Not Evangelism

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Remove Barriers to Increase Interaction

Research into postal marketing has found that including a postage-paid envelope with a request for information increases response rates.  Interestingly, including a pen or pencil can also increase the number of responses.  It seems is that by removing barriers to responding, the chances of response are increased.

In email communications, where messages vie for attention with tens or even hundreds of others, the need to remove barriers is even more important if you want your users to respond to you.

Remove barriers in internal email...

Luckily, with email, it's easy to include the envelope and the pen; a clickable link to your website (assuming the recipient's preferred email format supports it).  Yet, all too often, I still receive emails that only direct me towards a site with a URL, but do not make that URL a clickable link.  This reduces the likelihood of me visiting that website. I have to open a browser, copy the link from the email, and paste it into the browser - three steps, with an associated waiting time - which makes me less likely to follow the link. It's a psychological barrier.

In internal email, a message typically directs recipients to an area of the company's intranet, perhaps requiring a visit to confirm some procedural matter or review some personal information. By not providing a clickable link, the business will incur a direct and calculable cost; the cost of every user having to find that place on the intranet themselves.  Because it's not immediately easy to do, some people will postpone, and perhaps miss deadlines for response; then there is the cost of chasing them.

Perhaps the sender didn't include the clickable link because of the additional time it would have taken them to do it. This is a false economy. Whatever time the sender saves is paid for by every recipient of the email that must perform the task themselves, perhaps making mistakes and incurring additional delay along the way.

...and external email

In external communications the lack of a clickable link is less immediately measurable but potentially much more costly.  Convenience of interaction will affect the user's experience of your business. It's also something that users have come to expect.

The other day, after placing an order on line, I received an email confirming despatch of my goods, and informing me it was possible to track my order.  Excellent!  All I had to do was visit the companies website.  On examination, the provided (unclickable) URL was to a generic How to Track Your Order page.  This is ridiculous; the company knows my order number, knows the company they have despatched it with, and could very simply provide a personalised clickable link directly to the courier company's website.  This link might not result in direct benefit to them - it's not driving traffic to their website, but to a third party's (the courier company).  But it vastly improves my user experience; it's a missed opportunity to add another layer to my interaction with them.

Although order tracking is the back end of the sales process, and does not generate revenue for your company, it is still part of the user's experience of your website; and it's a differentiator.  If your competitors manage to tie the knot between two services and include a clickable link for parcel tracking - including the envelope and pen, as it were - and you do not, then you will stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Users expect parcel tracking; they expect it to be easy.  Having to hunt around for a URL and - the horror! - type it in themselves (even using copy and paste) is not acceptable.
Sidenote: It's even worse on websites
If not including the envelope in email is foolish, it's utter folly on websites, where links are the currency of the web. Yet I recently visited a website that included the text "Have you seen our other site?" and didn't link to it. I'll deal with this situation (and website) in another article.

Make it easy for your users to interact with you

Remove barriers to interaction with your users; include a clickable link in your email communications, even if that link is to another website. It's all part of your user's experience of interaction with you.

Users are bombarded by a huge number of calls for communication; they expect it to be easy to interact with a company or service. By making it even that tiny bit harder for them to interact with you reduces the chance that they will do so. And if they find it easier with your competitors, then you may find you have fewer and fewer returning users.

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