Top tasks define your brand and reputation

The experience your customers have completing their top tasks has a big influence on what they think of your organization and brand.

Let’s imagine you’ve arrived at the website of Hotel XYZ with the intention of booking a bedroom. The booking process is horrible and you finally give up without having booked a room. Let’s say it’s a couple of weeks later and you now need to book a meeting room at a hotel. Will you go back to this hotel’s website?

Here’s how most people think: “If they can’t even get booking a bedroom right, I’m sure it must be a total nightmare trying to book a meeting room.” People expect top tasks to work really, really well. To be smooth as silk and fast as a Ferrari.

A top task on an intranet is finding people. If you fail every time you try to find people using the intranet then you are less likely to go to the intranet for less frequent tasks. Google epitomises excellence in finding stuff. Because their top task works so well, we are more open to doing other things with Google.

Your website should do a small set of top tasks really well. Ideally, there should be something you do that beats everyone else. If you’re running an intranet you must excel at finding people. When employees need to find someone they should automatically think: ‘I’ll use the intranet.’ They should not even consider ringing up support or asking a colleague.

Websites need to excel at their top tasks. Unfortunately, many web teams don’t even know what their customers’ top tasks are. Even when they do these tasks are not at optimal performance. That’s because many web teams have a ‘launch and leave’ culture, rather than one of continuous improvement of top tasks.

When web teams are asked to focus on top tasks, their response is often that they don’t have time because they’re so busy adding content for low demand tiny tasks. One public website I dealt with recently had 10,000 pages. They’ve deleted 8,000, focusing as much as possible on the top tasks. What has happened? Support calls have dropped dramatically. Customer satisfaction has shot up. Sales have increased substantially. They’ve had 5 complaints from customers and hundreds of complaints from internal staff! (Where’s my content?!)

Great websites have a specific focus. They don’t try to answer every question. They truly excel at a small set of top tasks. That’s how they build their brand. But most organizations are not designed to continuously improve top tasks. Most managers simply measure based on what is produced rather than on what is improved. So, you get more reward for creating a new page than for improving an already existing one.

If your manager asks you: ‘What did you do this week?’ You reply: “I deleted 200 pages.” Will they be impressed? Would they be more impressed if you said: “I created 200 pages.”?

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