Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What is Your Service?

The Web 2.0 Meme Map lists as one of the core competencies, "Services, nor packaged software". So as part of reinventing your own website, the first question should be, "what is my service?". I haven't taken a formal poll, but I don't think that everyone will see their site as a service.

From a marketing perspective I feel that many companies see their site as a tool for them to advertise their product, as opposed to providing a service. For example, ever have a problem with your cable (electronics, car, phone, medicine, governor, ...) and then gone to the website for the company just to find that there is absolutely no information on how to repair the product, or even a number to call? I find this frustrating. I don't go to a website because I want to see a commercial! It's time for marketers to start thinking about their site as a service, and look at it from the viewpoint of their users, not their stock holders. In the end I feel that your site and product will do better if you provide real value.

A good example of this is Google. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was interviewed at the recent Web 2.0 conference. There were many things said, but the one thing I took away from the talk was not information about any single Google product, but something larger. Sergey expressed a strong interest in enabling the user, in providing a good service. He explained that when you search for a stock quote it is likely that the first link will be to Yahoo!, but that is not because of a paid relationship, it is because Yahoo! has a high quality ticker information. When talking about their ad system, he said that they decided not to jump into banner ads, which would have made them a lot of money, but instead see if they could build something better to help enable businesses. He expressed that his service was to help the user find things, to help the user leave his site.

So, what is your service? Are your users satisfied with the service?

Perhaps the answer to that lies not in the corporate meeting room, but with the user. You need to ask the user. You need to make it easy for the user to give you feedback on your content. Some sites allow users to comment, such as the blog comments that appear after each article on Other sites allow you to rank the content by clicking a link, possibly presented as stars.

Achieving superior service therefore consists or two parts; first determine what your service is, and second ask your users if your service is useful.


Update 11/9/05 10:16 AM: This user first attitude is complimented by Stowe Boyd's compact definition of Web 2.0. As part of his definition he states, "Users First -- The user experience is a proxy for the user, and all of the folks I touched base with so far agree that user experience is the pivot point of everything. That means that the norms of human expectations, social interaction, and interface goals become the central motif of these apps. For example, sharing with others becomes a basic principle, not something tacked on later."

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