“It was 4:57pm on a Friday. My bag was packed, my coffee cup was in the dishwasher, and my computer was shutting down. In my mind the weekend had already arrived.  And then, my office phone rang…”

Last Friday our website developer, Alex De Sousa, had an experience that many office workers will be familiar with – a work call right at the end of the day. However, this was no regular phone call.

What unfolded on that fateful day would make all of us at Vertical Leap look at user experience a little differently. So, over to you, Detective De Sousa; tell us the tale of the curious case of The Co-operative phone calls…

What happened next?

“I still remember the ringing and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up like audience members at a Britney Spears concert. A quick glance at the handset revealed a telephone number I’d seen before; in fact, it was a number I’d become quite familiar with over the past few days.

“You see, I work for a digital marketing agency named Vertical Leap as a website developer, and yet recently my work phone had been inundated with people trying to reach The Co-operative Bank. I’d always just brushed it off and given the callers the bad news. But this was the last straw.

Detective looking at footprints

“I decided to investigate once and for all, and get to the bottom of what the link between my Vertical Leap phone and The Co-operative Bank really was. The first part was easy – go on its website and find its number.

“Our main office is in Portsmouth, on England’s south coast, so I searched for the most local branch of The Co-operative Bank. And what did I find? An almost identical number, as expected.”

Indeed, Alex’s phone number was 023 92 287203, while the number for the Portsmouth branch of The Co-operative Bank was 023 92 872031.

So what was going on? Yep, people were dialling the ‘2’ twice. It was just an honest mistake, right?

No. There was more to this than first met the eye…we’ll let Detective De Sousa explain.

The truth comes out

I began to think that what was happening to these banking customers must have been instinctual. I took a closer look at the site, and I realised it was all because of how the number was presented.

co-op bank websitecoop in Portsmouth address

“The number is shown to users like this: 0239 287 2031. The numbers were all in the right order, but it was the spaces between that were throwing people off. You see, the local area code in Portsmouth is 02392, and locals have this firmly stored in their minds.

“What was happening to the people who were ringing me instead was that they were dialling on auto-pilot; they saw the 0239, but what they instinctively dialled was 02392. When they looked back up to get the next bunch of numbers – 287 2931 – they went straight to the second group of numbers, beginning with the same ‘2’ they’d already dialled.

“The number they end up dialling is: 02392 287 2931but of course, that’s one character too many. The phone only accepts the first 11 numbers – which happened to be my number.”

“It’s really a lesson in user experience: Not only were The Co-operative Bank potentially losing out on new custom, but it was also not a smooth experience for customers who needed to contact them. And all it was down to was phone number presentation.”

In conclusion

Your website user experience must encompass every single possible avenue that the customer may go down on their journey, and make things as easy as possible for them to get where you want them to go – even down to way you present your phone numbers.

Having said that, is writing a number like this 01234 567891 the right way to do so? Actually, it’s not. The grammatically correct way to write a phone number would be 012 3456 7891.

So what’s the moral of the story? We’ll leave that to the Detective.

“Always do what’s best for the customer’s user experience – even if that means staying in the office late on a Friday and pretending to be a detective.”

If you would like to discuss your website’s user experience, you can give Alex De Sousa a call on his NEW number: 0845 123 2753.