Life from GIPC: User Experience and the Bottom Line

New York – No one uttered the sentence “The customer is always right” during a session on user experience at the Global Internet Performance Conference here Monday, but the concept was implied as e-commerce executives discussed customer perception and experience of their Websites.

Northwest Airlines’ goal of driving people to its Website to purchase tickets has resulted in $5 million-$6 million in online sales each day. To encourage channel migration, the airline began offering seat assignment services on its Website. Jackie Astleford, director of e-commerce at Northwest, said the service tracks about 15,000 seat changes a day, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number of calls to its call center. What’s more, 40% of Northwest’s customer queries now come via e-mail, with another 30% through online chats and the remainder via the phone.

Jorge Gutierrez, Web intelligence senior manager at Avaya, a manager of communication networks, said one of the most important issues for his company is “minimizing the gap between what the visitor is getting and what they want.” Until recently, Gutierrez said, Avaya’s nontransactional Website provided inadequate ways for customers to contact and get information about Avaya.

To convince upper management of the need to meet serve customers online, Catherine Jamal, usability and communications specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended showing management “messy” click stream visualizations with “lines everywhere” indicating that site visitors are wandering in no discernible pattern throughout the site. She also advised incorporating management into the process of figuring out what features and content are most valuable to customers and if they’re readily accessible on the site.

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