Every company is in the business of communicating, but many seem unable to do it effectively. Here are a few consumer frustrations that could be avoided with some simple common sense.

You need an Oyster card for cheaper travel by bus, tube, tram or train in London. The card is blue with a swirl on it. For no apparent reason, the card reader is yellow with an entirely different swirl on it. At certain interchanges, the reader is pink. There is absolutely nothing about the design or colour coding that indicates you should swipe the card on the reader. Why don’t they match? You might argue that regular travellers soon learn, but these things should be designed for first-time users. Isn’t that the whole point?

You buy train tickets online, in advance. Supposedly, this saves time and money. The confirmation email says you must print it out and enter a number into the ticket machine at the station concourse to collect your printed tickets. At the ticket machine, you’re in a rush to catch your train, the only thing you need is the number – but it’s buried amongst acres of small print. Why is it not printed in a point size large enough to see without reading glasses? Why isn’t it surrounded by an outline box so it stands out? Why don’t people think of usability when they design these things?

You turn up at the venue with a printed email in your hands. It reads ‘Collect your tickets at the Collection Point’. So you queue until you reach the window labelled ‘Collection Point’. When you get there, the attendant says: “You need to queue at the other window, labelled ‘Sales’.” You point out what the email says, but he’s insistent so you join the other queue as instructed. On reaching the head of this queue, you are given two bits of paper to replace the printed email. On accessing the entrance, the receptionist places the two bits of paper in a box. Why couldn’t they have accepted the printed email instead, and saved paper, time and aggro?

At the event you’re handed a goodie bag. It contains free samples of tea, coffee and sugar, plus a bunch of leaflets. You put the free samples in the cupboard, and the leaflets in the recycling bin. That’s what I do – do you? Perhaps unusually, I read the leaflets first (but only because I’m in the business of writing and designing leaflets for my clients). Four out of five of the leaflets are glossy and generic. How are those companies to know whether the print and distribution cost of the goodie bag inserts was worthwhile? Only one of the leaflets is a cheap and cheerful business card size with an incentive and a unique tracking code – a £60 voucher to be claimed within 30 days. They are the only business that hasn’t wasted their money, and the only one that will know whether or not this investment worked. Why don’t more companies use common sense like that?

Do similar situations frustrate you too? What can you do to make sure your customers don’t suffer like this? Please ask if you’d like some feedback on your own communication processes.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

1 Comment

jackiebarrie · May 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I also received a Naked Wines voucher from Ticketmaster recently (branded). Double well done to them. I might even crack open a bottle of something to celebrate.

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