I’m working with a b2b client on a major redesign of their Website. As part of this, we’re installing the Google site search engine (paid version!)
I wanted to see what happened if I searched for a product that isn’t listed on their site. Predictably, I got the following result:
“Your search – [ search term ] – did not match any documents.
Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
Try different keywords.
Try more general keywords.”
Now, I do think that in general Google Search is an excellent product.
However, this feels to me like the ultimate in “Non-Customer Service”.
Imagine a customer or prospect sitting across from you in the real world, and asking if you can help them with a particular product or service. Would you just say “No” and stop talking until they tried to ask their question again differently? Would you really make it sound like it’s their fault that they can’t find what they’re looking for in your store?
I certainly hope not – and yet, this is exactly what the standard “no results found” search utility does. This might be fine for Google itself, which is a generic search engine serving a huge and largely undefined audience, but it shouldn’t be how individual businesses respond to their visitors. At the least we need to be providing links to our knowledge bases, phone numbers or live chat access, and e-mail forms for easy enquiries.
My client’s Web developers are concerned that reprogramming Google’s source code so that we can do this would make it difficult to implement updates. So we’re stuck with giving our prospective customers a brusque “No” when they ask for help. I’m not happy . . .
Last week I was talking with a company which helps owners of intellectual property to register trademarks and copyrights.
The client had requested a “Pick My Brain” session to talk about his plans for the reworked version of the site (which is still in process at time of writing this).
We discussed at length how visitors coming to his site will make decisions, how they might be persuaded to interact with him, and hopefully to make a purchase. Visitors will have different levels of knowledge about the law in this area, about the registration process and its benefits, and they probably also have different levels of readiness to buy. Some might be very price conscious and looking for the best deal (there are other companies who offer similar services), while some might be more concerned about the credibility and trustworthiness of the company that they choose to do business with.
My client started our conversation hoping that he could guide visitors down a fairly set path – that if they read Page A, they’ll naturally progress to Page B, etc. Along the way, he could provide answers to questions, and address their concerns in a logical sequence.
I had to tell him that in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way! People can come into your site at lots of different entry points, and they have all sorts of ways of thinking and emotional response. The best you can do is to ensure that they can access all content that will help them and drive them towards your goals on every page of your site.
Creating user personas can help you understand how various types of visitors might interact with your site, but trying to get every visitor to follow a set path is like herding cats – and I have a calico, so I know never to try that!
I’ve been dealing with one of those annoying women’s issues recently, so I decided to do some online research to find a doctor who might be able to help. I was looking for someone who wouldn’t just immediately recommend major surgery, and who would clearly look at all my options.
Most medical Websites which talk about treatment for specific conditions are full of jargon and complex language. If you’re a layperson, it can be pretty scary stuff! And if you read the bios of the practitioners, they’re usually very official, full of impressive qualifications, but impersonal.
So I was thrilled to find a site called “Alternatives in Gynecology”. This site belongs to Dr. Paul Indman, and I was so impressed by how emotionally connected it felt to me. When I met Dr. Indman, he told me that he had written the copy himself, so I was even more wowed!
Specifically, the best practices that this site demonstrates include:
- it provides clear descriptions of various conditions, with diagrams, in an easy to read style. We printed several pages for further study so that we were really well educated about what he might say, and the terms he might use.
- Dr. Indman also lays out a number of different approaches that he takes to treatment, explaining his decision making process and the pros and cons of each protocol. Again, reading this ahead of time helped prepare us for the office visit.
- It’s very clear that both the doctor and his staff are concerned to help patients to find the most affordable solution for them, and that they understand that many people are challenged by the cost of healthcare.
So the copy and presentation of this site very clearly understands me, the visitor, my needs and my concerns, and it addresses them all in a very empathetic manner. I told Dr. Indman that this was the most emotionally connected doctor’s Website that I’ve seen!
Of course, then I discovered that my health insurance company doesn’t include this practice and won’t cover me to consult with this expert – but that’s another story . . .
Today I provided a “Pick my Brain” session for Gavin Burt, from the UK site Running Injury Oracle (thank you, Skype!)
Gavin is a leading osteopath in the UK, and he has developed an online system to help runners diagnose and work with their injuries. Depending on their needs, he provides advice, checklists and videos for a monthly or annual subscription. So far, the response has been very positive, and he’s about to get major PR from the British running press.
So far, so good. But today we looked at his Google Analytics and discovered a problem that he hadn’t thought of. The site was designed for visitors to start at the home page and move logically through the process of self-diagnosis to get to their type of injury.
Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Visitors who find the site through search engines are entering at inside pages which are focused on specific keywords. These visitors don’t have any context for what they see – the content immediately jumps into the diagnosis and subscription information, which is fine if they’ve been down the logical path, but not if it’s their first impression.
Luckily, this is a new site and still very much a work in progress, so we can figure out how to make the concept of each page clear to all visitors.
I told Gavin that he’s not alone – so many people make assumptions about how their site will be traveled, and don’t think about visitors getting to pages in all sorts of random ways.
But right now, many of Gavin’s visitors who enter at inside pages are leaving the site too quickly – so we need to plug that leak!
I’ll get to Leaky Boat sites shortly, but I couldn’t resist posting this:
I was speaking at the weekend to an audience of business owners, and I posed them one of my favorite challenges:
“How is it that so often our Websites become the ‘red-headed stepchild’ of our business? What else would you be willing to write a check for every month with often little or no idea of what it’s producing for you?”
Immediately a gentleman in the audience came back with: “My teenagers!”
No response to that one . . .