Something came up in a research project I'm currently working on that I think has general applicability ⇒ knowing where you are at in a multi-stage process, what's coming next, and when it's likely to happen.
In my current project, a lot of the unhappy people experienced confusion over this. Most of the happy people felt they knew what was going on.
[OK ... get to the point, Susan, you are probably saying. Bear with me for a minute.]
I was trying to think of good examples for my client about who does this well. Naturally, I thought of package delivery (FedEx, UPS, Purolator) and books (Amazon, Indigo, et al). We have come to expect e-mails letting us know where things stand every step of the way when we are ordering things online. If we're not sure, we can log in and check our status using a special code (also e-mailed to us, with a link).
And then, in a burst of universe synchronicity, this notice arrived in my in-basket from Dell. [Yes, we are buying new desktops. I've come to realize that computers are like cars. They don't last forever, and there will be maintenance. And as soon as you buy one, a cooler color comes out. But back to our story.]
What I loved about this e-mail from Dell:
⇒ It's colorful and bright. Yes, I had to download pictures. But I don't mind doing that when it's something important to me. We are all excited about the new computers, and this message says, yes, you should be excited, something good is happening here.
⇒ It's got a graphic indicator that spells out a number of things VERY FAST. First, it's showing me that there are stages, because it has a little bar for each stage. Anyone who has ever installed software or done an online survey knows what the little indicator bars are about. It also sets up a really nice expectation that there will be more communication coming at each stage. Imagine covering all this in - Yawn - text.
⇒ And there's another nice graphic message that I can talk to a live agent if I have questions. A friendly face, right there under the contact info button.
⇒ What you can't see, below the screen shot, is that they have also given me a nice recap of what we ordered. The full details, actually.
⇒ There's nothing saying "print this and keep it safe". There's no babble-speak. They say thanks TWICE.
What you might want to consider:
⇒ If your service costs less than shipping on a book, perhaps you don't need to invest in this kind of status communication. But what about their mortgage? What about their insurance application? There are many important things that take time and happen in stages
⇒ If you are providing something that people have anxiety about, status communications could help them feel more comfortable. They are likely to reduce upset calls to your contact centre. Maybe you'll even avoid other problems because errors will be caught early
⇒ What about bringing supply-chain thinking and tools to customer communications??
⇒ If it's something with a short cycle time, e-mail might not be the most relevant channel. Maybe it's text messaging. Certainly texting would be much better for certain kinds of groups -- those without e-mail, and those that live their lives on a cell-phone
⇒ Dell just raised the bar. Looks like they are back in the game again. Where's your bar?