Seeker Experience Survey

Is Search Getting Better?

June 1, 2006

Our May 2006 survey indicates that most people remain frustrated with their own experiences and with the seeker experience delivered by their companies. While it is encouraging to note that most are investing in trying to improve the experience, they are still for the most part struggling to overcome the four big mistakes we've identified.


Today, the quality of the customer experience depends in large part on the quality of the seeker experience, whether that experience involves customers directly interacting with your site search, or indirectly via employees who use search to help customers achieve their goals.

Companies that deliver a great self-service experience on their Web sites use search technology to select high-quality results, and they also establish measurements that help them manage the quality of the experience.

In May 2006, we conducted a survey on seeker experience. We discovered that 33 percent of companies represented have not assigned responsibility for findability of customer support information and that 34 percent do not know what search metrics are tracked by their company. Not surprisingly, seeker experience was rated poor or hopeless as much as 55 percent of the time.

We must conclude, based on responses, that the seeker experience isn’t yet adequate, and that companies still struggle with the four big mistakes we’ve identified as the fundamental obstacles that must first be overcome, before improvements are likely in the seeker experience. These mistakes are:

* Don’t design content, or content systems, to support customers’ scenarios

* Don’t monitor seekers’ experience

* Don’t assign responsibility for information quality and findability across collections or for the quality of customer experience

* Fail to establish an effective publishing organization

The good news is that companies are investing in improving their seeker experiences.


Search and navigation are critical components of the self-service experience, whether it involves customers seeking to purchase an item, a partner looking for marketing information, or an employee looking for a corporate policy directive.

In May 2006, we released a seeker experience survey. It was designed to gather data on four subjects:

* The quality of seeker experience survey takers receive, as compared with the quality of seeker experience their companies deliver

* How companies measure the quality of the seeker experience they deliver

* How companies assign responsibility for the quality of the seeker experience they deliver

* What investments companies are making in improving the quality of seeker experience

What follows is our summary of the survey results. Please refer to the Appendix for the detailed questions and results.


We had 130 responses to our survey. One-third of those are business managers responsible for managing interactions or services to customers, partners, suppliers, or employees. One-third are in IT management or technical positions. Sixty percent are in companies with less than 4,000 employees. One-fifth work in the consulting and services sector, and 12 percent in finance, banking, and insurance.


Survey Instrument: Is Search Getting Better?

Your experience as a seeker:

  • In your job or personal tasks, do you visit Web sites for research, purchase, or support? If so, how would you rate your experience?
  • What do you value most in your search experience with Web sites, for either personal or business tasks?

Quality of seeker experience your company delivers:

  • What purposes do your company deploy search to support, and how satisfied do you think the audiences are with the experience?

Managing the seeker experience:

  • What search-related statistics does your company/team monitor? Check all that apply.
  • How often do you see reporting on the quality of seeker experience your company delivers?
  • Is someone responsible for ensuring new content will be easy to find, for any of the following types of information?
  • Is someone responsible for the quality of seeker experience, for any of the following audiences?

Past and future investment in findability:

  • How many search technologies are you aware are in use in your company to support Web site search (ecommerce, customer service, marketing), intranet, employee portal, customer service, and other applications?
  • If more than one search technologies are in use, is standardizing on one search technology a goal?
  • Do you have projects funded to improve seeker experience and information findability?

Your role:

  • What is your role regarding search technologies?
  • What is your role in your company?
  • How many people are employed by your company or organization, at all locations?
  • Which of the following best describes your primary business?

These questions comprise our May 2006 survey on findability.


Seeker Experience

We found that most respondents were fairly satisfied with their experiences as seekers at sites where they research, select products, or purchase products. Most respondents were quite dissatisfied with their experience at sites where they resolve questions: 48 percent indicated that it takes a lot of digging to find what they need, and they may not find what they need. Fifty-five percent rated search at such sites poor or hopeless...

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