Tech Talk: User Friendly?
Much has been written about the customer experience and its importance to retailers, but it’s just one of many elements required to be successful. Another important aspect, which is often overlooked by brands, is the user experience (i.e., the experience that employees who are directly or indirectly serving customers have when using enterprise software).
Many agencies have had great success helping retailers design their websites to better serve customers, tell a brand story and differentiate themselves from all the competition on the web. I’ve never heard of a retailer making similar investments in the user experience, yet it has just as big an impact on a potential transaction. If employees can’t quickly, easily and correctly serve the customers’ interests, then often the transaction is lost, in which case both the customer and employee are left frustrated.
No doubt you’ve asked a store associate to do something that seems rather easy, only to have the employee say to you, “the system won’t let me to do that” or “I haven’t been trained to do that.”
“Do you have this size in a nearby store?” “Can I return this item for a different color?” “When will you have this back in stock?” The answers to those simple questions exist, but retailers have obfuscated them with antiquated and overly complex systems that require too much training, too many steps and too many workarounds. It’s now common to see toddlers be able to operate an iPad before they can form sentences, yet a grown person has to fight point-of-sale software just to pay with multiple tenders.
Where Are the Beautiful Business Applications?
It’s time for retailers and their software partners to turn inward and invest in the user experience. Employees that are empowered to serve customers with minimal friction will lead to a better customer experience and more sales. It’s no more complicated than that.
Here’s a list of what retailers should be demanding on behalf of their employees:
1. Support multiple form factors. The software your employees are using should work on desktops, tablets and smartphones, leveraging the keyboard, mouse and touchscreen.
2. Make everything intuitive. It should be easy to learn. Manuals are so 1995.
3. Help employees have fun. They play games at home and on their phones, so they’re motivated by competition.
4. Anticipate what information your employees will need and serve it up automatically. Don’t wait for them to ask for it.
5. Humans have five senses for a reason; let them use more of them at work. Not everything has to be text on a page.
6. Data needs to be updated in real time and be easily accessible. Stop hiding information.
7. Deliver constant innovation via the cloud. Today’s users like transparent upgrades that seamlessly lead to new features.
8. Make it easy to find what users are searching for. Google has been doing that for more than 20 years, so there’s no excuse to do otherwise.
Whether it’s point of sale, merchandising or planning, expecting millennials to use software designed before they were born is crazy. You can’t expect young adults raised on Google, Facebook and iPhones to be comfortable using systems written in VisualBasic, Oracle Forms or SAP ABAP. Invest in the user experience and you’ll see benefits in multiple departments as people get more done more easily and with more satisfaction. Remember: Happy employees lead to happy customers.
David Dorf is vice president of product strategy for the digital team at Infor, a provider of business applications specialized by industry and built for the cloud.