online customer experience

An Account Number by any Other Name

All I wanted to do was give a business some money. Yet they seemed determined to make it as difficult as possible for me to pay my bill.

We had received our first invoice from them as a paper bill in the mail (how 20th century!), but as we pay all of our regular bills digitally we decided to go online and pay that way. Two steps into the website process it asked for our Account Number; which was not printed anywhere on the paper bill, nor on the covering letter.

A few clicks and we managed to find our account profile online. Still nothing labeled as “Account Number” anywhere. Ok we’ll pay by check this time around just to make sure it gets there. Then we saw the following note on the payment instructions: “Please include your account number on the check.” – You mean the “Account Number” that you haven’t told us?

A few more clicks around the website and we eventually found an email address to send a question about how we could find this elusive number. The response was “Oh we get asked that a lot. You just go to your account profile and combine the abbreviation from Box 3 with the number from Box 5 so the account number looks something like ABC1245.”

As I ran this frustrating scenario back through my mind (after I had managed to pay the bill) it raised several Customer Experience questions:

  1. If you have customers repeatedly asking the same question about a part of your process, then that part of your process is broken. You need to fix it. And not in a way that makes it easier for you, but in a way that it makes it easier for the customer to complete their task, like giving you money on time!
  2. If there’s a vital identifying piece of information that customers need to be able to interact with your business processes, then make sure it’s included on any, and all, customer correspondence or interaction, be it physical or digital.
  3. Names are important. Think about what you call something. Don’t expect the customer to know the terms you use internally. Pick names that the customer will recognize and use it consistently.

As a further example of this last point, I once worked with a company where one of the product lines was known internally by its engineering name. No-one outside the company used the term to describe that sort of product. No-one in the industry, and certainly none of the company’s customers or prospects did. But the engineering name was embedded throughout the company’s processes and even used on the website.

No-one ever searched for that name and as a result it never came up in search engine results and online lead generation for that product line was almost non-existence. After a lot of discussion we eventually got the product people to agree to using the more common name on the website – i.e. the term that customers and prospects used when searching. In a week the relevant webpages started popping up in the top 10 search results. In a year the lead generation increased exponentially with a resultant growth in product revenue.

The customers were also happier, and support costs dropped, because they could now find the information they needed quickly and easily.

All because the name was changed to the one that the customers used.

About Alan Porter

Alan Porter
Alan J. Porter is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for the OpenText Customer Experience Suite. He is a regular writer and industry speaker on various aspects of Customer Experience and Content Strategy.

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