Friday, 30 July 2010

Client complaints – do you have a strategy?

Well we'd all love to say we never get any complaints but...

So, the way they are handled can make all the difference to the perception of your company. In general business practice they are even going as far as to say that complaints should be handled like gifts - they give you the opportunity to make things better.

Are we as an industry doing that? We were pretty shocked to find Brian's catalogue of complaints against web design companies. Some of his tips of what not to do go against some of the tips we suggest you do in project management. But you can see why he reached his decisions with the situations he came up against. It seems that the old adage of Give a dog a bad name is right in this case and unfortunately, it will stick to the profession.

The no hourly rates tip becomes a big issue for us if the client just runs away with changes all the time even when the site is technically finished. Not paying upfront for a job is another thing we have found is an issue when a developer carries out loads of work prior to getting paid and the client just walks away from the job and goes elsewhere. We don’t say get paid for everything upfront, but we do recommend splitting the work into paid phases that you all agree on (assuming it's a long-enough task).

The not believing him part is sad. There needs to be trust between client and developer that is built up mutually. Once a client thinks they have had a bad experience with a developer, it can make any other web design relationship problematic. This can cut both ways, with the risk of a poor experience degenerating into a client from hell for the developer.

And if you're sitting there feeling virtuous because you don't get complaints, perhaps the reasons given by people for not complaining might niggle - 52.2% of 26 thousand respondents didn't think it would make a difference! See The Institute of Customer Service survey .

So what should we do? It is good business practice to have a complaints procedure that is transparent for your clients. Do you have one? Does it say how the complaint will be dealt with, how long the response will take and who will deal with it? These are key factors in a complaint handling strategy. What's more the company can learn from complaints and improve processes so that complaints get few and far between. There's a transparent procedure at wnw design company stated on their site.

Just think complaint resolution as well as conflict resolution - although I admit we address conflict resolution more than we have complaint resolution. Maybe time for a change!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Learning from CoJo

CoJo is the snappy handle for the BBC's on line College of Journalism, part of the wider BBC Academy. Presumably this material is developed for the BBC's in-house staff training but it is also openly available (or some of it is) via the BBC web site. Another aspect of public service broadcasting.

One part of this I have been exploring recently is the law section, particularly things to do with copyright, contempt and defamation (things that apply online as much as on air). These are part of the Law section.

I took the tests on defamation, contempt and copyright. I didn't do too badly (some issues over the wording of questions but sometimes me not knowing as much as I thought I did) but it made me think about a subject I think (!) I know a little about ... so very worth while. This is one to bookmark and come back to.

Don't forget that any web site is a publication whether it's a carefully thought out web page or a comment on a blog or forum. So you too (and your clients) can be a publisher, with all the legal responsibility that brings.

The BBC site also led me to an interesting blog by teacher and blogger Paul Bradshaw. Start with his law for bloggers and journalists and explore.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cross-cultural implications for iMedia design

I love cross-cultural issues and I have rarely seen them alluded to when interactive media is taught. Aspects of design are so subtle but can have such an impact - we need to remember that the positive impact in one country and culture may not be so positive in another culture.

I came across cross-cultural aspects when teaching foreign students English - a lifetime ago. Then, once you've lived in a different culture, you get savvy about the small but significant differences in interpretation of colour, layout, gesture, association, tone, body language, and so on. Not so small are the differences in the use of humour between cultures. Humour is one of the last aspects of a language that a person masters in a second language. Irony, understatement, and satire may well underpin a lot of rather British humour, but many other cultures don’t relate to the information in the same way.

What does this all mean for web design? Well, a web site is global so can and does get traffic from many countries. Adriana Margineanu in Cross-culture accessibility: Web design that crosses cultures suggests you look at your web analytics and note if the site is getting a significant number of visitors from particular countries, then you need to look at the site with those countries in mind and perhaps offer versions that will tap into their cultural aspects better. In that way the site will have maximum impact.

Some salient examples of real cross-cultural disasters in PR terms are given by Kwintessential. Knowing these may help you win time and money to test out translations and visuals for web sites that your client demands has cross-cultural versions. It's too late once your site has a negative impact on your client’s brand. Are you covered for any retribution?

On a lighter note, if you reckon that my reference to the cultural differences of humour really can't have that many implications for other English-speaking countries like the US, Australia and most of Canada etc. do look at this page about Australian humour from the Australian Government. At least it explains quite a lot about their use of humour in various media (unfortunately not web sites) and makes you laugh! Have fun.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Website costs under review - do your sums quickly

With the Government reviewing its spending and the drastic cuts it has to make, it isn't unusual to find website costs featuring in the review. But, the sheer audacity of some of the costs is astounding - nay practically unbelievable! The Business Link site has had repeated £35 million running costs for the last few years, for example. See the full exposé at Rory Cellan-Jones' blog on the BBC News web site. (The comments make for interesting reading as well.)

There's a valuable explanation there about why large companies tend to get the government contracts - will this change? Have you had problems getting onto those notorious preferred supplier lists?

But while making us all feel virtuous in relation to how much we charge our clients, all firms will follow the government's lead and review their website costs. Be ready to justify your costs far more and have some efficiency cost cutting scenarios to hand for all your major clients. Account Managers will have a hard time, along with Project Managers, as clients tighten up their questioning along with their spend. Whatever the market conditions, the mantra of time, cost and quality will still work for you.

Do your own reviewing of costs before you get asked. Approach your clients with efficiency saving offers to retain their trust in these stringent times.

Happy reviewing!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Benefits of web sites for businesses

In our scoping questionnaire we suggest that you ask your clients what benefits they want from their web site in order to help you define the functionality needed and to be able to prove that you have achieved what was wanted once you have created a site.
You can of course take a more pro-active stance and list the benefits your clients might achieve and then ask which of them they want. It is always easier if someone else has defined items and you select appropriate ones, don't you think?

With this in mind then, here’s a list of possible benefits. You should present price tag increases for the more options your clients chose.

An Online presence allows:
  • Improved communications
  • Access to information 24/7
  • Improved efficiency
  • Opportunities for new business
  • More close contact with customers
  • More close contact with suppliers
  • Online recruitment for your company
  • After sales service
  • Enlarged market reach
  • Marketing new products/offers to suit the customers
Selling online allows:
  • A Global marketplace
  • Direct selling - no middlemen
  • 24 Hour business - If your web site can process payment information you can be open 24 hours a day!
  • Increased customer information therefore reduced information distribution costs
Accessibility issues can add more benefits too.

Now it isn't just about the web site. Blogs, Social Media site presence and mobile resources can add more of those intangible benefits like street cred, urgency, emerging trends, personality cults, opinion waves, hype and so on. For more on accessibility benefits see Granite5 7th June 2010 or econsultancy 9th March 2010. For more on the benefits of blogging see Webbiquity 21st June 2010.

Maybe it is time to review your list of benefits of your online offerings for your clients to make your scoping easier?