Ask most companies about what matters to their customers and you’ll likely hear about the unique capabilities of their product and the quality of their customer service.

However, time and again in our practice, across a wide range of products and price points, Easy to Use comes out on top as the #1 or #2 driver of satisfaction and the #1 or #2 most important factor when choosing a product. And it’s not just us. Other practitioners have shown that System Usability and Net Promoter Score are highly correlated (R2= .61), meaning that Usability explains nearly two thirds of why a customer would or would not recommend you to a colleague.

Why Easy to Use Is So important

For one, a bad user experience is very expensive. It takes longer and consumes more resources to train new users, to accomplish basic tasks and to maintain the software. Having to incur these costs after the sale can be a major source of dissatisfaction. Second, a bad user experience creates frustration and dissatisfaction for users, which will affect renewals. These users are also the ones that talk about your products and need to serve as references to prospects. Our experience suggests that cumbersome systems that are hard to navigate will create enough bad will to overshadow feature/function advantages.

Why User Experience Often Falls Short

Surprisingly, given the importance of being Easy to Use, we find this is an area where many companies fall short.

The reason: Because ultimately it isn’t Easy to Use that drives sales, but appearing to be Easy to Use. Often a graphically attractive UI and a good demo create the impression of good usability. The buyer, who often is not the end user, does not necessarily know what to look for and how to evaluate usability. Only after the software is deployed is the true user experience revealed. Meanwhile on the vendor side, the software developers are not actually users. They’re often part of a team and they’re working off a list of features to complete. They don’t really understand how the software gets used in the real world.

What To Do About It

  1. Understand it: How do I know if my usability is good, great, just OK or a major problem to my business? We strongly recommend that you measure usability satisfaction and determine the key drivers. Usability problems can stem from a few sources, such as:
  • Complex or cumbersome UI that is difficult to navigate
  • Need for technical training, or that it requires prior knowledge to use
  • Poor integration of the various functions
  • Too much inconsistency in the system
  1.  Measure the impact: what impact does usability have on my business? Specifically, on license renewals, and new purchases (through referrals and reference accounts)? How do I prioritize feature/function vs. usability? Understanding the magnitude of the problem is critical.
  1. Take action: if indeed, improving usability is a key priority, make sure you go about it in the right way. Determine your lowest hanging fruit vs. try to fix all at once. Best practices are focusing on where your critical and strategic customers are having the most problems and prioritizing those.

At Topline we have accumulated years of experience in helping companies understand what makes their solutions truly Easy to Use, it’s impact and how to fix it. Let us know if we can help.