Customer experience analytics

How to find glitches on complex websites

Bringing customers on board is a priority for many online businesses. Let’s take financial services for an example. Typically, a financial site will be a two-tier affair. Customers who have yet to sign-up can freely browse in the non-secure area, checking out the various products on offer.

And if they decide to, say, order a credit card or buy insurance, the next step is to sign up to the secure tier of the site where they not only complete the initial transaction, but also have access to one or more administrative tools.

The tools in question may be as simple as the software that enables monthly payments on a credit card, a facility to change or upgrade account status, or a financial health checker.

Of course, the open and secure structure is not limited to financial services. From telecoms and utilities through to gaming, thousands of sites offer customers a range of account management facilities.

Beyond the comfort zone

Which is, of course, great news for the customers. Rather than ringing a call centre, a bank customer seeking to set up a direct debit or transfer money simply logs on in a spare moment and carries out the transaction quickly and anonymously. Similarly, upgrading a mobile phone plan no longer involves a call or a trip to a high street outlet.

But there is a caveat. Providing customers with useful self service tools is a great idea that offers convenience to the user and cost-savings for the site owner but you can really only rack up these benefits if the software function works well and is intuitive to use.

And once you move away from simple transactional e-commerce, the functionality of websites becomes much more complex. Rather than simply clicking on an item and moving on to the shopping cart, customers are performing tasks – such as setting up direct debits – which might once have been carried out by a customer service agent, either in a branch or on the phone. Inevitably some customers will be stepping outside their comfort zone and they may face problems.

Lets take a couple of examples:

A customer joins a site that allows account holders to upload digital pictures which can then be edited into albums which can then be printed out as physical copies. Most customers find it easy but a few encounter problems transferring files and fail to finish the first album. They don’t return and their business is lost.

A bank customer is seeking to transfer funds to an overseas account. There are security processes to complete which are difficult on mobile devices. As a result, those customers who primarily bank on their mobiles are deterred from using the service and ring the call centre instead. Business isn’t lost, but the bank’s cost saving initiatives are undermined.

Pinning down the problem

But here’s the thing. Businesses won’t necessarily know where customers are encountering problems. A particular service may be underused and that in turn may lead to suspicions that there is a usability, performance or functionality issue with a particular page or app, but there is no hard evidence. The only way to track down the problem is to undertake some additional user testing, which can be both time-consuming and costly.

But there is another way. By deploying UserReplay, businesses offering complex online functionality can simply record all visitor journeys and play back selected cases where customers have bailed out unexpectedly. And by replaying the journey page by page and click by click, managers can see exactly where and why customers have failed to progress.

Real experience

In other words, you can use playbacks of real customer experience to test the system. These replays will enable you to identify software functionality problems or usability issues such as tools that are overly complex. Equally, you will be able to assess the impact of these problems. For instance, if 99% of users succeed in transferring funds abroad, there may be a usability problem affecting the other 1% but it is not seriously affecting the performance of the site. However, if only 75% complete then there is clearly a problem that must be addressed quickly.

Websites of all kinds are becoming more complex and that complexity is creating obstacles on the customer journey. In the case of straightforward e-commerce those hurdles are barriers to conversion. For businesses that have brought customers on board as account holders, poor usability can not only stand in the way of further transactions but also undermine brand loyalty. UserReplay provides a rapid way to identify and clear away the hurdles.