I recently came across an article on “Ten Tips for Making Websites Stickier”—a timely topic, as our data shows more and more customers prefer the Web channel as a means of self-serving. Unfortunately, data from the very same study on Cost Savings Customers Want underscores the truth about these customers—oftentimes, they don’t stay in the channel very long.

One sentence from the article in particular stood out:

“The key to keeping customers on your website and helping them to complete their tasks begins with understanding what caused them to abandon and then taking actionable steps to improve the customer experience.”

I couldn’t agree more with this statement, but all too often companies take the wrong approach to diagnosing the causes of Web site abandonment. Many run immediately to technology but limit themselves to analyzing metrics such as page visits, click-through rates, and Web CSAT. While this approach is useful in identifying the upside (where your website is doing well), it fails to consider the downside and pinpoint the causes for confusion, failure, and ultimately abandonment. The simpler, more effective means of determining these causes is one that companies often miss: ask the customer.

Voice of Customer initiatives are admittedly easier said than done, but Web stickiness may be one area in which quick gains can be captured by those seeking to test the usefulness of VOC. Back in May, Dalia wrote a blog post examining Fidelity’s direct approach to identifying the underlying causes of customer channel-switching. This involves conducting a two-question customer learning interview during a live inbound call to determine why a customer went online to start a transaction but needed to finish it in the phone channel.

It was easy for Fidelity to collect this information through the phone channel, but there are other means of capturing this data through channels that may not be wholly owned by the contact center.  For example, Intuit and Cisco use outcomes-based online surveys to gather targeted data from customers on barriers to task completion; they then use this information to direct improvements to the Web self-service channel.

Designing a survey that asks the right questions can have a profound impact on your ability to surface improvement opportunities. Intuit and Cisco were able to surgically drill down into the root causes for web failure and switching by designing a survey with two important dimensions in mind:

–          Customer Intentions – What is the customer attempting to accomplish using the self-service channel? Understanding why the customer is on the Web site to begin with is the first step in determining why he or she left it.

–          Areas of Confusion – Where does the customer get lost? What information is unclear or difficult to locate? You may think your site is easy to navigate, but what about someone who has never used it before? Asking your customers these types of questions directly is different from interpreting problem areas by looking at page visits and click-through rates.

Designing and deploying an effective survey takes time and resources to be sure, but it’s likely to be a less costly (and ultimately more beneficial) endeavor than other common approaches. And assuming your customers aren’t lying to you, it’s the most direct way to determine why they aren’t sticking around.