Improve Customer Success and Loyalty
...for visitors to your B2B and B2C web sites!
by Jeffrey Schueler

Customer satisfaction has become a measurement staple for many companies.  Satisfaction scores have proven to correlate with profitability, and the metric has built an avid following, especially inside large public companies.   Because it is such a bellwether, customer sat has also taken hold in the online world.

Web sites measure customer sat diligently and through a variety of tools, often making it the centerpiece of their key performance indicators (KPIs).  This is especially true for lead generation, customer service, or brand sites where performance must be measured in terms other than direct sales and profit.

Satisfaction is, indeed, a good longitudinal metric, where the trend lines over time indicate a siteís general health.  If, however, your site strives for continuous improvement, then Visit Success (based on visit intent) is a far more useful metric. 

In business diction, success and satisfaction are often used synonymously.   When seeking to improve your web site, it helps to use the terms separately.  Hereís why.

You go to in "information gathering" mode.  You find what you are looking for.  Based on your intent to gather information, you are successful.  You find out, however, that the garment is more expensive than you had hoped, so you are not satisfied.

You go to with the intent to book a flight.  You find what you are looking for and buy it because the price is great.  Yet you discover when the booking confirmation comes through that you leave LAX at 5:30 in the morning.  Based on your intent, you have been successful, but you are not satisfied. 

These examples illustrate how a visitor would answer success and satisfaction questions differently.  The success and satisfaction verdicts are obviously different, so the questions must be posed separately. 

To avoid confusion, use the two measures to extract different types of feedback.  Use success as the measure linked to visit intent; use satisfaction as the measure for a visitorís overall opinion of the site.  One is visit-specific; the other relates to the health of the wider relationship. 

Now widen the context of the distinction as it applies to continuous improvement.  The key to continuous improvement is the ability to uncover the cause of problems at their root.  This puts a premium on being able to identify failed visits and then use survey and click stream tools to identify barriers to success.  By linking success always to intent, we get a very specific verdict that sits as close as possible to the moment of failure.  The simplest way to get this feedback is by triggering a conditional question in your survey when a visitor reports an unsuccessful visit.  Visitors give the most valuable feedback if you first accept responsibility for their failure and apologize for it.  Then ask them to help you understand their problem.  Youíll find that as many as 65% of your unsuccessful visitors will gladly tell you why they judged their visit a failure.  This proximity to failure gives you the best chance to uncover the root of the problem, and thereby fuel the continuous improvement process. 

So ask different questions of your site visitors regarding their success and satisfaction.  Be clear about how you want to use the feedback in managing your site, and you can accelerate the pace of continuous improvement markedly.

Jeff Schueler is President of Usability Sciences Corp., provider of usability testing services and web site improvement strategies.  He can be reached at


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