Our interview with Brent Coker, creator of Webreep
I love finding out about new tools to help improve marketing, particularly when they help understand customer feedback and drive change. It's one of the reasons I got into web analytics and it's our main focus at SmartInsights.com.
Of course, most web analytics tools like Google Analytics are great at telling you what customers are doing, but not so great at telling you why they are doing it and what their motivations and feelings are. Thats's why I've always been keen to share the different types of online customer feedback service available.
I was recently alerted to a new tool by Brent Coker which I think adds to tools which help the "Not What, but Why?" question. It's an interesting tool for me since it's based on academic research dating back to 2004, yet is a practical real world tool with benchmarking capabilities. The tool is Webreep
Why web customer feedback is gold!
Before we go into the interview, here's Brent's views on why Customer feedback is Gold, but like gold, hard to get your hands on.
Brent's puts it this way: "Without customer feedback it you’re basically guessing what customers want. Customers might complain if they’re really angry, but they are not the people you want to try to make money from.
What you really want is to do is work on pleasing your existing customer base, and identifying those who are experiencing dissatisfaction before they defect to a competitor.
The problem is less than 6% of dissatisfied customers will tell you they are dissatisfied! They only say something if they’re already angry, then it’s too late. But if you ask a dissatisfied customer how their experience with you was, and how you can improve, 95% will tell you. The secret is, you have to ask.
Webreep works like a chef in a restaurant, coming out of the kitchen to ask diners how they enjoyed their meal! Except it works for any type of business;).
What is Webreep?
Q. 1. Please explain the category of marketing tools Webreep belongs to and how they can help marketers?
Webreep is a customer feedback tool* for websites. It belongs in the web analytics category.
Webreep helps Marketers by identifying exactly what is causing (dis)satisfaction, customer loyalty, and intentions to refer others to the website.
It also tells website owners how strongly key factors are affecting these outcomes, and compares each key factor to industry benchmarks. This information is invaluable for guiding business growth strategy. You have to know what business growth likes to eat, and in what quantities, before you can feed it. Webreep tells website owners exactly what they need to do to feed online business growth.
How does this save you money? It’s five times cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to lose them and have to find replacements.
Unique features of Webreep
Q2. What makes Webreep different from similar tools?
The two main differences are Webreep Industry Averages and The Webreep Model.
The Webreep Model came about from my PhD thesis which I started in 2004. At that time I was looking for a reliable way to measure and predict satisfaction, loyalty, and likelihood of referral. I believed these three constructs were key to growing a successful business online.
The concept is simple: If you are satisfied (delighted) with your experience, you are likely to return next time (loyalty), and also tell your friends and family (referral).
This means more money and more customers for the business owner. Comparatively, new customer acquisition is very expensive.
It’s far cheaper, and makes more sense, to focus efforts on getting existing customers to spend more and refer others. Back then, no-one had really worked out how to directly influence these constructs online.
The Webreep model was designed to do just that. Webreep tells you exactly what is affecting satisfaction, loyalty, and likelihood of referral, and what you need to do to increase them.
The second main difference is Webreep Industry Averages. I developed an algorithm that allows you to compare key areas of your site that influence satisfaction to all other websites in the same business category. You can see what your industry average is for things like content quality or website attractiveness, and then compare how your website squares up in comparison. Pretty neat;)
Webreep also includes some features that are usually only found in enterprise grade solutions like natural language processing algorithms, and advanced regression analysis. I wanted to make these types of functions available to the masses, not just large corporations with huge budgets.
How can Webreep improve website results
Q3. At SmartInsights.com we're interested in how to use tools to drive change, to improve results. Could you give us some examples of how Webreep does this?
Being an academic I’m a great believer in market sensing. That is, shaping your offerings to perfectly match your customers’ needs and tastes. Webreep enables website owners to sense and respond to the market by using a set of interrelated constructs called the “Webreep Model”, and an open ended feedback form.
Without market sensing you’re basically guessing what your customers want, which is inefficient and may even backfire and create dissatisfaction. To use an analogy, imagine you really feel like eating a bowl of clam chowder with sour dough rolls for lunch. You walk into a restaurant, and without saying a word they bring out the best clam chowder and sourdough you’ve ever had.
They knew exactly how you liked it, and they knew you liked it before you said anything. They have delighted you to a point of strong satisfaction.
As a result chances are you’ll come back again and again. Better yet, you’ll tell all your friends and relatives to go there. Before you can satisfy your customers to this degree, you have to know exactly what it is that is influencing their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction if your aim is to stop defection to competitors). Webreep tells you exactly what is influencing satisfaction, how strongly, and what you need to do to improve it.
The Webreep model
Q4. Webreep is based on a model developed by you at the University of Melbourne. Can you tell us the basis of the model please?
The Webreep Model was born from my PhD thesis in 2004. The internet was still recovering from the dot-com bubble four years earlier, and everyone was trying to find a way to predict purchase intent.
But everyone seemed to be forgetting something that I thought was plainly obvious: intentions to purchase is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to an actual sale. What REALLY matters is how satisfied customers are with their experience using your website, because satisfaction leads to loyalty (if you’re satisfied you’ll come back), and likelihood of referral (if you’re satisfied you’ll tell your friends and family).
This effect has been amplified exponentially now since the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, where the average person has around 100 friends who listen to their comments using products and services. Satisfied customers is key to growing your business because it’s so much cheaper, and more effective at building bottom line revenue, than focussing all your efforts on new customer acquisition.
The Webreep model consists of four main constructs that directly influence satisfaction, referral, and loyalty. Each construct is comprised of seven facets that comprise each construct. The construct categories include: Navigation, Content, Performance, and Trust. Webreep basically aggregates data on each dimension, and does a statistical technique called multiple regression to show you how strongly each facet is affecting satisfaction, loyalty, and referral likelihood. Then all you need to do is tweak the offending categories for improvement. Rinse, repeat, and watch revenues grow.
Common causes of dissatisfaction
5. Are you able to see any common issues reported by survey respondents? What do these show about how companies can "up their game"?
According to the Webreep Industry Averages, ability to locate relevant information quickly appears to be the biggest area causing dissatisfaction on the web right now. This is across the board, not necessarily tied to a specific industry.
This tells us two things. First, being able to locate information quickly has become the number one issue amongst consumers. Second, websites in general are doing a poor job of making relevant information easy to find. When you look at the way we organise search in the offline world, this trend makes more sense.
When we’re in a department store for example, we don’t have to walk room to room looking for what we want, everything is more or less in one large room. We look for the menswear sign, head in that direction, then ask floor staff where the ties are.
In contrast, traditional websites group information in many “rooms” (pages), so unless we have a very good map, or someone to ask on the spot, we get frustrated. Some websites are even trying to copy the offline experience by enabling consumers to pull up bits of relevant information without leaving the page, to sort of emulate the department store experience. Gap for example have been quite sicessful at this. Those websites that have superior access to information tend to have much higher loyalty rates and word of mouth recommendations.
The second interesting trend we have observed is that trust is becoming less of an influence. Trust was traditionally the number one issue consumers had when giving or payment credentials or personal information about themselves, but it seems now it is becoming less of an issue. The reason why consumers are becoming more trusting is that website designs on the whole are improving with the widespread availability and maturity of CMS systems like Drupal and Joomla. Our research also tells us site design has a subconscious effect on trust. Webreep supports our findings here.
The implications for website owners is however not as good as what we would expect. Because consumers are more trusting, they are more willing to try new websites, which means that on the whole online consumers are becoming less loyal. Our data in fact supports this trend towards lower loyalty across the board. In the past consumers tended to stick to websites already known to them in order to eliminate metal anguish from supplying payment and personal information to a new source. Nowadays it seems consumers are venturing out more, and trying new websites.
The antidote of defection to another website is of course satisfaction. The implications for Marketers here is that they need to really focus on the key drivers of satisfaction such as ease of search, content relevancy, and site attractiveness in order to reduce customer defection to competitor websites. Webreep is designed to help Marketers do just that.