Website development project coming up? Your staff are a goldmine

Who should feed into your website project, and why.

I have a question: are you a large or small business?

If you’re a big corporation, it’s going to be a number of teams who will be involved in a huge project like a new website. And if you’re a small business, it’s very likely just a single team (or in some cases, person).

Size, in this case, really doesn’t matter though. Because either way, those teams and individuals working on the project – qualified and capable as they will be – alone, are not enough to make your website the excellent product that it needs to be. And the reason is that the majority of the time, they aren’t the ones dealing directly with your customers.

But the wider workforce aren’t developers, marketers or technical in any way. Why should they be involved, and why should they care about the project?

Your website team (or person) have the expertise and skills to work with a developer to both make your site work well and look nice. But an excellent website is the answer to your customer’s problems, and your staff know exactly what they are. So unless you consult the staff who serve customers every single day, you will never really get to the bottom of just how efficient your website could be, and how it can affect change in the company.

A new website impacts all public facing staff – it’s in their interest to be involved, because they want happy clients too. Your employees are basically *the* company’s experts on your customers. They know exactly where they stumble on the tools that they’ve been given to use. You’ll find that asking staff some very simple questions in the beginning will not only help you to see what you should be automating on your new site to help customers better serve themselves online, but also just how much staff time can be redirected on things that matter more.

Directing staff time away from paper pushing makes their presence more valuable, enabling them to deal with customer queries that need a human being on them, whether that be brain power or just plain empathy. Websites can’t give tea and sympathy – but they can efficiently absorb administration duties.

This can shift the company culture, making staff more content and autonomous. When their emotional energy is better focussed in a less administrative and more interesting environment, then their work satisfaction is increased - and believe me, you will have happier customers for it.

Having wider involvement in your website project creates a sense of ownership around the business: this tool should feel like it belongs to all staff. And once they feel listened to, know that their feedback matters, and they can have a valuable impact, then they will be as fully committed to the project as anyone else.

This process also saves them feeling like a team who have little knowledge or empathy of the trials of their jobs just went away and created a fancy looking tool which doesn’t meet the needs of the customers as well as it could. If that happens they’ll just dissociate themselves from it.

Companies around the world are recognising that staff are customers too. They are stakeholders in your company who also need to ‘buy-in’ to your products to be able to confidently ‘sell’ your brand. And I don’t mean literally. ‘Selling’ is also about picking up the phone and being happy to help a customer. Selling is a staff member sending a helpful email to a client and feeling satisfied and confident that they are working for a company that they believe in. That itself is infectious, and your customers will be unable to ignore it.

When your staff are utilised to their full capacity and asked for their expertise, they will be happier, and your website - and other products - will be better. We don’t want staff to just do their jobs, we want them to do them with relish. How else are we going to exceed our customer expectations to stay competitive?

Our handy tips on staff consultation

  1. Consult from the start: Ask your staff what their common queries and complaints about the website are, and what they think doesn’t work that well. But don’t forget to ask about the bits that they, and customers, like too – there’s no need to scrap popular functions or content.
  2. Reduce the paper trail: Ask your staff for feedback on company processes and see what administration can be reduced by funnelling through the website instead.
  3. Explain why not: We can’t have everything, and there’s a perfectly good reason why – every project has budget restraints. Staff are more likely to feel valued if they know why their idea wasn’t possible.
  4. You won’t please everyone: Style is a very personal thing, it’s inevitable that one or two people won’t like the design. But get the majority on board.
  5. Save anxieties: A more efficient website doesn't mean you need less man power, it's just a change in priorities. Be clear what staff will be focussing on once the website absorbs some of the processes – this is really to save any worries about job security.
  6. Testing: Ask as many staff as possible to get involved at every testing stage for feedback. This will also help them to become familiar with the new site, and help them understand the new journeys in the user experience.
  7. Communicate: Ask key staff to regularly attend any meetings on developments, and, at each phase, report back company-wide. Transparency is key to staff buy in.
  8. Get staff excited about the new site: They are the ones on the phone on launch day, and dealing with queries forever more once the site launches. They need to like it.
  9. Have a launch party: Just… because.

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