Most Web Visitors Can't Get the Help They Need

Nearly three quarters (74.5 percent) of consumers indicated that they use a company's Web site to get information about a product or service, but only 44 percent of consumers felt that the information to be found there met their needs, according to a new study from Service Excellence Resource Group (Service XRG), a research firm focusing on the support-and-service industry. Among the major deficiencies in the information provided via company Web sites is a lack of pricing detail, says Tom Sweeney, principal and cofounder of Service XRG, author of the report, which was commissioned by InQuira, a firm that provides search-technology applications. "People said they felt the best-quality information came from company Web sites, but there were still significant gaps between what they expected to find and what they actually did find," Sweeney says. "As we move more to the Web, we are relying more on technology to define the customer experience, so we had better get it right." If companies don't get it right on their Web sites by providing pricing and other information that people want, customers will opt for competitors who do provide this detail, he adds. The survey also found that, compared to customers reporting a neutral or negative experience on a company Web site, customers who have a positive experience are three times more likely to buy a product from that company. Respondents said they were four times more likely to recommend a company or renew an existing relationship (e.g., a service contract), and five times more likely to report satisfaction with the outcome of the interaction. Sweeney recommends the following key steps for improving the overall online customer experience:
  • Understand the experience your customers expect;
  • Define the elements of the experience you intend to deliver;
  • Identify the content and tools required to fulfill customer expectations;
  • Establish success criteria to monitor your ability to deliver a positive experience;
  • Identify other resources that infringe on or inhibit your ability to deliver the intended experience;
  • Fight to maintain control of the experience you deliver;
  • Make investments that improve the customer experience;
  • Experience your experience; and
  • Rinse and repeat.
A number of companies fail to meet customer service expectations on their Web sites because the firms don't continue to test the sites once they're built, Sweeney says. Without ongoing iterative revision, companies are unable to ensure they have the detail customers demand. The flaw of hubris is clear, he adds: Companies tend to deliver what they
think customers want rather than actually asking customers to specify the information they seek from Web sites.

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