When citizens come to your website, what’s the first message they get? Is it, “we care about YOU, and we’re going to make sure you can do what you want?” Or is it, “first let me tell you about me?”
I read two interesting articles this week about how important it is to show your customers you care. First, I happened on Christina Gagnier’s blog piece: “Government must give a ***k: a lesson from @GaryVee.” She supports social media evangelist Gary Vaynerchuk’s assertion that the most important thing government can do is show that it cares about its citizens (its customers). It’s not just letting people report potholes online – it’s doing something about it. It’s not just offering technology tools to engage – it’s acting on those ideas and showing citizens that their opinions and ideas and concerns matter. Gagnier says, “It is not the power of technology, but the power of caring. People are simply tired of having information and agendas broadcast at them.” They want to see some evidence that you’ve listened – that you care.
Then came Gerry McGovern’s weekly post, “Web design: clarity is more important than persuasion.” Gerry makes such an important point. “The customer remains invisible to most web teams and that is the single greatest reason so many websites underperform. Understanding, relating to and developing empathy for your customer is one of the greatest drivers of clarity in communication and design…get to truly know your customers and you are on the road to clarity.”
The power of listening to your customers is a frequent theme in my blog. If you listen to them, they will tell you what to put on your website. But listening is only the first part of the equation. You have to honor what your audience tells you and show them you care by acting accordingly.
Gerry points out recent market research that says you have 7 seconds to hook your reader. In that time, they decide if this site has anything for them and if it’s worth staying. Seven seconds is not much time. It means you’d better know what they came for. You’d better put it right there – front and center – so they can find it.
And – and pay attention here, web managers, because this is where the real “caring” shows – you’d better make sure that they can actually use that service – complete that task – quickly AND see success (the submitted form, the right answer to the question, the checklist they can print and use, the updates they can follow on Twitter…). What results do your customers expect? How can you show them those results? It’s not just being able to report the pothole – it’s seeing it filled.
So what does your website say in the first 7 seconds? Does it say to your customers, “I care about you!”
Customer Service Mantra: Listen, Respect, Follow
Thanks for the great post. I know this is an area that I have to work on for allaboutfocus.com. That site is almost too complicated for me. I keep going through wordpress themes trying to find one that is simple and straightforward.
And there shouldn’t be an excuse when it’s now possible to parse the data of why citizens are coming to your site and what they are looking for. As a civil investigator, I spend a great deal of my time trying to figure out how to get records from different goverment agencies (primarily city and county) and it is incredibly difficult to navigate most government Web sites.
Glad you’re speaking up, Adriel – that’s the kind of evidence that helps web managers understand their audiences and build the case to make needed changes.
@Adriel I agree, government websites are not friendly, especially their employment websites……
Great post. Webmanagers are equally challenged to be evangelists within their own organization, to change sometimes long-held habits in the organization, either in how they interact with residents about services or how they interact with them on changes in city policy or planning issues.