Coremetrics improves the Customer Experience by differentiating Visit vs. Visitor

I’ve been blessed with some amazing managers over the years.  The first was Judy Walden during my days as a support tech at JCPenney, who pushed me to think outside the box and be creative in attacking problems.  Another was Joe Davis, who was my boss at Clarify during the dark days after the Nortel acquisition.  Joe was the first executive I’d worked for with a “No BS” policy–he called ’em as he saw ’em, was clear and direct, and never afraid to discuss the occasional elephant in the room.  These two people have a lot to do with my becoming an analyst–a career that requires creative solutions to problems, and a level of frankness that some people find a bit uncomfortable.

Joe is now CEO of Coremetrics, the original “click stream analytics” company, and yesterday I went in for a briefing to better understand how Coremetrics can help support organizations improve the customer experience.  Though Coremetrics is best known as a solution for marketing professionals, there is a lot in their suite applicable to support.  The biggest takeaway for me was their in-depth understanding of Visit vs. Visitor, which gets to heart of why some knowledgebase vendors have ridiculous claims about the success of their self-service technology.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say a customer has a problem with their mobile phone. 

  • Visit 1.  They go to their carrier’s Web self-service site and type in a search string.  They receive the usual 500 possible matches, read the first few, get some ideas, and abandon the site.  They try out these ideas with thier mobile phone and still can’t solve the problem.
  • Visit 2.  They go back to the carrier’s Web self-service site and type in a different search string.  They again recieve hundreds of matches, read a few, and again abandon the site and try fixing their phone.  Still no luck.
  • Visit 3.  They go to the carrier’s customer forum, where they find a discussion thread on the exact problem they are experiencing and finally get the answer they need.  They leave the site and fix the problem.

Now, I know this is a real situation because it happened to me.  The problem here is most Web self-service/knowledgebase vendors would look at this and say:  we had three succinct visits to our site, and the customer found the answer to their problem each time.  Coremetrics looks at this history and says, “Oh, we had one site visitor, who tried 3 times to solve his problem before finally getting the solution.”

The difference between the two is huge.  This explains why some vendors have crazy claims like “90% of customers find what they need using our self-service tools.”  Why?  If someone views a knowledge article and abandons the site, they count it as a successful visit.  What if the customer left confused, or in disgust?  What if the article was completely wrong and it didn’t work?  Making an assumption that anyone who views content and leaves has resolved their problem is not only bad logic, it is masking problems with search tools and poor content.

By tracking site visitors, not visits, Coremetrics can analyze the complete customer experience, in this case across three separate site visits, and provide insight into:

  • Search accuracy.  Now that we know what the problem was and the ultimate resolution, why were the first 2 attempts unsuccessful?  Perhaps the search engine needs some tuning to better identify the correct answer, or the search engine should index forum discussions as well as knowledgebase content (definitely a best practice).
  • Missing content.  Maybe the answer isn’t in the knowledgebase, and it should be.  Maybe the answer is there, but is hidden under a poor title that no one will check.  Or maybe there is an answer–but it is wrong.
  • The true customer experience.  Why do customers give low sat ratings for your self-service site, when your self-service vendor is telling you customers are finding what they need 90% of the time?  Because the 90% number is bogus.  Looking at the end-to-end customer experience tells a much different story.

Not only that, but I suspect such analysis will also pinpoint some root causes for issues your knowledgebase content (definitely a best practice). only addresses as workaround for the symptoms.  Identify the biggest issue, resolve that, and eliminate the calls/emails/site visits entirely.

With their business-user focused analytics and massive data warehouses of demographic information, Coremetrics also brings sophistication to other areas of service, including multi-channel upsell/cross-sell.  They are the first vendor I’ve spoken with that does real time analysis to determine the right offer to extend for this customer, and–here’s the kicker–they also factor in profit margin of the merchandise.  So not only is the offer highly contextual to this customer and this interaction, but the company stands to gain more profit by making revenue-savy offer extensions.

Coremetrics is strategic partners with IBM, whose WebSphere product has the largest marketshare for eCommerce platforms.  If you are a WebSphere customer, you may have Coremetrics running for part of your website already–check into extending the click stream tracking and analysis to the support areas of your website as well.

If you have any thoughts, please add a comment or shoot me an email.  I promise to respond to all.  Thanks for reading!

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6 Comments on “Coremetrics improves the Customer Experience by differentiating Visit vs. Visitor”

  1. John,

    Great explanation for one of the biggest problems in this industry. I am going to guess that Corometrics uses cookies (pardon my french) to make sure the visitor is the same – right? Unfortunately, a lot of support executives and professionals think of cookies as something bad… what a shame. It is critical to be able to recognize and different visitors. I often get the question: if people don’t log in, how do I know who they are? If I mention cookies, well – might as well have insulted their mother… What I don’t get, these are the same people who carry 50+ cookies for marketing tracking vendors in their machines, with no discernable gain for them or their customers — and don’t complain about it! It is time for support professionals to tackle the issue without worrying about the ghost of privacy. Trust me, your customer will be extremely satisfied if after the second or third unsuccessful visit to the web site you can automatically escalate the issue for them based on their SLA and support contract. Dare I say – even appreciative?

    Now, you have to tackle the other big elephant in the room: cross-channel tracking and reporting… have you got any vendors / ideas / case studies on that one?

    If you can solve that, you will be the hero we all know you can be (no pressure, take your time).


  2. […] Coremetrics improves the Customer Experience by differentiating Visit vs. Visitor (John Ragsdale) […]

  3. Haim Toeg Says:

    Esteban’s comments are spot-on, including the definition of the elephant.

  4. jragsdale Says:

    Thanks for the comments! I could be wrong, but having massive datawarehouses at their disposal, I suspect the visitor tracking is done by IP address, not cookies. But obviously that approach will not work for everyone. I thought we were past the ‘Fear of Cookies” by now…consumers are. But to bring in another animal to the discussion, I think there is a lot of Ostrich behaviour here–tracking visits, not visitors, allows some crazy claims about self-service success. Some support managers (and of course vendors) would prefer to keep their heads in the sand on the issue so they can keep making unrealistic claims.

    I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to hear that cross-channel tracking and reporting is a problem! I thought CRM fixed all that. 😉 Esteban, we should do our joint Customer Hub/Channel Island presentation again!

  5. i am game… just give me the date and time 🙂 great job on this blog….

  6. Rich Nieset Says:


    Great blog entry. Sounds like Coremetrics is helping to solve a real problem around trying to really understand whether self service is working or if it is bombing out. Across of the course of my conversations with users, what I hear a lot is strong dissatisfaction with the performance of their web based customer service systems, as well as surprise that things have not gotten much better despite spending a lot of money on them. Here is a case where the system data says nothing is wrong, but in reality everything is wrong. Thanks for the great review. I will be putting more thought in to this one.



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