Friday 18 October 2013

5 ways to be a great customer to your web team

I ’ve been thinking a lot about customer service since I returned from two weeks at Disneyworld.
Meeting Pooh

There is always the odd vacationing stress-head, but most people visiting Disney are in a good mood before they even approach their server.  And while anyone in a service role must be professional at all times, it must be a lot easier to tell people to ‘have a nice day’ if your customers have behaved well.
Here are some easy ways to keep your web team happy and Tigger-like while they deal with your request.
1. Be clear
This means: 
  • Telling us whether it’s brand new content, or an update to an existing page.
  • Providing a link to the page you are talking about.
  • Trying to remember the difference between a website, intranet and extranet (although we do make allowances for Bears of Very Little Brain).
  • Using tracked changes – we might miss something if you leave us playing ‘spot the difference’, and it takes ages to re-build a page from scratch.
  • Telling us if your content is likely to change substantially before publication. We don’t want to spend hours building your page only for a brand new version to be supplied the day before it goes live.

2. Give us time
Web teams are usually running close to capacity and need to plan ahead for any large additions to workload. We have a lot of customers other than you, and have processes and tasks you don’t know about. You can help by:
  • Giving us as much advance notice as possible.
  • Telling us if you have a particular deadline to meet or if you’re Late, you’re Late, for a Very Important Date.
  • Being realistic; sometimes we may not be able to help as quickly as you like.
  • Understanding that what you think is a little change might be a big deal for us. For example, it takes a surprising time to add bookmarks and other accessibility features to a long document.
  • Not chasing us precipitously (although it’s fine to chase if you haven’t been given an estimate of timescale, or we’ve missed our deadline).
3. Do your homework
Hopefully most web teams aren’t as scary as Scar in the Lion King, but you should still Be Prepared before approaching them, by:
  • Providing good quality images; they should not be blurry, and any words or labels must be legible.
  • Making sure you have permission to use any images and documents you send us, telling us if we have to include a credit.
  • Complying with guidelines for preparing documents, for example, by adding metadata.
  • Getting the appropriate branding and scientific or technical sign-off before your content gets to us – but be prepared for us to need to make changes (see below).
4. Respect our profession
There’s always room for a healthy debate and we never want to change the meaning of your content, but we do have to apply company policies (like style guides), follow best practice guidelines for the good of your users, and work within the technical constraints of a system.
You can increase mutual understanding and respect by:
  • Involving us at an early stage, so we can help you make any major changes before you get your boss to sign off, especially if they’re a regular Queen Maleficent. Never tell us you can’t change something because it’s already been signed off.
  • Not trying to prettify your content. We’re constrained by style sheets to ensure the website looks professional and consistent, and we won’t accept your Little Mermaid clip art.
  • Accepting the consistent corporate style. Don’t be precious about your writing. If you want to make your own rules, get your own personal website; for organisations, the user is king, because the user is paying the bills.
  • Letting us help you by suggesting structural and linguistic changes that make your content work better for people reading online and easier for search engines to find.
  • Asking us why. We should always explain why we’re making a change.
  • Coming to us with problems not solutions. Tell us about your users, and what they need, not that your boss has demanded you start a new Twitter account overnight.
  • Using us as your guinea pigs. If we don’t understand the language you’ve used, chances are that new starters or people in a rush won’t, either.
  • Not telling us how to do our jobs. I won’t presume to tell you how to design a house, perform surgery, re-house a council tenant or unpick a gene sequence. Please respect our years of experience and training in doing what we do.
  • Coming to visit us, or picking up the phone for a chat, so we can understand each other’s needs.

5. Say thanks
We all just want to be loved, even those of us who seem a bit Grumpy sometimes.
If you one do one thing today
Most of this post is about empathy. In the words of Pocahontas:
"You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew."