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Everyday I see a common mistake being made on websites all overthe ... It results in lost ... lost sales, ... figures, lost profits and more. In short, it has ... impact on

Everyday I see a common mistake being made on websites all over
the Internet. It results in lost customers, lost sales, poor
visitor figures, lost profits and more. In short, it has a
negative impact on all aspects of the website and company
concerned. Its also completely unnecessary and costing businesses
dearly. Rectifying this one mistake would transform websites and
businesses increasing sales, profits, customers, recommendations,

Hereís a current example: buying a train ticket has been a
problem for customers for years. Until recently all train tickets
needed to be purchased in person from a main train station. This
meant going there, joining the ever present queue, buying the
ticket and then traveling home. In a large city this adds up to a
couple of hours of your time which could be better occupied
elsewhere. Recently telephone services have been introduced but
they arenít ideal either because you cant actually see any
information to review it. Its passed to you piecemeal and the
ticket is selected for you. The Internet however is potentially
well suited to buying train tickets, customers could actually
view the train timetables from wherever they are and select their
ticket themselves. Customers love the option of good self-service
tools that enable them to be in control and do tasks themselves.

So, bearing all this in mind I wanted to: select my destination
and travel times, at the cheapest price, buy the ticket online
quickly, have it delivered to my home. All perfectly reasonable
needs and wishes for a customer.

Three websites and two and a half hours later Iíd finally bought
my ticket. What happened? Well between them the three companies
had not considered my needs and wishes, it was an exercise in
frustration and futility. They hid information, made it too vague
or made the process too inflexible. One site had a great looking
homepage, which then failed miserably with text given on the
buttons, which was so vague I was left to figure out whether they
even sold tickets online. Iím now convinced all promotional
offers are just an exercise to mess me around, leaving me with
the responsibility for manually searching for every conceivable
combination of journeys until I happened upon a good price or
gave up from fury and frustration. All these things said in
effect: WE DONíT CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT! -we only care about
ourselves and our objectives. Clearly, it doesnít matter which
organisation you are, saying that to your customers is the start
of the slippery road to ruin and businesses with that attitude
will not survive for long. At least, not successfully.

They all missed the point, their sites are not focused on
satisfying the customers needs and desires. The result, an
unhappy customer that went somewhere else that did meet their
needs and who obviously got their business. Millions of people
travel by train and buy tickets everyday. Even if only a small
percentage felt the frustration I did, which I doubt is that low,
these companies and companies like them are losing sales revenues
and customer goodwill. Did these disappointed customers think
that the company helped them fulfill their needs? No. Did these
customers receive a positive image of the company? No. Will these
customers recommend them to others? No. Will these customers ever
visit that website again? No. Will these customers ever buy from
them? No.

What can you do to prevent a similar thing happening to you
regardless of what business you are in? Make it as easy as
possible for the customer to buy from you by identifying and
focusing on your customers needs and desires. Then make your
website meet those customers needs and desires. Anything on a
website that prevents your customers from reaching their specific
objectives easily is making it difficult for them to buy from
you. Anything on your website that is unclear to your customers
is making it difficult for them to buy from you. Iíll call these
obstructions Ďbarriersí because they are preventing customers
reaching their objectives. They are the Internetís equivalent to
brick walls, like their real world counterpart they prevent you
from continuing on your chosen path. This is where most websites
are going wrong, either the customers needs are not being met or
the barriers are obstructing them from satisfying those needs.

Focus on your customers needs and desires. Ask them what they
want. Build or change your website to directly meet their
objectives. Check regularly during and after to make sure you are
meeting their needs.

On an ongoing basis encourage feedback and interaction on your
website. Be open to constructive criticism. Ask questions: How
could we improve? What would you like to see on our website? Make
statements: we value and want your feedback to help us improve
our service. Offer incentives (if necessary) so they take the
time to comment and help you to help them.

Research any information received and act on it. Try to be
creative in your actions too by going that extra distance to
really satisfy your customers with extra features and functions,
especially if they cant get those features elsewhere. Once youíve
got it right, keep checking regularly to make sure their needs
havenít changed. Consider your visitors and customers carefully,
there may be more than one type of customer. Write a customer
profile for each type to use as a reference point. Just simple
details like: how they use your product/service, when they use
it, what their needs are, what their wishes are, what they do and
donít want, what extra features would help them, etc.

Once you have got it right, your customers will love you for it.
Theyíll buy more from you and be much more inclined to stay loyal
to you and your products (for as long as you continue to satisfy
their needs). Theyíll happily recommend you to others. A happy
customer is an extremely valuable asset to your business, they
can start a word-of-mouth marketing campaign more powerful than
any campaign you could ever buy. All you have to do is make the
customer happy!

Research your customers needs and desires.
Put customers needs and desires first.
Remove all Ďbarriersí to ensure your website is simple to use and
crystal clear to customers. No vagueness.
Add extra features/functions that make it quicker, easier, more
convenient, etc., for your customers.
Actively ask for comments, suggestions and feedback on an ongoing
basis. Make it easy.
Refer to your written customer profiles to ensure you are still
meeting your customers needs.

Good luck!

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Peter Simmons is editor of the DYNAMIQ EZINEÖTurn your website
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