We recently passed by Cyber Monday 2011, the day when Web traffic spikes beyond all comprehension as people go to work only to shop online. ComScore, which tracks such data, says this past Cyber Monday saw $1.25 billion in online spending, up 22 percent versus year ago, representing the heaviest online spending day in history and the second day on record to surpass the billion-dollar threshold.
Of course, insurance companies don’t have to worry as much about Cyber Monday—the odds are pretty good that insurance policies were low on shoppers' holiday gift lists, at least on that day.
But insurance companies—which increasingly rely on Web channels to reach and engage customers—still need to be paying attention to the performance of their systems, especially if they're under strain. There's that old Seven-Second Rule that says if a consumer is held up for more than seven seconds waiting for a site to load, they're likely to abandon the transaction and not come back.
Gartner's Lydia Leong recently talked about the challenges of online web performance, referencing busy travel sites. “Performance can be a competitive disruptor,” she says—and boy, is she right. A decade ago, there were tons of emerging search engines, such as AltaVista, Lycos, Google and Yahoo. I was constantly using AltaVista at the time. But I found Google more attractive. Why? Simply because it was fast, with blazing fast response times compared to the others. That's what vaulted them to the top of the search engine category, and now to the top of the IT market. Fortunately, Google appears to be sticking to this original advantage with simplicity and speed in its interface.
Even IT managers and pros involved in maintaining Web application uptime can lose their patience with a slow or buggy website. A couple of years back, as part of my work with Unisphere Research, I helped conduct a survey, in conjunction with the Oracle Applications Users Group, on application performance issues. We first asked the respondents (again, IT managers themselves) if they ever had issues with an e-commerce site, and how did they react to it. A majority said they abandoned the transaction, and one out of four went right to a competitive site. What's more, a full third never went back to the original site, or that company, to do business again.
Then there was this interesting tidbit that came out of the survey: a majority had no automated alerting mechanism to find out if their own customers or end-users were having issues—the main method of discovery was through getting a phone call or email from a distressed user.
The message is that many companies still need to be more proactive when it comes to understanding and monitoring the customer experience at the front end. There's a lot of missed opportunities still slipping through the channel.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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