(Un)Welcome to Our Site - Guest Blog by Marshall Lager
bytmergel01-20-201010:52 AM - edited 03-18-201011:23 AM
Marshall Lager is the founder and managing principal of Third Idea
Consulting, LLC. We've hired Marshall to provide his perspective on
the CRM industry, Sage news, and the state of customer/company dialogue
in general. Marshall, thanks for another entertaining and
in the late 1990s, when I was a consumer electronics and home office
gear journalist, one of our favorite games was Secret Shopper. It
always made for a good story, examining how retailers served (or
misled) customers seeking a particular product or piece of advice. We
would arm ourselves with some basic product knowledge (or advanced
knowledge, if extraordinary claims of an item’s capabilities were being
made) and pose as a regular shopper with regular questions.
results were always entertaining for us, which is to say they would
have led to disaster for a real customer. In some cases, it was hard
enough just getting assistance in the first place. In others, the
problem was inaccurate salesperson knowledge or a clear desire to move
a more expensive piece of stock.
Maybe I’m just a holder
of grudges (it runs in the family, I’m told), but there’s still one
retailer I won’t use to this day because of one bad sales experience. I
was helping one of my brothers decide on his first computer (he was an
adult, but not at all tech savvy) and we wound up in said retailer
because their prices were attractive to his limited budget. The sleazy,
misinformed salesperson was selling a PC like an appliance, and said of
the monitor, “We’ll even throw in the TV for free.” I won’t even go
there to buy batteries now.
In the spirit of the Secret Shopper, I present the following link to an e-commerce usability study in Smashing Magazine. The article, written by the CEO of customer experience strategy firm Catalyst Group
and the senior usability analyst, explores the usability of three major
Web sites in the task of buying bedsheets. The results are pretty much
what you’d expect: Each site has some major flaws that put stumbling
blocks in the path of customers.
A company’s Web site is
as important as its live salespeople and customer service agents, even
more so in some cases. If you can’t get information out of a
salesperson or a user interface, you’re going to get frustrated and
take your business someplace else. Or the order might take place, only
to be returned when the frustrated customer gets merchandise that
doesn’t suit the need. That’s not just a single lost sale—it’s a lost
customer, and all the future potential revenue that would have meant.
Even worse, the lost customer will advise friends against using your
Perhaps there’s no immediate danger of
customers abandoning Macy’s, Target, or Overstock.com en masse because
of usability issues, but they’re still hurting themselves by not
addressing them. Sales that aren’t lost outright are driven to physical
outlets (at least in the first two cases; Overstock doesn’t have any
retail shops), where there’s a higher cost of sale and a smaller
The 80/20 rule does apply here, so I’m not
advising that sites be kept offline until every possible issue is
addressed. Just think carefully about what sort of experience you’re
presenting with the 80 percent you think is good enough to go live.
Maybe it meets your requirements, but does it meet your customers’?
realize there’s a much bigger story going on right now in Haiti, and
how social media are helping to coordinate the relief effort. I may
write about that next, but the horror is still unfolding and I don’t
want to make points on the suffering of others today. Donate what you
can, if you can.