An excellent customer experience is a vital as companies look to gain an edge over competitors, yet many still lack a complete understanding of the issues facing customers. 

More than three quartera of respondents in our Reducing Customer Struggle 2013 report, produced in association with IBM Tealeaf say they have a 'good' or 'okay' understanding of their customers' online experience. 

While the number rating their understanding as 'excellent' has increased from 4% in 2012 to 7% this year, 14% still rate their knowledge of this as 'poor' or 'very poor'. 

So how are companies seeking to understand the online customer experience, and which methods are effective? 


Understanding the online customer experience

As the chart below shows, there is a discrepancy between the popularity of some methods are their perceived effectiveness. 

Methods used to understand the customer experience:

For example, while online surveys are used by 63% of respondents, just 25% rate them as 'very effective'.

Perhaps this is not surprising, as they are often an interruption to the customer experience.

Many ecommerce sites serve a survey pop-up as soon as visitors arrive at the site. This is not only irrelevant, as the customer may not have had a chance to use the site, but it is also a barrier to potential buyers. 

As Tim Leighton-Boyce points out in his excellent two-part article on ecommerce consumer surveys, placement is key, and one good place to use them is in the order confirmation page.

It may be that the companies not finding this tactic useful are simply not employing it properly. 

On the other hand, while session replays and online focus groups are rated highly, with 94% of respondents rating these methods as 'effective' or 'very effective', they are used by a minority of respondents. (28% and 18% respectively).

Identifying issues with the customer experience

Session replay is considered the most effective method for identifying problems or issues with the digital experience, with the vast majority (98%) of responding organisations considering it ‘very’ (67%) or ‘quite’ (31%) effective.

The proportion of respondents rating it as a ‘very effective’ method has increased by 10% in the last 12 months.

The next highest rated methods are calls to customer service teams (41%) and digital analytics (40%), followed by usability/heatmaps (38%), though this is the least used method. 

Methods used for identifying problems or issues with the digital experience 

Graham Charlton

Published 26 June, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (4)


Ian Bowland

It's absolutely vital to identify pain points of your customers so you can serve them better. However any pop up surveys can in effect sometimes make this customer pain worse by getting in the way of purchasing on your site. So as you say the positioning of the survey is key.

about 5 years ago


Chris Attewell

I think what's interesting about the research is that so many of the methods being used are still reactive. Fixing an issue in response to a call, email or form post to the customer service team is what companies should be doing anyway.

Just think of all the people that had a bad experience and couldn't be bothered to report it.

It shows there's still a long way to go before companies really understand the concepts behind a true customer experience led approach and place them at the centre of their digital strategy.

about 5 years ago


lesley adair, Fidelity

Completely agree with you Chris. Nearly every 'customer-centric' programme out there is derived from reactive feedback. Some companies base their entire customer experience success on the NPS system, only addressing issues once customers turn into 'detractors' - those who would not recommend the company to their friends.

The only way to get a real angle on it is to map the entire customer ecosystem for core journeys and pick up the issues before a customer has to take the time and trouble to feedback their displeasure.

But that takes time and budget/resource, and even though many companies claim to be customer centric, few are prepared to invest time and money into it.

about 5 years ago


simon walker

Thank you for posting a research based article. I will see how can I use this information to amend my current strategy to make sure It is update according the customer behavior.

about 5 years ago

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