4 June 2019

Troubleshooting Your Customer Experience.

Your website is a critical step in your customer's interaction with your brand and is often the first true engagement beyond the initial marketing stimulus. As a marketing professional, you want to make sure that your online customer experience is fluid and as effortless as possible. However, more often than not, some kind of customer experience problem tends to occur in the digital space. The unattended nature of the digital brand interaction with the website is where customers really need to figure things out for themselves. Frustration will soon follow if the desired interaction by the user is not clear, setting your brand on the wrong foot with your customer. Ideally, visitors to your website shouldn't even need to think (or be sober by some people's thinking) when using your digital touch points.

Knowing when you have a problem

"It's not you, it's me." Your website ultimately needs to work for your market's common denominator. It's not acceptable to say that it's the customer's fault they can't use the website. It is up to you to make things right! There are a number of potential sources that can inform you that there's a problem with the customer experience:

  1. You hate it, it's clearly not right

  2. Customer service activity

  3. Analytics reports

  4. Poor performance to industry benchmarks

  5. Surveys (NPS)

Beyond the first option, these provide tangible metrics that can be used to argue the case that some action needs to happen. While you may feel the website experience is poor, it's another to get someone else to agree and to provide a resource to get something actioned.

The Untapped Resource - the Customer Service Team

In our experience, we find that the customer service team can often be overlooked when seeking out issues related to the website. The problem with the customer service team is that it can take a little more effort to engage the team and to separate out the loud [customer] voice in the room vs the real issues that are affecting people. But if you invest the time, you can get some very specific insights relating to:

  • Pain points in the purchasing or enquiry problems

  • Areas where there is difficulty finding key functionality or information

  • Common customer questions that the website is not addressing

Quick Tools for Troubleshooting

Beyond the customer service team, there is a suite of tools you can employ to drill down on the problem. 

Google Analytics

Having Google Analytics (or equivalent) installed on your website is absolutely mandatory. However, while everyone has it - it's not necessarily a tool that is easily used by marketers to find problems, but it certainly is a great help when it comes to using external expertise. If you want to dive in yourself. The key metrics you are looking for are related to bounce rate, and goal funnel completion rates. You want to focus your effort on pages that have a high bounce rate, or gaps in the funnel that have a higher-than-expected drop in completion rates.

Usability Tracking

Usability tracking is a great reference if you generally have a problem, but don't know where people are getting stuck. Some usability tracking tools have the capability to capture an actual video of the user's experience. This video can be exceptionally enlightening in a way that Analytics or aggregate data cannot. Specifically, if you can see that someone looks to be getting stuck, or frustrated. Sometimes you will find that users may be going the long way to do something that can be done much simpler - if only it was a little more obvious.

Post-engagement surveys

Post-engagement surveys are a very effective and low-cost mechanism to capture immediate impressions of the on-site customer journey. Net Promoter Scores, for example, provide a data point for the overall customer's satisfaction and is an important metric you should embrace if you can. But, as with any rating system, some users give 5/5 by default, so it may be useful to add in the ability to input soft feedback that may be an impediment, but not a major frustration.

An external average web user

Do you know someone who isn't very tech-ey? Then you have potentially found a very useful resource that can help you review your site for issues from an objective perspective. They may highlight a lack of context or explanation about things you may take for granted as an expert. Make sure you make it worth their while, however!

Un-think and don't read

Turn off your brain for a second, and just have a very quick scan through your site - do not read anything. What do you notice? What don't you notice? This can be a surprising activity.

Fun ways

If you are up for a bit of fun and aren't worried about the cost, you can always talk to Richard. Richard is a UX Designer who has a simple promise, he'll get drunk and use your website. The simple philosophy is that if the website is good, you can be drunk and still be able to use it effectively. If you are game, check it out - https://theuserisdrunk.com/

Fixing Customer Experience

Workshop it

Get a group of key stakeholders together and talk through it. A small team is capable of putting together a list of priority content or actions and can provide some direction on what elements could be better prioritised or made clear. It's important to know that all information is not made equal - you will have hero content that people primarily want from your site. Make sure this hero content is the most easily accessible and visible content on the site. If all content is important, then no content is important.

A/B Testing

In the absence of any clear best practice, and when the risk of making a change diminishes the performance of your website, A/B testing can be a great tool. In order to do A/B testing, you will need a statistically sizable audience. Tools will commonly want over 1000 interactions in order to normalise extraordinary behaviour and determine a better solution. We don't recommend A/B testing if it's clear there are a major deficiency and a clear best practice solution. It's just adding cost and time that is unnecessary.A/B testing is ideal when you are dealing with tens of thousands of users a month, or millions of dollars a month. The overhead of managing the A/B testing, particularly if you are using a 3rd party can sometimes not justify the cost of the experiment.


Search is a killer piece of functionality for a site with hundreds of products or content. Auto-complete search solutions, like Algolia, adds a much improved Google-like search capability to your website. Be warned, on-site search can perform poorly and it's our belief that if you are hitting a results page, you are probably serving up poor matches to the client's query.

External expertise

Ultimately it's very likely going to be a development activity to fix the problems in your customer experience. It is trivial to identify dozens of problems or deviations from best practice - but at the end of the day, you may not be able to commercially justify 50 minor adjustments to your website. The cost of implementing a small fix can be higher than expected as it doesn't fit within a from-scratch production workflow. Like a car, changing something after it is made, is considerably more expensive than in the conception stage. This is the hidden cost of lower quality or a rushed solution. Also, get advice from your expert, we have worked with some clients who have come to us at the end of an internal troubleshooting exercise to get very creative solutions to problems that could be dealt with much easier with a best practice pattern.

More complicated customer experience problems

If you work with a largely homogeneous customer base and stakeholders, user experience can be relatively straightforward. More complicated customer experience problem happens when you have:

  • Multi-stakeholder engagements, or have

  • More than a few hundred pages of content (or products)

Multi-stakeholder engagement really complicates how you balance out who you prioritise. It's almost never the case that everyone needs to be treated equally. We often recommend using the primary navigation for your most important stakeholder group, and a second menu for peripheral user groups.

Lamb's Principles

There are a number of principles that guide our thinking when looking at digital interfaces. This is a result of many years of experience. 

People are crazy time-poor.

They will abandon your website if they can't get what they need fast.

People don't read - they scan

People don't read sentences or paragraphs when trying to find information. They scan to look for information that seems like it will help them.

You should be able to tell what to do 'next' at a glance

Don't make people think about how to use your site. Using your website should be an automatic process, that doesn't take the user out of the overall brand experience.

Greg is the Managing Director of Lamb Agency, a digital agency focused on creating industry-leading websites.

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