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Best Practices - Enterprise Search

Best Practices

Enterprises determined to wring the greatest value from enterprise search -- such as Amazon.com and Lands’ End -- view it as both a customer-friendly tool and an analytics application. Certainly, search helps visitors find what they want on the Web site quickly -- thereby increasing customer satisfaction and company sales. These companies typically use sophisticated search solutions that do not just list search results, but instead categorize the results, or suggest, “If you’re interested in that, you may be interested in this.”

However, equally important, is the insight these companies gain by analyzing search queries. As mentioned before, search makes explicit a customer’s desires and vocabulary. All of a sudden, the corporation has another tool for monitoring customer behavior. And the results are often surprising to those inside the company. Customers look for products the company offers -- but call them by a different name and so never find them on the Web site. Or, customers look for products or information the company has never carried -- and the strategic question becomes, “There’s clearly demand -- should we offer this?” Put another way, search becomes a way to have a behind-the-scenes conversation with customers -- without the enterprise work or customer aggravation of customer surveys.

To leverage this insight, these companies make reviewing the search analytics results a part of normal business. A content expert, familiar with the business and the Web site, regularly watches for failed search terms as well as customer interest trends and takes the appropriate steps -- adding synonyms and suggesting changes in content mix, for example.

Standard Practices

Companies taking the middle road often neglect the analytical possibilities of enterprise search; instead, they focus on its operational capabilities -- its ability to give customers a shortcut to what they are looking for. These enterprises reap the rewards of increasing cross-selling and up-selling, but miss the opportunity to optimize the customer-enterprise dialog. In short, they typically view search as a tick-off item -- “We have it, that’s done, let’s move on to the next tool or problem.”

Worst Practices

Many companies, typically smaller ones, do not even offer enterprise search. Although the vast majority of the Fortune 500 offer search on their Web sites, there are exceptions -- for example, Conseco, Nucor, and the Omnicom Group.

Other companies work at hiding it, demanding that users click on a hyperlink that takes them to a search text box, rather than letting users perform a search from the home page. Examples include Boston Scientific, General Motors, and Paccar.

Companies that rarely fall into this Worst Practices category are large online retailers and media companies -- with thousands of offerings, they know that visitors will get lost trying to click their way to the appropriate product or article. Interestingly, some of the companies that do not offer search on their Web sites are the very companies that sell enterprise search solutions -- examples include EasyAsk, Endeca, InQuira, iPhrase, and Mercado.

In any case, whether they hide search or do not offer it, these companies are losing customer revenue and insight, compared to their peers.  continued...

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August 2004


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