Neglected alerts, error messages and other unglamorous digital touch-points can erode your brand

Neglected alerts, error messages and other unglamorous digital touch-points can erode your brand

I guess I could call myself an HTC fan. Not only because I think they produce decent products but also because I would like to believe that they follow Avis’s old moto, “We are No.2, we try harder”. Alas, they appear not to be doing so; they suffer from the same malaise that besets countless other companies with digital products and services.

A few days ago I was fiddling with the official HTC installer on my Windows 7 laptop and this shocking message came up:

Despite HTC’s efforts to provide quality service and engage with people (they were very quick to respond to some comments I made a while back on Twitter and to follow me) someone, somewhere dropped the quality ball. Alerts like this don’t just appear in a vacuum. They need to be specified, written, designed, programmed into the system that requires them, tested, approved and finally launched with the end product.

Unfortunately, HTC is not an isolated assassin of quality. Alerts like this belong to a parallel world of digital touch-points that exist in the shadow of a main product or service and more often than not are criminally neglected.

Here is a list of some commonly found examples:

  • Forms
  • Confirmation messages
  • Alerts
  • Contextual help
  • Installation processes (although SaaS is gradually making them obsolete)
  • System emails (password reminders, confirmations, receipts)
  • Login facilities
  • Error messages (i.e. 404 pages)
  • Settings

What can go wrong? Surprisingly a lot and it tends to go wrong in batches:

  • Bad planning
  • Incomplete specification
  • Confusing copy
  • Inappropriate tone of voice
  • Bad design
  • Limited accessibility
  • Compromised ease of use
  • Inadequate testing

It’s not hard to see why such content and functionality gets neglected; it takes an experienced planning resource to acknowledge their importance and insert them into the specification; they can appear insignificant when compared to the effort required to launch your main products and services; they are of no direct commercial value; they score zero in the glamour chart; they tend to fall off the production radar when more important tasks take longer to complete than expected; their production requires diverse skills that can be a pain to source.

And yet, the contribution of these touch points to the brand experience you probably spend a lifetime creating, cannot be overstated. Every time a user or customer comes in contact with your brand, be it your main product or an installer alert, you have an opportunity to please or to frustrate them. And frustration, no matter how small it is, can begin eroding trust in your brand.

The HTC alert box above might not be what the iOS map app was to Apple, but when doubt and suspicion set in they are very hard to remove.

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