Friday, June 3, 2011

The User Experience of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK)

Almost everyone who owns a business in the Netherlands has to deal with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, in Dutch the KvK (Kamer van Koophandel). The Dutch Chamber of Commerce manages the trade register. Its other tasks are to provide Dutch entrepreneurs with information and stimulate regional trade & industry. It targets its services at Dutch businesses across all sectors.

The Five Channels of the KvK
Every BV yearly pays the KvK a fixed amount of money. In return the Chamber gives you information and answers your questions regarding business matters by means of 5 channels:

  1. Website
  2. Call centre
  3. Email
  4. Fax
  5. Post

The information and service given by all five channels determines the User Experience of the KvK.

The Experience of Defining an Annual Account
This year my BV, although sleeping, celebrated its 1st birthday. Therefore I had to fulfill al kind of legal obligations. One of them is the publication of the BV’s annual account. Now I myself am a User Experience consultant, and therefore I don’t know much about annual accounts.

OK, of course I could hire all kind of experts to help me, but come on… a sleeping BV… how difficult can it be? So with the help of a friend and some information (hard to read, in a difficult formal language) from the KvK site, I managed to formulate the account. But now what?

The Experience of Registering an Annual Account
I checked the 1st channel of the KvK, its website and tried to figure out how I could send my annual account to them. I found a FAQ: “How to register (deponeren) an annual account?” I would never have thought of the word ‘deponeren’ but this apparently was the information I needed.

Answer: “You can send it by post (6), by fax (5), by Email (4) or online (1) to your regional KvK.”

OK clear! That sounded good. Many options available! I clicked the link to find out contact information about my regional KvK. Then the confusion started. The website now first reveals different phone numbers, a visiting address and at the end of the page an E-mail address to send in a question or a complaint. The online-way was explained nowhere.

I tried the Email form, a waste of time because there is no possibility to attach a file. I saw no other option then to set up a call to the KvK. Therefore I first had to look up the telephone number of my regional KvK. I made the call, I passed a voice response system. The moment my call was answered by a receptionist, she transfered me to the KvK-expert. I finally could pop the question. The answer seemed simple, because in no time I received an odd Email address where I could send my annual account to. “No need for an addressee or a cover letter, just send the account to this address!”.

So I did. In half an hour I received an automatically generated Email from the KvK telling me that they received my mail and that my annual account will be published in due time. Great! Pfff I did it! The whole action took me an hour, a phone call and the help of some KvK employees.

Conclusion Regarding the Overall User Experience

  • Online I couldn’t find what I needed to know; therefore I had to consult the phone-channel.
  • The info on the website was not self-explanatory, the language too formal.
  • The whole process took me too much time.

What about Channel Control?
Channels which involve people (visitor center, call center, mailroom) cost money and they don’t always offer the most suitable service. Employees are kept away from their actual work by customers asking for Email addresses.

When promoting channels, start with the most cost effective ones. But watch out for the pitfall: Make sure that this channel fulfills the needs of its users.

Leading customers to the most (cost) effective and suitable channel and making sure this channel fulfills their user needs, assures you of:

  • happy customers
  • happy employees who can do their actual work more efficiently
  • cost reduction for your organization

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