On knowing the customer and what they want

It always amazes me that some internet sites are not really set up to serve the needs of the customer.  You see examples of it time and time again.  As many readers will know, I am a big fan of Gerry McGovern and Mark Hurst, both of whom extol the common sense line that the customer experience is all important and should be uppermost in the mind of any selling organisation.

One of the first maxims of internet or intranet design is to know your customer and what your customer comes to your website to do.  People are busy, and in the majority of cases, go on the internet to do something; find some specific information; complete a task.  Sure, there is serendipitous search but website design is not about focusing on the per chance customer; internet design should be about identifying your customers and servicing their needs. 

Let’s take an example – I am going to another city for work or for a holiday and I need a hotel.  What is the information that is most important to me – the customer? 

– the address and service offerings of the hotel
– price (including any discounts or specials)
– availability
– reservations
– maybe booking and cancellation policy for the more detail-oriented patrons among us.

Now, do you think people search for hotels based on price or do you decide upon the place first?  Price is nice, but people want a hotel in a specific place.  Choose the place and then check out the prices. 

So when I went to check out the IBIS hotel (I am an A-club member) in Christchurch, New Zealand, I found this IBIS hotel site.  You will see that the site gives the address and contact details, provides information on the service offerings of the hotel, and allows online bookings and reservations.  This is all good standard stuff.

But what about that header at the top of the page, especially the one titled IBIS special offers.  Naturally, before I check out the price and availability of the hotel I am looking at booking in Christchurch I want to see what special offers might be available.  Well, what you actually get is the global IBIS special offers page with great deals for IBIS hotels in ….. Bregenz, Austria; Marrakech, Morocco; Basle, Switzerland, and Toulouse, France, etc.  There are also major cities to explore …. but not Christchurch.

Please tell me, why would I want to know what special offers are available in Toulouse and Bregenz when I am going to Christchurch?  Why is there a link to these European special offers from the Christchurch IBIS Hotel page?

Well, the answer is that the Christchurch page is a page (a local page) on the global IBIS Hotel internet platform.  The header information at the top of the page is the global banner across all the IBIS Hotel pages, from Christchurch to Marrakech. The banner bears no relation to the local hotel page other than for IBIS Hotels to tell you stuff that you don’t need to know; stuff IBIS Hotels obviously thinks is grand news!

The obvious point is that if you are offering special offers on the Christchurch IBIS hotel page then give me the special offers for the Christchurch IBIS Hotel – that is where I want to go and that’s why I am looking at the IBIS Hotel Christchurch internet page!

The message is: design the web page for the particular customer that you need to service.  Do not design a web page for the ease and ego of the organisation.

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One response to “On knowing the customer and what they want

  1. Very nice blog post. Right on point, too.

    To paraphrase the late, great Gary Halbert, no one cares about your product but you!! Companies that want to maximize the effectiveness of their websites need to focus on the audience.

    Thanks for saying this!

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