Sunday, July 11, 2021

Portals that don't port, Websites that don't work, Marketing sites that are not updated.


WEST COAST        
Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

The use of automated systems for everything from your doctor's appointment to buying a new car are becoming ever more common.

I don't mind using them at all, unless they simply don't work.

Businesses today in an effort to sell to the on-line community and streamline their operations are using more and more on-line portals and automated systems to market, solicit and sell merchandise and services.

The problem is a lot of these systems are simply out of date, poorly designed, poorly managed, or just out of service.

It seems like everybody wants to look like Amazon. A slick website with lots of options, easy selection, a shopping cart and checkout system that at least for me works virtually flawlessly.

Compare that to my doctor’s portal, which if you can actually log into is usually out of date or simply not functioning.

The question is are these portals, websites and marketing programs really that bad or are they just poorly maintained?

Take, for example, and auto dealers’ website. Recently, we were searching for a new car. Ready to buy we logged onto one of the websites for a Honda dealership. We were shopping around for an HRV or a CRV sport-utility vehicle. As we were working through the website and its myriad of questions about trade ins and our financial picture and on and on, we finally get to the point where we're ready to take a look at the car, the price, and decide.

When we got there, we found a CRV that looked promising but when we tried to buy it, the site referred us to an Acura. We clicked the box with a little down arrow which you would feel would give you options, no options just an Acura so diligently we went back to the top of the site refilled everything out again got down to the same point and the only option that was available was an Acura. Needless to say, our next stop was a Kia dealership.

Even more bewildering can be a doctor or clinic's website portal. These portals are sold by companies in the software business that have developed applications for various types of medical practices, and since they're sold across a broad market of the medical profession, they have a lot of options. Whenever you have an application with a lot of options, you have a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. Nothing is more infuriating than logging into your doctor’s portal only to be told you can't log in because your password is not right and when you change your password, it's still not right and then once you do finally figure out some way to get into it asks a number of questions when all you really wanted to do was know what time your appointment is.

I could go on and on, but you've probably had enough experiences with these automated systems portals, websites, dealership applications, and so on to know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, here's the solution or at least one of them for the problem with most organizations that implement one of these applications.

They think once it's implemented, all the boxes are filled in, and they turn it on that everything is done and it's always going to work, and it's always going to work exactly like they expect it to.

The problem is the system probably never worked like they thought it was going to work and if somebody doesn't maintain it and monitor it; you can almost be assured that in very short order, it will not be working correctly any longer.

That is especially true with portals and systems that are accessed by the public who are likely to enter who knows what in anyone given block and sometimes these applications react very badly when you put in the wrong type of data.

Aligned with those problems is the fact that many organizations, medical practices and small businesses are unwilling to spend the amount of money necessary for somebody to monitor their application, correct errors and install updates.

Anybody that's been in the software business for more than a couple of months will tell you none of these things are self-maintaining. They usually get broken quite easily and if somebody isn't watching over them, especially an active portal, on literally a day-to-day basis, you can pretty well bet you're going to have frustrated customers and bad data to say nothing about lost sales.

So, if you're a doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, or an Indian chief, a car dealer any kind of dealer who's using a website that you were hoping was going to improve your business make your customers happy and solves all your problems you're probably already beginning to find out that's not true.

So here are a couple of suggestions.

Assign someone in your organization to log onto the website every day, usually at the start of business is a good time, as a customer and execute a transaction or execute a search or go look at models available for sale or used car inventory or something like that and see if the thing is working. If it's not get it fixed.

If you're running a medical practice first thing, every morning assign somebody the responsibility of logging into your portal making sure it's up and online be sure to check an appointment schedule and look for any suspicious activity.

If you have a website that represents your business, whether it's an active site that you market through or just a promotional site where you offer services or goods, login everyday first thing and check out the website make sure it's still functioning, the information that's there is accurate and timely and that no one has hacked your system overnight.

If you are sitting in your office as the sales manager, marketing manager, or even the Webmaster, and you think everything is going along just fine in your online presence, I can almost guarantee you without any reservation that somewhere out there in the last 24 hours, you have frustrated a customer with that site to the point where they're likely to never do business with you again.

Don't trust the system check it out. It's the best thing you can do for your business.

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