From The Editor | April 17, 2018

Leaving User Experience To Vendors? Big Mistake.

Matt Pillar

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

Retail Employees

As VAR and MSP sales and marketing organizations catch the buyer persona buzz, are client personas and user experiences being overlooked?  

The popularity of “sales enablement” as a business discipline has ratcheted up marketers’ consciousness of buyer personas. In simple principle, once you know a little about your buyer, it’s relatively easy to align an idea with that buyer’s persona. It’s a little like the early stages of dating; you go out of your way to cater to your significant other’s likes and interests in an effort to leave a positive impression and fuel the momentum of the relationship. She likes baseball, you take her to a game. She’s interested in politics, you talk politics. She likes Italian, you make her some lasagna.  

Now, it’s not my intent to wade into an already-done instruction on buyer personas, so forgive this whittling-down of the concept. No intent to offend, I’m simply setting up a more important point. 

That apology granted, let’s further oversimplify this analogy in a technology solutions provider sales setting.  If you’re engaging a business owner who’s hyper sensitive to cybersecurity threats, impress her with your firewall and AV performance knowledge.  Dwell on your service level agreements with a buyer who’s been burned by previous solution providers’ lack of adherence. If a business owner is posing IT systems questions to her peers in an online forum or at a chamber meeting, be the first to engage that interest. Of course, just like relationships, there’s a lot more to identifying and leveraging buyer personas. But the basic premise and intent are both pretty obvious, right?

Now consider this. What’s happening in your organization once you’ve turned a buyer persona into a client persona? Are your doting relationships getting a little more careless? Is she starting to feel more like—dare I say it – your years-long wife than your brand-new girlfriend?

You’ll likely agree that following through with an actual service or solution that’s client persona-specific, as opposed to pitching an idea that’s buyer persona-specific, is a much taller order. But, it’s important because it’s that post-sales satisfaction that will drive your long-term dividends with the client.

When a user buys a new piece of technology, they expect their UX (user experience) to conform to their persona, not vice versa. One of my favorite definitions of UX comes from the research and consultancy firm Nielsen Norman Group:

All aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.

Since it became a discipline unto itself, UX has meant quite a lot to software developers and perhaps just a little less than a lot to hardware manufacturers, but it’s been an altogether under-considered concept among tech service and solutions providers. That’s arguably where it matters most. You’re the direct line to the client persona, the organization that knows her best, and the one she considers most accessible when her expectations aren’t met. Chances are good her expectations aren’t met out-of-the-box, because expectations of technology are highly subjective and significantly influenced by demographics and experience.

Hardware companies and software developers design interfaces to the lowest common denominator of their buyer, often called a market persona, which may or may not accommodate your specific client’s usage environment, preferences, and knowledge. In fact, the market persona is often the tech purchase decision maker, who is rarely the tech user. That reality drives a further divide between interfaces/form factors and ultimate user experiences.  This leaves plenty of room for user experience improvement in the hardware and software footprints your customer engages on a daily basis. That improvement is up to you, and it opens up an opportunity to create and maintain sticky customers.

So, how do you align the user experience with the client persona? You start by paying close attention to your clients’ workflow, IT acumen, and usage preferences. None of that can be done in a set-it-and-forget-it IT sales organization, where users are relegated to vendors for post-sale client care.

Post-implementation consultancy and training are the ideal vehicles for bridging the gap between factory offerings and user preferences. Solutions providers and integrators are the ideal drivers of those vehicles. They’re also the beneficiaries of the repeat business generated by clients who find their technology “a joy to own, and a joy to use.”