Get More Value Out of a Customer-Centric Web Site


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You built your web site for the ravening hoards. You worked hard to make it appeal to the widest variety of people. You tested it for usability by the most diverse audience.

But I’m the only one there.

I’m the one holding the mouse. All that matters is what matters to me at the moment. I’m the one with the agenda, with the specific goal in mind. I’m the one with the power. Your web site does not attract thousands of visitors—only one at a time. Your web site must cater to individuals.

“What?” you say, “You’re pushing personalization again?” Not in the way you think. “Hello Jim. Welcome back” is nice in that it confirms that my cookies are working. “We have recommendations for you” is nice if it helps me choose additional items to buy. But those features aren’t critical. Custom-tailored background and menus? That’s so 1997.

I want your web site to cater to me with the information I need at the moment I need it—not the information you want me to have when you think it’s best. I expect to log in and get live information:

  • What’s on special?

  • How many are in stock?

  • What’s my price?

  • Where’s my stuff?

  • What’s my balance?

  • Who’s my contact?

Live information is very good start, but it’s not enough. I want your whole web site to be about me, not just bits and pieces. That means starting from the top: the structure of the site, itself.


Chances are your web site is no longer arranged according to your company divisions and departments. Rather than organizationally oriented, your web site is process-oriented, right? It’s organized around the sales cycle:

  • Attract prospects

  • Qualify them

  • Identify a solution

  • Close the sale

  • Collect the money

  • Provide customer service

The problem is that this is your view of the process, not mine. The sales cycle isn’t about me; it’s about you. On my end of the relationship is the buying cycle:

  • Blissful ignorance

  • Perceive pain

  • Search

  • Compare

  • Create a short list

  • Negotiate

  • Buy

I want a web site that sees the world through my eyes, one that understands my needs. I want to instantly recognize how to navigate instead of having to guess. Give me a web site that walks me through my own agenda and I’ll know exactly which button to click.

You can easily guess that I want guides, tools, calculators and configurators. But how do you know what I want? Get out your web analytics yard stick and measure what I’m clicking on. Your first clue is page views. Simply put, a page view is a web page that has been viewed by one visitor.

Page views are the most rudimentary measurement but still informative. They can tell you what the majority of people are looking at and spotlight content areas that are going unseen. If lots of people are drilling down for more information, give it to them. If they’re not looking at important pages, then you need to brush up your navigation to make that critical info easier to find.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should be proactive: testing which web page navigation, design and content make for a better surfing experience for your customers. That’s what T-Mobile did.

Trickling down

According to Greg Drew, general manager of the web analytics firm WebTrends, T-Mobile adopted a customer-centric view of web site visitors to get more people to the information and products they wanted. This had the dual effect of increasing revenue and reducing costs: the two most critical measures of any company.

T-Mobile tested its site by creating two versions of important pages and finding out which version really helped people find answers faster. This A/B split testing is made possible by tools like WebTrends, and, for T-Mobile, it increased online orders by 27 percent and increased the use of self-service features by 67 percent.

Most web site owners are focused on making it easier to buy from them. That’s as it should be. But to really prove online customer-centricity, you have to provide top-notch online customer service, measuring more than cost avoidance. Just as cost avoidance should not be your only metric for measuring the call center (“Tech support. Please reboot. Thanks for calling.” Click!), online customer service should be about more than how many calls avoided by getting people to serve themselves.

Online self-service can require a large investment but can generate a lot of good will and customer satisfaction, making it well worth the effort. Done wrong, it can do serious harm to your relationships with your customers.

Tools like WebTrends give you visibility into the effectiveness of your help and knowledge base content and can integrate web data with call center data to get a better picture of where your customers are most in need of help. These types of tools can also show you where your self-help is leaving people helpless.

When I’m most in need of an answer to a tricky question, a solution to a nasty problem or just reassurance that my shipment is going to reach me in time, I want to talk to a real, live human. You want your web site to reflect customer centricity? Give me access to individual humans.

CDW has 13 people assigned to my account to help me buy and use computers, peripherals and software. I can see them. Their pictures are on the CDW web site. Their names, phone numbers and email addresses are all right there. But best of all, I can tell whether they’re at their desks. That’s right. Their individual screen savers communicate with the web server, so the little green “In” changes to a little red “Out” when they leave their workstations. Do I think CDW is looking out for me? I do.

So begin by measuring what your web site visitors want. Then run some tests to see what they want. Then, start thinking of your web site as a communication tool, rather than a printing press. Do that, and you are well on your way to true online customer centricity.


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