For those old enough, Zoom was always an end of the disco slow dance by the Commodores. But like Hoover and Sellotape before, Zoom has now become the category name for video and audio communications in the pandemic era.
When in a business meeting on Zoom, Teams or Google Meet (where did Skype go?), we are focussed and locked in, right? Well at least I am. Well at least I am until I receive an alert.
Alert to the alert
I receive alerts for many different things. I am pretty good at ignoring them. However, some need to stand out because of their importance; such as the smoke alarm or the intruder alarm, or when we had very young children, the baby monitoring alarms. These would always get my attention. I will call these Code 1’s.
Then there are those which I can ignore as they won’t change my world. Such as a marketing email, a phone call from a number I don’t recognise, an alert from Booking.com requesting I review a hotel I stayed in a week ago, an update from Amazon that the latest purchase is on its way or a What’s App group picture arriving. I can leave these and choose to return or not. These are Code 3’s (deal with when time allows) or even Code 4’s (I see no relevance as to why I have received them, ignore them)
Which leaves Code 2’s; those which could be important, but probably can be deferred until I’m available. Such as a fraud alert from my bank, a neighbour knocking to say my car lights are on, a phone call to schedule a new client project kick off or an email with the transcription from a recent research group to say it’s ready to analyse. In most instances, code 2’s can wait until the meeting passes, but sometimes need attention there and then, not because they are life changing, but they are more urgent than the meeting I’m in. This again depends on the meeting type.
But when I’m in the meeting there is little way of filtering out 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.
Omni channel increases complexity for customers
You see, as organisations race to achieve omni-channel status, what is forgotten is that it now means the customer is approachable from any angle. So Code 1 – 4’s are all coming through the same channels, and often across multiple channels.
‘Omni’ sounds like its making things easier but, as the dictionary definition states, it’s about being ‘in all ways or places’. So, it’s increasing customer intrusion and complexity with it.
If you put that concept to a customer, “do you want to be able to be accessed in all ways and places”, I’m guessing most customers will say no. However, our brains are wired to respond to immediate dangers or threats. This means not responding to an alert can be difficult for the most disciplined, especially when it’s designed (frequency, channel, audio, wording) to get your attention. Plus because of the unknown threats, every-time we do switch a tiny amount of dopamine is released, it’s even more irresistible.
This constant intrusion of alerts is affecting our behaviours, specifically our ability to focus. On average, we switch between digital channels 37 times in an hour, meaning we spend less than 2 minutes per task before moving to the next, according to Onlineuniversities.com
The responsibility of customer experience
If your role is user experience or customer experience, I am sure you have sat in design workshops where the conclusive recommendation is to send the customer an alert to keep them informed of……a delivery date, a new campaign launch, returning stock, renewals etc. To make it a more engaging experience you may well have included an emoji, a quip, a sonic logo or a spray of confetti when the alert is opened. But can I ask you to resist.
Remember, it’s the customers world and we all just live in it.
As a customer, I am in a meeting. Or even if I’m not, in the context of my life goals, the next alert is unlikely to change, ruin or fulfil them. It’s not guaranteed to not do these things either, but if I ignore it chances are I will survive.
So when considering human-centric design, empathise with the customer. Put some context on the importance of your alert in their world. If you don’t know this, find out. Understand what else is pressing in their world and figure out if your alert is helping or hindering. Is there a better way, could you work with others to co-ordinate alerts rather than compete for attention?
Empathise with your customer in their world, not against yours
Empathising with your customer is much more than the ‘on us’ experience. Think beyond getting feedback on meeting your returns policy or extending the early bird discount through an alert. Park that. Think about the customers perspective. Be inclusive. Understand what matters most and be appropriate.
You could call it personalisation. I wouldn’t. Not until you know what really matters to the customers and why that’s important to them. Then you can personalise to their world priorities. Until then apply common sense and courtesy and exist in the customer’s world, alongside their priorities, rather than jumping the queue for their attention because it’s important to your goal.
Perspective is one of the most powerful tools in CX, use it often.