What if you discovered a fixable problem was costing your company a quarter of its revenues? Well, a recent survey commissioned by Tealeaf® and conducted by Econsultancy shows just that. The survey of nearly 500 business professionals working for companies involved in e-commerce and e-business indicates that U.S. companies are losing as much as 23 percent of their entire annual online revenues from providing poor experiences to their online customers. One would assume that a loss of this magnitude would be a wake-up call to ebusinesses. However, most companies lack the tools and processes to truly understand online customer experience and, therefore, don't know what they're missing.
Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but it's certainly not in the recipe for ebusiness success. To eliminate the things that cause their customers to struggle online, organizations must first gain insight into the experience they provide. They must identify the site issues that are most impactful to their bottom lines and remedy them quickly to minimize the number of customers affected by the problems. And they must develop a multi-channel discipline so that customers transitioning from mobile to fixed web to contact center all have the same rich, seamless experience that will keep them coming back for more.
Customer retention is a greater challenge online. A guy might stop by the same flower shop on his way home each night because it's so convenient, but what's to keep him from switching from one online flower vendor to another? According to the Econsultancy study, there is much opportunity for companies across industries to get a leg up on the competition by providing superior customer experience. A mere 4 percent of the businesses participating in the survey rated their understanding of the online customer experience as "excellent." Worse still, over three-fourths of companies in the study said they have "limited" or "no understanding" of why customers leave the site without converting (81 percent) or abandon shopping carts (78 percent). This last statistic is especially troublesome, as it indicates lack of insight where it's needed the most—at the bottom of the online sales funnel.
How do most companies learn about website issues, then? Perhaps the better question is when do they learn about issues, as the majority are unaware of site problems until they hear about them from vexed customers. According to the study, 76 percent of ebusinesses are most likely to discover site problems as a result of calls to their customer service teams or from the emails they receive from customers. This is certainly not ideal, this business of treating customers as a quality assurance team. A far better practice would be to proactively discover the things that cause customers to struggle online in order to minimize the impact those issues have on the business.
The list of potential customer experience problems is virtually limitless. When asked to identify the most prevalent and serious issues customers encounter on their websites, the companies participating in the study pointed to "bad site navigation/poor findability" as both the most common (57 percent) and most serious (55 percent) problem. Other common and serious issues cited by survey participants include lack of information on the site, checkout issues and overly complicated registration/login processes.
The largest online retail mortgage lender in the U.S., Quicken Loans offers a great example of how even ostensibly minor website issues can become quite serious. Some of the customers who tried to use Quicken's online mortgage rate calculator were being rejected. Turns out, idiosyncratic use of things like commas and decimal points made some of the requests appear to be too low to qualify for a loan. Using Customer Experience Management, Quicken was able to discover the root cause of the problem and determine how many site visitors were affected. They estimate that the quick fix to this customer experience issue alone recovered $2 million in online revenue.
For many organizations, the online and offline channels are operated independent of one another. As a result, customers can feel like they're working with completely different companies when they transition from the website or mobile web to the contact center. In the Econsultancy survey, only 3 percent of the ebusiness participants described the multi-channel experience their companies provide as "excellent," while nearly a quarter (24 percent) rate their multi-channel experience as "poor" or "very poor."
Sixty percent of the ebusiness professionals surveyed admitted that the customer facing offline parts of their business - such as call center agents - have little or no understanding of the experience a customer might have online. This lack of insight across channels poses a growing challenge for businesses, as organizations continue to migrate more and more of their business to online self-service in addition to launching new online channels. For instance, 52 percent of those polled plan to invest in the mobile internet this year.
Investments in online channels continue to outpace the money being put into brick-and-mortar business fronts. 95 percent of survey participants are planning to increase their investments in their online channels, while only a fifth (21%) will invest in their stores or branches. Yet investments in online customer experience still lag behind, despite the high levels of success enjoyed by Customer Experience Management (CEM) adopters. 95 percent of the survey participants whose companies use CEM find it to be "quite effective" or "very effective."
Nearly half (46%) of the companies surveyed cite lack of budget as the most significant obstacle to understanding the online customer experience, followed closely by lack of skilled analysts (42%). This creates a significant opportunity for the companies who not only recognize the value of optimizing their online experience but also have the foresight to act. With significant revenue gains and much-sought-after online customer loyalty hanging in the balance, the companies that understand and cater to their online customers will be best positioned to succeed in their markets.