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6. "Let Me Make a Valid Comparison"

Customers evaluate products and services against each other; those products may be offered by one company or across companies. Customers also want to compare the value of the different information offerings on your Web site.

Inconsistent product information

Customers get frustrated when product information is presented in such a way that it makes a valid comparison difficult. Lack of consistency in how product information is presented makes comparison difficult for customers, and that relates to consistency in visual presentation and access as well as it does to the nature of the content that's provided.

Ignoring relativity

Customers also struggle when Web sites ignore obvious relationships between products they are evaluating. Some products are obviously related, or maybe even packaged, by the service provider, and yet the customer finds that the Web site does not relate those products at all through content or even basic navigation.

Blunders

Difficult product comparisons

Consider a customer who wants to select a day-to-day checking account. On visiting a site they find information on a range of checking accounts. The customer starts off with a list of the accounts available and clicks through to evaluate the first one. Having evaluated the first one, the customer has to go back in order to click through to evaluate the second one, and so on for the seven checking accounts available-forward and back seven times.

But then the customer realizes that the last three accounts are actually complementary to the checking accounts; they detail the different ATM and card options. The customer then has to work out which of the previous four checking accounts these three options relate to. It would have been helpful to evaluate those options at the same time as evaluating the checking account, not to mention being able to get between products without having to go forward and back all the time.

Company structure versus product comparison

A customer of a global management consulting company receives good consultancy advice on a project and wants to find out what other areas the company could assist with. The customer goes to the consulting company's Web site and clicks through on "products and services" to get a list of broad service areas. However, none of those services can be clicked on for more information.

The customer then goes back to the home page and realizes that this is an international home page and that they will need to select a country-specific Web site in order to get information on services. Given that this customer is in the United States, they select the U.S. Web site. Now they click through on "products and services" and get a list as long as your arm; the list appears to detail every service and subservice available, plus a lot of other items that don't even look like products and services.

The customer starts to go through the list, clicking on the ones that look interesting. However, the customer finds that each click returns a new Web site-one for every service (each with its own home page). Each of these Web sites is completely different and each seems to be more of a brag book for a subsidiary company or department than a guide to products and services.

Needless to say, evaluating services on the Web site would be a labor of love. The customer decides it's probably quicker and easier just to call the head consultant on the project already completed to find out what other areas the company may be able help with.

The sequence the customer goes through is shown in Figure 2-3.

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