Why writers need to be a part of the online membership process

Communicating during a sign-up process is critical.  This is the first opportunity that a new customer may have had to interact with you – their perception will be formed on this first impression.  Handle it well and they will respect you.  Handle it poorly and the customer is automatically wondering if your level of service  is up to scratch.

The latter happened to me.

I decided to sign up to a major sports store’s online membership program.  They had baited their hook with a gift voucher if I joined.  It was the right kind of bait for me.

It was immediately obvious that the programmers hadn’t really thought through how a user would experience their sign-up system.  As a customer, I had to backtrack, question why there were problems and look for FAQs which were non-existent in their ‘customer service’ section.

These are some of the things that happened – and how they could have been managed better.

* Personal details section: I dutifully filled in everything and then hit FINISH at the foot of the screen.  Nothing happened – it just refused to submit.  I did what most users do and slammed the FINISH button about 50 times but nothing happened.  I was about to close my browser and start again when I scrolled back up the screen.  There was a field I hadn’t filled out, which was stopping me proceeding.

SOLUTION: Rather than just not accept the information, how about telling me why it won’t proceed?  It will save me buying a new keyboard and save you losing people who give up at this point.

* Further to that, the field I hadn’t filled out was marked ‘non-mandatory’.  Yet I couldn’t proceed.

SOLUTION: If it’s mandatory, how about telling me?

* When I’d cleared those hurdles, I hit FINISH and my registration was accepted.  Then nothing.  I was waiting for some information about this gift voucher I’d been promised but instead there was … nothing.  I went to the FAQs to find out what to do next but found the FAQs are only for CURRENT members, nothing about the sign-up process.

SOLUTION: When people are joining your organisation, do not presume that they know what they are doing or what you require.  Walk them through the process. Tell them the next step and what to expect.

* In the absence of a relevant FAQ, I went to search for ‘gift voucher’.  Their search engine only picks up the gift vouchers you can buy.

(At this point, the part of me that is a web professional who was perversely enjoying the process and realising a blog post was in there somewhere overrode the sport nut who wanted the voucher and was about to scream).

SOLUTION: When frustrated with a lack of information, people search.  Make sure your search capability extends to the questions these people have.

* Then I got an email, which asked me to activate my account to get my gift voucher.

SOLUTION: If that’s the process that’s involved in me getting my gift voucher, put some content BEFORE I register to tell me that is what is going to happen.

* I activated my account and was taken to the home page.  Where the hell is my gift voucher?????? I had to work out for myself that I needed to go into my account, find the section called ‘Promotions’, and then see my gift voucher sitting there.  So I clicked it.  Nothing.  I looked for information that showed me how to redeem it.  Nothing.

SOLUTION: Think about every step of the process for a new member/customer.  What are they thinking when they hit submit, get an email or go to their details.  And once you’ve worked that out – TELL THEM WHAT’S HAPPENING!!!!

So what’s the fallout of this?  I’ve got a gift voucher which I’ve had to jump through hoops to get, but I only stuck around so I could get a blog post and a great case study I will definitely be using in my workshops.  I will ring them (another step I don’t want to take) to spend the voucher.  Then I’ll get future emails from them and wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Is that the kind of mindset they want in a new customer?


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