People think ‘products’ when trying to solve problems online

Published on the 25/02/2014 | Written by Gerry McGovern

Many customers think first about the product they have; even when they are looking for support for that product. Organisations can use this to their advantage when designing user-friendly websites, says Gerry McGovern…

If the battery of their iPhone 4S is performing slowly how do customers go about solving that problem? Some will think of support and troubleshooting first. Others will think of the product first. They’ll want to get to the homepage of the iPhone 4S and then look for support.

In fact, for a great many tasks, customers want to first and foremost get to the homepage of the product or service they have (or are thinking of buying) and then look for the installation guide, the pricing, troubleshooting, software download, etc.

Cisco calls this  the ‘product is the hub’ concept and it involves unifying all content, tools and resources for any particular product into a more singular experience for the customer. As its customers were observed trying to complete tasks it became clear that they expected to find a single product ‘homepage’ where they could carry out all the top tasks for that product.

Continuous testing research gave Cisco “strong evidence that our customers are ‘product-centric’ when they come to our site,” explains Bill Skeet, Senior Manager of Customer Experience for Cisco Digital Support. “This means that when they are looking for support information, they start their task with a product in mind. They expect to find everything about a product in one place and don’t want to have to go to a multitude of pages. They don’t care which organisation created it or who published it. Thus, they desire a product ‘hub’ page where it’s one-stop-shopping for the information for a particular product.”

This has major implications for technology company websites particularly. Often, information about the product is siloed in many different places. We have product pages whose objective is to ‘market’ the product. If you dig you will find product information in the communities site. In fact, across the social media spectrum you will find bits and pieces of information about the product. You will find software downloads in the software download section. You will find documentation in the documentation section. And who knows what you’ll find in the incredibly named ‘knowledge base’ (a top candidate for the title of ‘most meaningless phrase ever invented’).

For customers trying to solve problems these information silos make up a Kafkaesque landscape of dead ends, false paths and wasted time. And here we come up against the Simplicity Paradox: The simpler you make it for the customer, the more complex you make it for the organisation.

It is much easier and cheaper for an organisation to leave things in information silos. Why? Because they reflect the way the organisation is structured. There is a marketing department, there is a support department, etc. Even within marketing, for example, the social media team is often separate from the website team. And there are different systems managing all this information. They don’t interlink or integrate.

Creating a seamless, integrated experience for customers will result in higher task completion, more sales and greater loyalty, but it will come at the cost of greater organisational complexity.


Gerry_McGovernGerry McGovern is an expert in customer-centric technology, and a five-time published author. He helps large organisations become more customer centric on the web. His clients include Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, IBM, Atlas Copco and Tetra Pak.

Post a comment or question...

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Other Articles by Gerry McGovern

Understanding social top tasks: what Cisco learnt

opinion-article |June 18, 2018 | Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern shares the story of an exercise he did with Cisco on why people used their social media pages across a number of platforms…

Trust in digitisation

Collapse of trust and digital transformation

opinion-article |November 15, 2016 | Gerry McGovern

Globally we are facing a collapse of trust – and it is being driven by digitisation, writes Gerry McGovern…

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison and the power of traditional marketing

opinion-article |August 31, 2015 | Gerry McGovern

Ashley Madison had a ‘lack of women’ problem long before it had a stolen data problem. It solved its ‘woman’ problem by using traditional marketing techniques…

dept of the customer

Urgently required: a department of the customer

opinion-article |July 7, 2015 | Gerry McGovern

Focused on sales and marketing, most companies don’t advocate for their customers, argues customer experience expert Gerry McGovern. He makes the case for a department of the customer…

Electrical revolution

Things we can still learn from the electrical revolution

opinion-article |April 7, 2015 | Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern invites you to reimagine your business in the digital age by taking a walk down memory lane…

customer convenience

Why customer convenience trumps experience

opinion-article |December 3, 2014 | Gerry McGovern

Usability expert Gerry McGovern says we should focus our online efforts on customer convenience and effort, not experience or satisfaction…

Interruptions at work

Busy people need help, not interruptions

opinion-article |November 20, 2014 | Gerry McGovern

Getting attention is getting harder. The web is a place where busy people do things. Help them, don’t disrupt them, says expert Gerry McGovern…

Self-service design

Why content is both the solution & problem in self-service design

opinion-article |September 16, 2014 | Gerry McGovern

Quality content plays a critical role in self-service design. Often a small change in a link, heading or sentence, can lead to dramatically higher task completion says subject matter expert Gerry McGovern…

Getting rid of website bloat

opinion-article |April 11, 2014 | Gerry McGovern

Customer engagement specialist Gerry McGovern explains why the traditional distributed model of website management was a failure and what you should do instead…


What content farms teach us about content

opinion-article |January 16, 2014 | Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern says that on the web, content is the enabler…

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Follow iStart to keep up to date with the latest news and views...