and screen designs – those tangible, visual aspects of development that designers jump to too quickly, overlooking proper ground work, according to Hoober.

If there is a chance to embed functions of the complementary screens to the main one, it certainly can help. That requires outlining the customer needs and journey of a service first, and only then moving forward to the actual design. It may take a little more thought and time, but it pays off – in very concrete terms.

…And keep it all in the same context!

Indeed, task flow charts help designers concentrate on what is essential. But they have an even more important purpose. They help keeping the user’s needs and context at the forefront at every step of the design process.

Yes, context. Hoober names banks’ online services as examples of clumsy designs that cause too many unnecessary clicks. And, crucially, they can make it even worse by embedding links to other services, such as online shops for enabling payment.

What may happen is that a customer of some online shopping service has advanced to the payment stage when buying a product. However, the payment procedure with the bank is interrupted, simply because the link back does not lead the user back to the right origin or it is broken. So, when the payment is completed, the user has difficulty finding his way back to the service he originally came from.

Money, trust and customer gone – can it be avoided?

So – the service provider ends up losing the customer and also:

  • revenue from additional sales
  • future revenue from the customer churning away (probably)
  • credibility, because of bad word of mouth from the unhappy customer.

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What if the service designer had made the bank’s payment screens appear within the original service? Embedding the key functionality into the service would eliminated the need of forcing users to jump away from the service – whether for a short while or not. While this kind of online payment integration may sound like the most severe example, think again! Similar examples of interrupted customer journeys are all around us. Just consider document viewing and sharing, user authentication and content search.

It’s a networked world

We are living in a network world, with also web and mobile services getting gradually more and more interconnected. Each interface from an application to another means increased risk of users straying away from the service. The reason may not be only broken links or something as simple as that; these valuable users may also get lured away simply when they see something new and interesting – and there is no promise of them coming back.

By | January 7th, 2016|