Web search-and-navigation experience capacity is not matching customer needs, which can lead to mediocre revenues and reduced customer loyalty.
Posted Jun 2, 2006
Companies are still falling short of search quality goals, claims "Seeker Experience Survey: Is Search Getting Better?," a recent report by the Patricia Seybold Group (PSG). Although investment in premium search technology is growing, the survey results indicate that companies are continuing to deliver poor or mediocre self-service experience. The report highlights the four most common blunders:
not designing content to support customer search experience;
not adequately monitoring customer interaction;
failure to assign responsibility for different aspects of the search process; and
failure to support the company with an effective publishing organization.
"High-quality seeker experience ensures customers find what they're looking for, whether it's product or answers," says Susan Aldrich, author of the report and vice president at PSG. "If you don't have a high quality experience they're going to conclude either that you don't provide the things they're looking for, or they happen to know you do and are going to be frustrated because they think you are not taking care of them."
Search and navigation can deflect calls from a contact center, increase sales, and cement customer loyalty, so it is wise for a company to adopt better search strategies. However, the over one hundred global companies who responded to the Seybold study admitted that their search efficiencies are below par. A quarter of the respondents stated that they felt their companies provided poor or hopeless seeker e-commerce experiences, and only 12 percent said that their delivery was terrific.
Aldrich explains that these poor statistics are directly tied to poor practices. The study found that less than half (43 percent) of companies measure the number of searches per visit and three quarters do not track conversion rates of promotions offered through search. Additionally, 30 percent of companies stated that they don't believe it necessary to concern themselves with customer results and 33 percent do not have anyone directly responsible for the ability to find customer support information.
According to Aldrich, the lack of attention paid to search support and facilitation can be attributed to an idea that searching has been "solved" due to new and more complex search developments. "What I observe over time is that every couple of years we declare that all search problems are fixed," Aldrich says. "Five years ago anyone you met on the street could tell you how many hits they had on their Web sites. This is no longer a useful metric. While people have stopped focusing on it, it needs to be replaced by something else."
The four problem areas outlined in the report constitute the metrics that companies should be focusing on today. Closer attention paid to seekers' actions and the results of their experiences can help companies define problems and encourage better practices. Aldrich notes that monitoring the level of searches per customer may be the most crucial number to follow. The report states that this number should be fewer than three. "Most people will give you two," she says, "but people increasingly will not give you three."
Despite businesses' current lackluster performance in this field, the quality of customer search experience could soon be changing. Seventy percent of respondents stated that they were investing in two or more search engine technologies. Aldrich sees this investment as showing a great deal of promise for the future. "Companies that buy premium search technologies see improvement almost immediately," she says. "Companies should expect search technology investments to pay off certainly within a year."
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