Editorial: Communicating with Customers—what's the objective?

By Len Monheit

It’s critical in business to analyze performance and measure performance against preset goals and objectives. The Term KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is common, not only in large corporate environments, but even in smaller organizations where staff wear multiple hats and proactively manage their responsibilities at the same time as they put out their weekly fires. When many business leaders realize the effectiveness of motivating and measuring using appropriate KPI’s, why do we find so few metrics when it comes to client communication and Internet activities?

My queries have led to two answers, firstly, the lack of objective setting and secondly, inadequate understanding of data, terms and relevance of collected information, especially when it comes to websites.

Let’s start with objective setting. Most, but not all business professionals have an objective for each client interaction. Those without a goal tend to be socially engaging, pleasant conversationalists, wonderful people, but certainly not operating efficiently on a business level. And this lack of focus is evident in their telephone conversation, face to face dialogue and even in their electronic communication. Typically the information they convey is ‘filler’ rather than ‘need to know’. Their corporate websites reflect this culture as well, as do their print communication and electronic newsletters. These individuals and companies fail to realize that each piece of communication and each page of a website needs to have a goal behind it, otherwise it’s really a waste of resources. And this objective must be communicated to the recipient.

(For instance, the objective of NPIwatch is to update and to educate on industry issues, business and technology. The purpose of this editorial is to illustrate opportunities and gaps. Let me know how well we’re doing at any time.)

All right, now that you have an objective, what next? You need tools to measure whether you’ve accomplished your objective. With a sales call, a deal is an easy result to measure, but sometimes it’s difficult to determine success. Consider a printed newsletter distributed on a quarterly basis. From an internal standpoint, merely getting the newsletter out on time may be considered a success. If the objective of the newsletter is to familiarize an expanding potential client base with company developments, then there are many ways to measure effectiveness. Subscription base, responses to planted information, number of viewers linking back to specific pages of a website, number of mail-in responses or calls, dollar sales of special items are all possible success measures. In an electronic newsletter, the same parameters can be measured, as can client interest on an article by article basis, and sometimes, even what sector of your viewer base is responding to certain information.

We are seeing increasing evidence of the power of technology to invade client privacy, meaning it’s even more important to have an objective for every client interaction. From a corporate website standpoint, we are seeing more sites using site searches and analyzing the results to determine exactly what new and existing clients are looking for on the site.

Monthly and weekly statistics contain reams of information, but interpretation is limited by a lack of understanding of some of the terms. Determining what’s really important and tied to your site objective is critical. Following is a list of common information and an indication of how it can be used or its limitations:

Hits—The number of elements received by viewers. Depending on site construction, this could be very misleading since each page viewed could be associated with many hits.

Bytes—Amount of site data accessed by viewers. Most important for knowing when you are reaching the limits of service of your service provider for data transfer over time and peak periods.

Visits—Total number of viewer sessions in a period of time accessing at least one element. ‘Unique Visits’ eliminates viewers returning in the period of time and gives you a number of the individual discrete host IP’s accessing the site. So if you’re looking for the number of your audience, unique visits gives you a measure of this.

Pages—Number of webpages served to viewers. Many statistics programs also identify the actual page by page usage, so you can use this information to keep viewers engaged and eliminate or revise content that is not getting used.

Entry Pages—The first page of the viewer session, ie where the viewer first enters your site.

Exit Pages—The last page of the viewer session before the viewer leaves the site.

Usage by Day and usage by hour—Most of the above measurements provide traffic indicators on an hour by hour and day by day period.

Using the information above, strategy can be planned and evaluated. Knowing the number of viewers and number of pages gives you an idea of how deep on the site a typical viewer goes. If one of your site objectives is to interact with your viewer base, this could be important. Comparing the number of unique and total viewers gives you an idea of repeat viewers versus first time viewers in any period. Analyzing usage patterns over the course of a day and week will give you an idea of business versus consumer usage, or at least home time versus work time. If you are posting new information on a regular basis on your site, knowing when peak periods are can be useful.

Most statistics program have additional data and over the next few weeks, we’ll speak more about the information you can use in measuring site performance against objectives.

One concluding thought: If one of your website goals is repeat visitors, then you better have both new information and a pointing system to the new information otherwise you’re doomed to failure. Seems obvious doesn’t it?

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