OK, I think O2 wins this donkey’s current “Edge du Jour” tag.
Take a look at this wizard-style information display from the O2 self-care website. I landed here as I had just invested a chunk of my free time trying to review my invoice online having received my monthly your invoice is ready html email. Of course I failed, and I then failed to refresh my password, and sent a few paragraphs of vitriol to the support email only to be told that O2 can only be contacted using their customer contact wizard (perversly named “email us”).
So before you even get started, what does this display suggest?
- O2 only gives customer service to customers who know their details. This could be a problem for new customers who may not yet have received all the cryptic bits of misorganised pseudo-information that O2 sends out in a bid to help new customers settle in. This might also be a problem for existing customers who are on holiday or away from their base (imagine being in an internet café in Belize City trying to get help with your phone).
- Assuming a customer has their details to hand, O2 will only engage in dialogue with users who can pass security. Now, this is a support email for crissake, what the hell kind of security do you mean? I just want to email you to complain or ask for help and you will only hear me out if I can give you secret password (which I've either forgotten or never had to begin with). This is just ridiculous
- O2 will only listen to queries for internet users who get through steps one and two above
This is bad on a number of levels but the most obvious one is that the experience design takes no account of context-of-use.
If you are designing a support interface you can be pretty sure that most of the users who engage with it will have negative context-of-use issues. A big part of the interface’s success will be taking into account why the user might feel upset or confused. Think of issues like:
- my phone is broken
- there's a problem with my bill
- I don't understand something and need help
- I'm in unfamiliar surroundings
- I don't have access to my own computer (with its cookies and bookmarks)
I think it’s obvious from the entire interface that the O2 team took no account of these issues.
This is bad on further level. Dialog and transparency are now key elements of most sensible corporations’ comms strategies. There is no point having your CSR team and your marketing folk writing about how open you are to dialog when your website clearly isn’t.
Finally, the contact form has an input box which I think demonstrates the marketing team’s deep understanding of the customer:
Now I’m pretty sure most iPhone customers can’t tell the difference between an N95, an iPhone and a K800i. I know i certainly struggle with that one every day;-)