We hear or see at least 5,000 marketing messages per day. This is probably why we don't listen as well as we did in the past - we are constantly being presented with information. If we don't learn how to pick and choose what we listen to, we will be overwhelmed and drown in the noise.
Even Mr. Universe from Firefly knew this: "You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere."
I think many of us in this messaging deluge get reconditioned, learning that it is more valuable to keep talking - pushing messages - and add to the noise. Looking at the phenomena of Facebook and social media, many of us are trying to get noticed (so a search on Google for "getting noticed on social media" and there are a number of results...and look at all of the blogs - me included!). We, as individuals, become like most companies issuing marketing/branding messages and continue throwing our own information and messages out there in a desperate attempt to be heard; when in fact, the more we communicate, the more we blend into the white noise.
And by continuing to push our personal brand/message out there, we continue to train our children to listen only to their own voices rather than listening to the wisdom offered from each other. Our old ways are lost.
A complicated problem has emerged.
This is why simplicity is key to user experience and customer interactions and interfaces. We crave zen interactions in our lives - places to rest and meditate, listening to silence and nature. Rock gardens. Coi gardens. Places just to think and be.
Believe it or not, being zen with your customer interactions will benefit you.
- Help the customer listen to his own needs and help him communicate them to you. Guide the customer to complete key actions on the site. Make them easy to find, clearly communicate in direct language. Basic UX principles that we all know work.
- Keep the customer focused on getting his needs met - one step at a time. Only provide links and options to customers that are directly related to the action at hand. Same as the previous bullet - basic UX.
- Provide the customer a place to rest from all of the messaging and information inputs - provide the right information at the right time. Don't over-communicate. Keep instructions direct and simple. Provide messages to customers to help them make the next decision to complete a task. We know from usability testing that customers don't read. At least put what's important on the page to get them there.
- Encourage the customer to slow down and focus on you for a few minutes. Make the experience enjoyable and visually appealing. Keep it simple, direct and clean. Cut the clutter. We all know that clean designs are more effective at keeping customers engaged rather than too many colors or images. Keep it simple.
- Get a dialog going with a customer, learn what he wants and needs and provide information about how you can help. Online chat helps (it's an effective tool to help customers get what they need). So do customer forums and other social tools. Ask customers for their feedback beyond surveys. They will appreciate your efforts to include them and listen to what they need (again, listening is becoming a lost art today).
- Listen to your customer's actions on a site or call center - stop all of the words. Customers tell you what they want through their actions at your site. Read your metrics. Get a customer interaction tool. Learn what they want and make incremental improvements to give it to them. Tealeaf exists for a reason - as do other metrics companies. This is why - it's cheap usability testing.
Being more zen with your customers will get you more attention - and your customers will appreciate the rest from information overload. Most likely, they will appreciate that they don't need to communicate over you to get what they need.