Friday, November 18, 2011

Do you really know what’s on your website?

Are you aware of what your website says? Are you aware of the purchasing options given to customers? Does your website reflect recently updated prices, policies, and processes? Are you sure about that?

Yes, it’s tough keeping all the various information platforms updated when changes happen. But it’s not as tough as it used to be considering how much is now digital.

It’s far easier to update a website, app, or a PDF than a printed catalog or brochure. In fact, there’s really little excuse for not at least keeping your customer-facing website in synch with whatever changes you are implementing.

But yet, too often this isn’t happening.

Making a reservation for two

Just recently I booked a weekend getaway at an Ohio resort spot. The resort offers several packages on its website. With each package you can choose additional options. Then, when you complete your booking, all these are tallied for your final bill.

Resort hiccup number one

One option I chose required calling to confirm selections.

(By the way, I’m being a bit vague here because it’s a surprise for my wife. She knows about the weekend and where we’re going, but I’ve left out a few details.)

So, I was given a phone number with an extension to call to finalize my option order. When I called, the person on the other end knew nothing about this. However, another person, at a different extension, could help me.

Resort hiccup number two

My name and number were taken and I did receive a call from a pleasant woman who did a great job with my selections. But there was one more small issue.

The resort personnel were unaware that these options could be selected and paid for online!

Fortunately, I had my email confirmation and forwarded it to the woman who was helping me. She took care of it and all is well.

Test your own site regularly so you don’t lose business!

The simple solution to these problems is to assign someone to regularly visit your website and view it as a customer would. Or hire a “secret shopper” to do this for you. Don’t just click around, but actually complete the forms and make purchases. Do the things a customer would do, see what they see, and experience what they experience.

Another issue I discovered with the resort website is that they have offers, events, and packages scattered in different locations. Navigation isn’t intuitive and finding all the options is a tad challenging.

Because not every customer is going to take the time to burrow around through your website, you are going to lose business if you don't make it easy to find everything.

Gathering information from an association

But what if your site doesn’t sell anything? Well, you may not lose business but you can annoy your constituents plenty.

A few months ago, I was researching services offered by a professional association I belong to. To learn certain details I needed, I was directed to email a specific person.

Association hiccup number one

About 48 hours later, I received a response indicating that they had no clue as to what I needed, but had forwarded my email to another person who could take care of me.

Association hiccup number two


Another 48 hours or so later, that person emailed me the link on their website that would lead me to the information I needed.

I made sure that I pointed out to both people what their website said about who to contact. And I told them there was no clear navigation to the page I was finally directed to. It hadn’t even come up using their search tool on the site.

Pay attention to your users and fix what they show you is broken!

Today, months later, nothing has changed on the website. The wrong information is still posted and the page I was referred to remains buried and difficult to find.

If a user points out a problem with your website, fix it immediately!

You have no excuse for not. If you’re depending on an outside webmaster and they tell you it will take at least 24 hours to fix the issue, they’re probably lying to you. Get a new webmaster!

Not fixing these kinds of issues means your constituents and customers are wasting time trying to find the information they need. Or they’re just giving up in frustration.

This then costs you and your staff time because you will be responding to the same issue and queries over and over.

And to not fix something when it’s pointed out to you sends two messages to your website visitors: (1) That they are not important, and (2) that you don’t care about them.

All’s not always well even if things end well

In both examples, good customer service eventually resolved my issue. However, nothing has changed on either website. While I’m happy for now, if I need to book another getaway or glean information from the organization, I know I’m going to have extra work to do.

  • For the resort, to ensure I’m getting the best deal, I’ll have to burrow all through their website, take notes, and then probably call them to confirm the information on the site is up to date.
  • For the organization, it’ll be the same thing. Plus, I’m going to be suspicious of any information I find knowing it may not be the latest.

For both situations I’ll be required to invest more time than I should have to.

Are these the kinds of experiences you want visitors to your website to have? Then make sure your website is up to date and truly user-friendly.

Oh, one last thing. Don't wait 48 hours to respond to an inquiry. Just sayin'.

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