Broken Britain

3:00 pm Customer Service, Website Strategy

The picture below says it all.   A broken union jack umbrella abandoned in the doorway of a shop on a rainy day.

To me, it summarises the state of so many businesses in this country:

Cold, wet, and broken.

When you work in website consultancy you have different types of clients.  Many (thankfully) are really proactive, take on board recommendations, and keep pushing forwards.  Others (unfortunately) have businesses riddled with systemic failures and apathy.

Leading horses to water can become a full time occupation in the world of website consultancy.

While all client work is confidential of course, one of the ‘benefits’ of website consultancy is gaining insights into how companies truly work.   You can send tons of traffic to websites but if something else lets the company down then all that traffic generation has a reduced positive impact on the bottom line.

We see companies that receive emails about poor customer service, including products that haven’t been delivered.   We see companies that focus on marketing activities that are pointless when they should have been focusing on website strengthening recommendations.   We see many many things.

Above all else though, we see poor processes.  Companies that clearly need help with implementing effective processes in order to get them back in track, but who would also say “we don’t need any help – we’re fine”.

We’re not alone and I suspect that if you asked any web or marketing related company/person whether they experience similar, they would give that knowing nod of agreement.

Like the umbrella, so much of British business is broken.  The umbrella photographed was flimsy in manufacture and clearly couldn’t take the pressures of the wind and rain elements battering it.   Many businesses are the same – they have weak frameworks and when external pressures come (e.g. competitors being better than them) then they start to crumple.  If they’re lucky they end up like an umbrella that gets blown inside out but survives to live another day.  If they’re not, they end up crumpled on the floor as a failed statistic.

So what’s all this got to do with our core work of helping businesses get stronger through their websites?

Everything!

If a company has weak systems in place then it will find it difficult to:

  1. Act on website and online marketing recommendations.
  2. Fulfill the needs of the potential clients that come knocking.

The biggest enemy of business though is apathy and unfortunately it’s often with the senior management of companies who are usually busy being busy and can’t see that huge juggernaut lumbering towards them all the time that they don’t focus on what’s really important.

So what IS really important?

I’d suggest that the most important thing of all is comparing overall website traffic gained to the levels of enquiries/business that came out of that website traffic (within any given period of time).  The results of that alone should encourage dialogue aimed at making an improvement.  The dialogue may start off with a focus on what’s wrong with the website or the way it’s marketed but it can easily become dialogue about the underlying systems that are failing the company.

To give an example from an unnamed company – they sell certain products that are £1,500 each and effort is put into ensuring that potential buyers find those products online when searching for them.  The company has been advised to make enhancements to that part of their website (to encourage more clicks to become enquiries/sales), which they haven’t done.  This creates an effect of lower than desired levels of sales of that product.   To make matters worse the company doesn’t deliver these expensive items properly, which brings customers to send irate emails and the result is an overall feeling of dissatisfaction.   In short, the business systems let the company down and those buyers are highly unlikely to spread good news about the company, nor buy from them again.  The website lets the company down because they haven’t implemented what’s needed to make it stronger.

What should happen first?  That’s right – the company should halt all active marketing of that product, fix their broken processes, and then do what’s needed to make that part of their website strong enough before marketing it more aggressively.

Over and over again there’s gloom and doom about the British economy having a tough time.  External forces can, of course, have a negative impact on most types of company, but should that be used as a convenient excuse?  Of course not – get any company owner in a room full of different types of consultants (web, marketing, tax, accounting, etc. etc.) and within no time at all many issues will be brought out that prove that the business owner is very much in control of their destiny.

‘Web’ is just one spoke in the umbrella of a typical company.  All the spokes have to be strong together in order for business to prosper.  And the person running the business needs to feel confident that they can hold their umbrella up high, safe in the knowledge that their head is firmly out of the sand.

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