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Preface

Preface

Two potential book titles came to me while I was writing this book. One was Internet Services for Real People and the other was The Internet Service Revolution. Neither title was quite right, as pointed out by my editor, but each encapsulates my underlying motivation for writing this book.

In a nutshell, I want to see "real people" better served on the Internet. Real people need to do everyday things to run their hectic lives, and the Web can help them do that. I want to see the Internet come of age as a service medium because it has the potential, if harnessed correctly, to emancipate customers rather than frustrate and restrain them.

Over a period of two years I was actively involved in many forms of customer and internal testing of e-service concepts and Web sites, across a number of industries and in relation to many different e-service offerings and e-customers (for a comprehensive description of testing techniques see Chapter 3).

In doing this testing, a theme kept recurring: Give customers something useful because if you ignore what they're trying to do by visiting your Web site, your Web site will only be irrelevant to them and frustrate them. It was customers'frustration that first made me think about writing this book.

I feel that, if I encourage all parties involved in Internet development to ask their customers and themselves the right questions, for the right reasons, we will all be a lot better off. And this needs to be an integrated effort, within and between businesses and their development partners. I feel frustrated, however, because I observe many people with motivations fueled by the search for the "quick buck," rather than the search for lasting customer value.

For years, marketers have talked about the market-of-one phenomenon as the lynchpin for creating lasting customer value. We now have a medium that allows us to market to individuals more effectively than we ever have before. And yet, people carry over their old, constrained, and ineffectual, so-called customer-relationship strategies to the Web.

Despite this, I feel encouraged because things are starting to change. I salute those people who realize that the Web needs to be a part of peoples'everyday lives, and are creating useful Web sites that address real customer needs.

That's important because we're on the verge of what I call the "e-service revolution"—a revolution than can be created equally by service providers and their customers. E-service providers need to take the initiative to talk to customers and do things differently as a result. There's nothing new in talking to customers; we just have a better chance of getting results with the Web in the mix, and we have a lot more to lose, a lot more quickly, if we don't find out what we need to know and change the way we do things.

And so, in the interests of helping e-service providers, and their development partners, harness the opportunity to do right by their e-customers, and create lasting value, I have made the effort to describe the necessary Web site development process from beginning to end. In doing so, I have addressed what it takes to create not just "Web sites," but Web-based e-service systems or applications that are integrated with an e-service provider's business.

It takes discipline to create a good Web site. Part of that discipline is talking to customers and effectively translating their needs, attitudes, and behaviors into the requisite Web site experience. And I hope what I have written helps you translate customer needs into strategies and practices at every step in your development process.

That doesn't mean that this book will give you a list of shrink-wrapped instructions you can tick off as you go. If that's what you're expecting, you're reading the wrong book. However, if you're prepared to be challenged to think about things differently, and to take concepts and ideas and develop them further in the context of your own e-customers and what they're trying to do, this book is perfect for you. And I hope you'll get a lot out of reading it.

To get the most out of this book, bear in mind that the pictures are an integral part of the story. If you skip the pictures, you'll miss a lot of the new ideas and concepts that make this story different. If you take the time to inspect and understand the pictures, you'll be rewarded with new ideas and insights, because I've put some things together in new ways.

In fact, exploration is a key tenet of this book. I see us exploring, together, how the e-service revolution can be brought about. And I'm thankful to those who have come before, because I've borrowed from their ideas to explore how they can be aggregated and applied to the Web.

I wish you well in your endeavors to provide lasting value to real people and in creating the e-service revolution. And I believe that you are an important part of our collective learning process, and would like to hear from you as you have insights and create new ideas.

Jodie Dalgleish

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