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In the recent past we’ve heard plenty about the importance of 'creating a consistent customer experience across multiple channels'. 

While that phrase is horrendously buzz-wordy, it’s still undeniably important.

Multiscreen, multi-device customers check and compare prices in store, buy online and talk about their purchases via social media, so making sure each touchpoint effectively serves the user is essential. 

But... what happens if a customer only wants to use one channel? 

This may seem like an odd question.

We’ve all been spending a lot of time trying to unify everything for the multichannel audience, but as we attempt to bring everything together, we sometimes forget that occasionally one channel is enough.

Let me show you what I mean...

Recently, I’ve been having trouble with my phone. I‘ve currently got an old iPhone 4,  so I’m well past due for an upgrade.

Over the past week or so my handset has been refusing to connect to the power cable properly, so i thought it was high time I sorted things out and got a new one. 

First things first, I visited EE’s website. I wanted to double check my contract to see if I was due a new handset yet. 

Here’s the landing page...

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1376/ee_5-blog-full.png

So far, so good.

Although it’s a little cluttered with options, there’s some nice plain English copy at work and it doesn’t take long to spot the Orange logo and click through. 

Here’s where things start to go awry: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1377/ee_9-blog-full.png 

I’m asked to enter a user name and password. 

  • Do I have a username?
  • What format might it take?
  • Have I even signed up? 

I'm generally forgetful about these things, so my assumption is that I've probably signed up at some point in the past, but not recalling, I decide to click the ‘Forgotten your username’ option.

This prompts me to highlight my user plan first: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1378/ee_7-blog-half.png

Fair enough, but when I do...

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1379/ee_4-blog-full.png

It removes the option to recover my username.  

So I’m stuck. 

Now, I also don’t know my password, but no problem, I hit the ‘recover my password’ option and I’m told to... enter my username: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1381/ee_3-blog-full.png

Here, finally, is a list telling me what format usernames take for various services.

I hit it and finally I’m told that my username is in fact... my phone number: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1382/ee_2-blog-full.png 

Why on Earth couldn’t these options be displayed on the original log-in page? 

So, now I just need a new password. I enter my details and fill out the captcha.

And then I do it again.

And again.

And again. 

After a monumental 14 attempts I’m finally moved along to the ‘Authentication’ screen. The site also suffers from some astoundingly slow load times, adding to the frustration. 

Finally I’m in!

I can check to see if I’m due a new phone, pay my bills, and use all the other wonderful services on offer. 

Except I can’t actually do most of those things, because I don’t have ‘full access’ to my account.

In order to actually do anything other than see how much money I owe EE, I have to enter my account number. Which is different from my username: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0004/1383/ee_1-blog-full.png

Apparently I can find this on my bill, or welcome letter.

Remember paper bills? They used to happen in the 20th century. Apparently they still do.

Am I a weirdo for not retaining my phone company welcome letter and carrying it with me at all times? “In the event of my death I would like my phone charger to be responsibly recycled”

Let the user choose their channel

When I went through all this, a couple of friends advised me to do this, but this is missing the point. 

I don’t want to call. 

I could of course, and, after choosing from 15 options, wait twenty minutes to speak to a human.  

If I  wanted to do this, I’d have phoned in the first place.

I chose very specifically to interact with the company through its website, and I was hampered at every single stage of the journey.

What happens if I was getting in touch because the phone wouldn’t work? I’d then be forced to head into town and find an EE store. 

I’m singling EE out here because this occurred recently, but it’s hardly the first example I’ve seen. Trying to access Barclay’s without a Pin Sentry machine is all but impossible (without first setting up an online login procedure that’s helpfully hidden under fifteen dropdown options). 

The point is that EE are supposed to be a communications company, so they should be at the top of the multichannel pile, offering well planned accessibility to all services across all platforms.

But most importantly, good multichannel service isn’t just about allowing a customer to hop between channels, it’s about allowing them to carry out their tasks in full, with as little friction as possible, on the channel of their choice.  

A big part of my job is allowing users choice and relaying communications. If you have a service issue, you don’t have to call, you can tweet, or email or ask us on Facebook as well. Yes you can use all of the above, but companies should never force the user to use a channel they haven’t specifically chosen.

If you can’t run a channel effectively, then you shouldn’t be present there. In the rush to offer multichannel services, it’s more important than ever that we take time to do each one correctly first. 

Matt Owen

Published 18 December, 2013 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Emma North

Emma North, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I have had these exact frustrations with the EE site since launch.

Every time I call them and they suggest I can go online instead I've made it perfectly clear that I have no intention of doing so and let them know why. Everything is so hard to find once you're logged in with numerous frequent errors and the suggestion that I call them up anyway!

over 2 years ago

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Ben

Very frustrating. I guessed my username was my mobile number cos that is what I had used previously on the Orange site (which is also poor UX).

over 2 years ago

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Richard Baxter

I think the EE site's a shocker. I've tried to buy on mobile and desktop - whatever I was looking for (more information on the data / 4g offers) was pretty much impossible to reach and absorb in a reasonable amount of time and clicks. I *wanted* their service (at least I thought I did at the time) but just became completely unable to get the job done. Anyway, I gave up. They really need to fix their UX!

over 2 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Richard - you express it perfecty: The EE site is absolutely a shocker.

Here's a real cracker - a simple task - 'I want to buy a phone, I'm a business user'

On the T-mobile.co.uk site, click the Business tab and drill around to see a screen full of phones.

So at this point the user has drilled down to the phones they are interested in.

Click on 'Select Phone': for the phone you like.

A pop-up offers you the choice to buy it "with 4g on EE or 3g on TMobile".

You like the sound of 4g: so click that option.

You get thrown to the Home page of the EE site!

You have to start all over again, to find the phone you want!

over 2 years ago

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Kayley

What's also incredibly frustrating is that you can't actually do half the stuff in store either. I recently moved house, tried to update my details on the website and couldn't (I don't have 'full access' either)so I went in store to change my billing address for both mobile and broadband, I was told I had to call up and the staff couldn't help me.

The website is full of 404s as well, it's a truly awful experience.

over 2 years ago

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Dominic Collins

Hi Matt,

I’m Dominic from EE. I read your post with interest as we're actually in the process of revamping our websites and addressing many of the issues which you raise. These are due to land in the next few months.

We appreciate your feedback – we agree with you that the site isn’t perfect. Our plans are ambitious and we’re investing a lot of time to hone the new design and technology to make the experience better for all our customers. For example, we will be aligning the experience for customers of EE, Orange and T-Mobile to ensure things like login and account management are seamless. We have also built a large number of web services into our core platforms to make the site more robust and performant.

We haven’t locked in all elements of the new design and user journeys just yet, so any other thoughts you have are gladly welcomed. Please let me know if you'd like to discuss things further.

All the best,

Dominic.

over 2 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Dominic,

Thanks for commenting, it's good to hear that you are looking to address these issues and I'll certainly keep an eye on the site in the future to see how the changes go.

I do realise there are difficulties in making changes to a complex site and it does take time, but currently it's just incredibly frustrating to jump through so many hoops in order to accomplish a fairly simple task. I'm glad to hear changes are coming.

Thanks again,

Matt

over 2 years ago

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