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A User's On and Offline Experience Must be Consistent

Allan Bisset

Don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of Futurama – far superior to the Simpsons.  Although they are both second string to Family Guy.  A show where the best characters are an alcoholic talking dog and an evil megalomaniac baby with a rugby ball for a head.  Genius!

Want me to Clamp him BossStewie and Brian

Anyhow, I digress.  In one of the best Futurama episodes there is a character called Clamps.  His hands are clamps.  He lives to clamp things.

Speaking of clamps (I’m sounding like one of those ‘thought for the day’ vicars who waffles on about complete non sequiters and then says: “and isn’t that a little bit like Jesus..” )  Anyway, speaking of clamps, a couple of days ago I had a clamping epiphany myself.

My car tax had expired and I renewed it on-line at the DVLA website.  Usual  procedure – complete the process, get a print out page confirming that you’ve applied for tax and you are legal, confirmation that new tax disc is in the post.  Cool I thought – I’ll stick this print out on the dashboard so all can see that, even though the disc in the holder is out of date, the vehicle is taxed and legal.

Alas, NCP took no notice of this nuance and clamped my car on a public road with a big “untaxed sticker”  on the windscreen.  How much would it be to release the car?  £100.00. Journey home that night thanks to Lee and bracing bike ride to work the following day!

Long story short – eventually after several phone calls to various agencies and losing the will to live in the abyss of  the “for anything else, press 22”  call waiting purgatory  which can be recorded for training porpoises (why dolphins work in call centres I’ll never know)  I got the clamp released without having to pay anything.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s a great idea that concerned citizens report untaxed vehicles and teams of NCP and other sub contracted operatives roam the streets clamping or removing them.

That got me thinking though (and here comes the ‘thought for day’  link again) isn’t that a little bit like Internet Marketing?

See, you would have thought that by participating in the process of renewal on line at Cardiff, the DVLA and its various operatives and sub contractors would have access to the same information – speed and convenience being the advantages of online transactions for the user.   The benefits of online for the provider  are efficiency, lower overheads and reduced cost – which is why most Internet deals are cheaper because they have smaller physical overhead  costs to support.

The complete user  satisfaction experience and their opinion of your brand  depends not just on the usability, funtionality and quality of the actual website itself.   It also depends upon the fulfilment in the real world  of what was transacted online.

In the case above: the seemingly reasonable assumption that records would at least be checked before any action was taken.  In the case of an e-commerce business selling stuff off a website: the importance of making sure that the physical delivery arrangements are up to scratch and contact or complaints procedures are effective.

In other words, while it’s obviously worthwhile focusing efforts on making your site the best it can possibly be from a design and SEO perspective you must also  pay attention to how  your product is actually delivered into the hands of your customer.  Their perception of your brand is coloured by their total experience of it.  The website can be great,  but if delivery  and fulfilment mechanisms or your contact and complaints procedures let  you down, your brand reputation is damaged beyond repair and no amount of wizzy Flash animation will fix that!

Incidentally (and I pass this on as a public service) many people believe that you “unofficially” have 14 days grace when your tax disc expires.  Not so. If your road tax expires you must renew it or declare the vehicle SORN immediately.  The only “grace” period you get is the 5 days it is assumed for a new disc to arrive in the post after you have taxed online.

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