As I mentioned in my last post in this series, the internet has moved the balance of power decidedly into customers’ hands. Some larger institutions have yet to realize that this fundamental shift has taken place. The focus of your thinking needs to move from inside-out to outside-in.
As we continue to try to piece together the tattered remains of our economy, it is more important than ever to understand what customers want.
Where once we called it “user experience”, I think it would better be called “customer experience” or even “customer advocacy” and it is everyone’s responsibility, including yours.
Benefits, not Just Features
As a communicator, you probably can’t make a fundamental change to the way your company views its customers. If you’re lucky, your company has someone dedicated to acting as the voice of the customer or at least ensuring that it is an important part of your culture. But if the company has no such person, you aren’t off the hook. A firm understanding of your audience is crucial when writing content for your site.
One of the practical upshots of this is that you need your copy to speak to benefits and not just features. Features are meaningless if they don’t lead to customer benefits. In other words, what good does the feature do? If you can’t articulate the benefit of a feature in a way that makes sense to your readers (an important distinction), it is just noise.
It is like buying a TiVo for your grandparents. You set it up in their living room and say, “Look, grandma. It has an HD user interface for optimized search & discovery. You can control live or recorded TV with pause, rewind (3 speeds), fast-forward (3 speeds) and instant replay.” Blank looks. Try again.
“There’s always something good on because it records the shows you like automatically. You can even pause live TV so you can answer the phone or grab a snack in the kitchen when you want to, not when the commercials are on. Heck, skip the commercials altogether!” Features vs. benefits.
By the way, I took the feature text on this post directly from a TiVo page.
I should add that this does not imply that you should skip the feature altogether. People won’t believe you if you don’t back up your benefit statement with the feature that supports it. You might even say that a benefit results from a feature. One comes from the other.
And if your benefit confuses the customer, the entire purpose is lost. That is why capturing Voice of the Customer is so important (before you start writing).