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User testing approach and the customer buying process

I’ve been working on the testing plan for a large personal finance company.

The aim of testing is to understand customer behaviour during the purchase process and how we can help motivate customers through the journey. The purchase journey can be broken into a number of stages.
Recognition of a problem or a need
Product Search
Product Evaluation
Expectation and use

As part of the customer research I’m using an online survey to gather customer requirements at key stages in the process. A secondary aim is to understand what devices customers are using and how they use devices differently. This should help inform the longer term strategic development of the site.

As well as the online questionnaire I’m running some face to face user testing. This consists of in depth customer interviews which inform the affinity or a behaviour model. [We can then assign features and functionally to ensure that customer needs are support by the product. ]

Usability testing the current web and responsive offer will highlight what is working and what’s not working so well.

Running the two sessions will give good insight into the strategic development of the product whilst also help make immediate improvements to the product.

The soft sell

I went to a direct selling evening that was hosted by one of the parents from my children’s school.

It was an interesting evening and we were lucky to have an expert sales woman presenting the evening. My intention was to stick to a budget and I was surprised that I ended up more than doubling this figure. I don’t want to go into the details of the business but I’d like to explore a number of the techniques that were very successfully demonstrated through out the evening.

Even before the evening had begun there was a sense of how nice it was to have been invited to this event.

All guest were offered wine and a simple meal was prepared, cooked and shared. Giving people a small gift often comes with the feeling of being slightly indebted, inspiring the need to reciprocate. Often if you give people a small gift and then ask them to do something they feel obliged to say yes.

Personal recommendations

Most of the people in the group were encouraged to talk about items that they’d bought previously and how successful they were. This form of personal recommendation is very powerful; when people recommend a product it validates the product and encourages other people to ‘like’ the products. We also like to be consistent, if you’ve said you believe in a product, chances are you’ll want to be consistent with your belief and continue to interact with the business or product.

Our consultant had a great sense of humour and through out the evening she had us in fits of giggles. Laughter is a fantastic way of getting people to trust you, like you and ideally want to buy from you.

Story telling
Our rep told stories from her experience. This worked successfully in a couple of ways. Firstly telling stories can be a great way of engaging people and getting people to listen. She talked about her experiences, highlighted the similarities between herself and her audience. By aligning herself to her audience she encouraged us to trust her and identify with her.

Story telling can be a great selling tool; People are more likely to listen, engage and take on board what is being said when stories are used to sell the benefits of a product.

Celebrity endorsement
There was also a good smattering of celebrity endorsement, ‘so and so also has this item’ and a little of ‘Did you see x on her TV show, she used these through out’.

Good cause
The company supports a well-known charity and agreed to dedicate a percentage of its profits from that month to this charity. This had the added benefit of making customers feel even better about their purchase.

Hard sell
Most people move away from hard selling techniques as we’re more seduced by the soft sell. Hard selling moments through out the evening were rare. However our consultant didn’t miss an opportunity to push home a sale and there were a couple of moments in the evening when she seized the opportunity and casually asked, ‘Shall I add one of those to your order’?

All in all it was a brilliant evening, very entertaining and engaging and it was fascinating to witness first hand some great selling techniques.

Integrating key customer transactions with the Council’s CRM was never going to be straightforward

The transactions we’re looking at include reporting a missed collection, requesting a bulky item and requesting a bin, bag or box. Customers can already achieve these tasks online but the back end processes are clunky. The forms don’t gather enough information which often resulting in additional calls. They are sent to a Customer First Representative who inputs the data to generate the service request.

The user experience of the forms has to be simple and straight forward and fully controlled. Customer will be directed through a managed process with no risk of them getting it wrong. This could quite easily result it an increase in Service Requests rather than a decrease in Customer Contact.

Calderdale and the Social Care and Wellbeing Hub

Calderdale Council have just launch the Social Care and Wellbeing Hub. The site was developed in conjunction with the Web team, ICT and Social Care. The finished product is all about helping local people find information on health and social care services and products.

Social Care and Wellbeing Hub

The Hub offers two main functions – a directory of services and an events register.

Service providers are able to add information about their own services and products. It gives information about private businesses and voluntary and community groups as well as the Council and the NHS.

The events registers stores information about relevant events in and around Calderdale. The themes the the Hub covers are:
Advice and advocacy, Education, training and work, Health and wellbeing, Help at home, Money matters, Neighbourhood and community, Sports and leisure, Staying safe, Travel and transport, Your home.

Progressive Enhancement

I like the idea of exploring progressive enhancement with my site. PE is adding advanced styling to the page which allows users with more sophisticated browsers a more richer experience. I particularly like the idea of not having to get everything polished in all browsers, this will save so much time and it’s also great to be able to try out new features with out waiting for them to become mainstream.

Reusing patterns and components to creating a more holistic approach to the design

The reuse of patterns and components creates a more holistic approach to web based application where products can be scaled up more quickly. The idea is to continually build on current knowledge and not reinvent the wheel. Designing a set of standards which provide the foundations that designers can build on.  This approach is not as rigid as reusing templates – it’s more designing the concept of a component which can then be recreated in a number of different situations. There can be issues that this restricts creativity but as outlined in the Components versus Patterns article but you don’t need to be creative 100% of the time. Not everything requires innovation, novel ways of getting people to login aren’t necessary and the aim is to focus innovation on key areas.