9. What is it that's flowing?
Your web property has the mission of serving your customer on your behalf. Your business must be profitable over time in order for you to serve your customers well continuously, over time. To say something is ‘reliable but not for very long’ is an oxymoron. Reliability requires longevity.
Performing well and consistently over time is a primary principle of reliability. Based on decades of real-world experience, we can reasonably conclude that only customer service that is born from goodwill or genuinely benevolent intent can be sustained at the right level over a long period of time. Ongoing excellence requires some type of authentic care. As a business owner, you, of course, want your service to produce a profit, but profit is really a secondary outcome of serving a customer’s needs well. Your customers benefit most when you can be in the business of serving them for the longest time.
Let’s look more closely at the idea of benevolent intent. Serving a customer’s needs well means having their best interests at heart. Understanding what they want, and focusing on fulfilling that in an optimal way. It means trying to think and feel what it must be like to be in their position and to have their specific need. Your ability to imagine and feel a customer’s pain or frustration can only come from benevolent intent. This is empathy.
Empathy is the most powerful driver you can have in serving a customer well over time. It helps align your intent with their need. It helps you anticipate their need. It gives you the patience to listen carefully. It gets your ego out of the way so you can focus on prioritizing what your customer needs. It makes you care about delivering excellent work. Your benevolent intent manifests as empathy.
Any good partnership takes two individuals who are positively engaged, and so your customer needs to come from a place of goodwill as well. Their goodwill manifests differently and much more simply and is really just their commitment to meeting their own needs. Through their own goodwill, they seek a future state for themselves that is better than their current state. Your customer’s goodwill and positive intention flow through the system as desire, with the hope they will be better off after engaging with you than they were before.
Throughout this book, there is discussion of the way the customer flows through a website. Anything that has a flowing nature is also a thing that is made up of numerous small components. Think of a single water molecule traveling through a city’s water system, or an electron humming through a power grid or coffee flowing through a software developer.
You’ll notice we’ll return to this flow metaphor often when talking about Web Reliability. The thing that makes up what flows through your website, the small component that moves freely in one direction (or not) is a single customer’s desire. When a customer comes to a website, they have a need, a desire to be fulfilled. When your website is working optimally, that desire flows into it and through it and ultimately is fulfilled. Understanding this is essential to everything we do when we create and maintain and improve websites. Master the orchestration of flow through your web property and you will master Web Reliability.