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The user is a customer. So why doesn’t software treat them like one?

 

So this may sound obvious. You may be thinking, yes of course the user is a customer. We treat them like customers by providing them with support, pitching to them our value in our sales and marketing materials, and a host of other things. But what about in our software itself?

The fact is, our software tends to be designed as if it were going to be used by a computer interface. When an update is available for example, it may prompt the user with something like this:

“Acme Analytics v2.31 is now available, click here to install.”

Let’s draw a comparison to a real-world business. Let’s consider a gym whose modified it’s membership plan. Ultimately, the situation is similar. A change has taken place that (hopefully) improves the experience for customers. A gym may send out a letter or an email stating what’s new in the facility. For example:

“We’re proud to announce that we are now offering free Yoga classes with your membership. Classes will begin January 1, 2014, and take place every Monday at 8:30am.”

This announcement could be improved by reminding customers of other products, upselling additional services, or just thanking the customer for their continued support. But the important part of the message is that it clearly relays what has changed and demonstrates it’s value. Why would a gym naturally do this? Because it thinks of it’s subscribers as customers, and wants to keep their business. In our software example shown above, we are doing a similar thing, introducing new features. But, we are introducing the new features not as a new valuable service or product addition, but as a technical task that must be performed in order to receive the benefits. What if we instead thought about this in the context of value instead of the technical details? Our update message could be rephrased to sound more like this:

“We’re proud to announce that Acme Analytics now supports multiple users. The update is available immediately and can be installed by clicking here.”

 

This example communicates the value of our update much more clearly, but more than that it represents a shift in how we are thinking about the user. Instead of thinking of them as users who need to interface with our product, we are thinking of them as customers with whom we need to communicate value.

This is not limited to updates for our apps. Let’s take a look at a few more examples, and how we might modify them to both feel more human, and be sure we are treating our users as customers.

“You have 3 new followers! Click here to log in.”

becomes

“Three new people are interested in what you have to say!

Click here to find out who.”

“Download finished. Click here to open.”

becomes

“Your video is now ready, click here to watch.”

 

“Error: File Not Found”

becomes

“We couldn’t find the content you were looking for. You could try refreshing the page, or come back later, and see if that works. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

 

In all of these examples, because we are trying to be helpful to our customer, we deliver a better experience. We can use these opportunities to explain new benefits, apologize for problems (while suggesting solutions), or remind the customer they are appreciated.

If we can remember to treat all messaging in our software as if it were a personal phone call from our companies representative, or a mailer sent out to all customers, I think we gain a huge advantage in the sense of customer service our users perceive.

Related article: 5 things I wish I knew when I released my first iPhone app

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