how to lose customers effectively

These are some anti-case studies in user interface design. Being an Indian IT male, it is not uncommon for me to use the Internet for a lot of sundry activities. This does not include mail checking, twitter and other narcissistic stuff. So, we are effectively left with reading blogs and doing housekeeping jobs, like online banking and bill payments. Online bill payment is cool. But the whole process is ridiculously hectic. At the end of the day, it is a bitter experience. Even if it has saved you a lot of time.
The other day, I had to pay my Airtel bills. I was scrolling the website as to how to go about it. Being a first time user, I wanted to register with the site. Their “register” button was the smallest in the page!
After reaching the registration page with much effort, I had to fill out the usual  registration form. For some reason, I had to enter a date. It had plain selector controls for choosing month, date etc. The year column simply did not WORK! Whatever year I selected, it greyed out. Simple as that. The the form validation fails and politely requests you to enter a valid date. I was helpless! In the age of javascript calendar pickers, they had a selector control for dates. I don’t object that, because not all people in the world might have bleeding edge browsers. Failing to check if the form works successfully in common browsers, is unacceptable. They potentially lost a customer because they did not test their site. Not that their service sucks (it’s actually wonderful), but your customers do mind a lot about presentation.
The other day, a similar thing happened with Vodafone. In the first place, Vodafone’s is one of the clumsiest websites I’ve seen in my entire life. Web design courses can take it in their courseware as an apt anti-case study. As if this were not enough, their submission form does not ‘submit’ at all. You click the submit button, and it sits right there without moving a muscle. What the hell is happening? The user has no clue. I visited a Vodafone care person, he told me the server was down since yesterday. Maybe all these guys are trained to give the “server down” thing when something is wrong with the computer, you never know.
We come to the third anti-case study. This is not web centric. It is related to phone banking. When I dial the number of my bank, it gives me an automated voice response dictating all menus and choices they have got. No problem here. I choose some option which prompts me to enter my card number. Nowhere in the whole instruction sequence they mention that I have to enter my 4 digit pin. After reaching the fifth choice in the third submenu, they tell me that I had to enter my pin back in the first menu. By then, 40% of the whole call is spent in traversing menus and another 30% in their advertisements and new offers. No work done effectively. Consider this if you are in an emergency!3321
I fail to understand why they don’t do hallway usability testing before releasing a product. What’s more, I had complained twice to Airtel, Vodafone and once to the bank folks that there is such a problem with their user interface. At the time of writing this, it has still not changed. Bad user interface is one way to lose customers, not listening to them will actually make you lose them faster.

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