Dec 18, 2000
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Like many companies providing services to businesses, UPS wanted to reduce the amount of money they were spending on routine customer service by transitioning much of it to the Web. UPS is a big enough brand name that they did not have a real problem getting people to visit the site at least once to check it out. However, the real cost-savings are in getting businesses to visit a site repeatedly for self- service. We spoke to Director of Interactive Marketing, Rakesh Sapra, to learn how UPS keeps them coming back.
UPS selected which features and tools would be on the site by considering their users' point of view. Before building the site, the Web team researched the specific ways in which businesspeople used their product. Sapra says they found, "A user goes through a whole decision-making process. They need to select a service, they want to know how much it will cost, how long it will take and then they want to track it. So, our Web site provides all that."
This user-centric functionality proved so successful that UPS has continued to add features based on user-demand. Sapra says, "Now they can prepare a label, order supplies online, open an account online, find the nearest drop-off location or request a pick-up. I focus on really coming up with neat new things that ultimately serve the fundamental needs of our customers. It's my favorite part of my job! "
However, Sapra warns, "What's more important is creating a good user experience. If they don't have a terrific experience they won't come back and use the tools. Our brand is based on creating an unparalleled user experience on the phone, in person or on the Web. So we made sure the site is very easy-to-use and very intuitive."
This easy-of-use didn't come easily. Sapra explains, "We do very extensive usability tests. We give typical users a variety of tasks to do under different use-scenarios and see how easy it is for them to perform the task. Then we modify the application. It's ever evolving, you never get it totally right the first time. We take great pride in the this fine-tuning, the tweaking that goes into making sure the navigation is right."
UPS's Web team also pays live visits to the offices of all types of actual customers. Sapra says, "We observe them in the context of their work environment. The decision-making process varies with size and type of organization. It's not made in the shipping room alone! It's diffused throughout the organization." And focus groups don't give Sapra the kind of site improvement ideas that actual working conditions do.
The result of this intensive research and redesign is that UPS.com's average visitor can accomplish almost any task in just 2-3 clicks from the home page. Plus, as Sapra brags, "All the main things people want to do are presented on our global nav bar."
UPS's Web site has won multiple awards, from a variety of prestigious sources including Business 2.0 magazine and CIO magazine, as one of the best B-to-B Web sites. Six-to- seven million visitors go to the site every day.
Sapra is now considering making the most popular site feature -- a tool that allows you to track packages as they're in transit which 3.5 million visitors use a day -- something you can get to without clicking beyond the home page at all.
He notes, "The best way of getting people to come back to a site is not advertising. It's providing a great user experience."