Russ Vander Wiel, 31, a project leader for 3M's Web site, 3M.com.
What's Your Problem?
"3M is an innovative company with a solid corporate brand. So building that brand online is an obvious way for us to connect with our customers. We are obsessed with continually revamping our Web site to make it more customer-focused. But how do we know what customers expect to see when they get to our site? Sure, we can track traffic on our Web site, but how do we track 'intangibles' like satisfaction? How do we know if our Web content meets customers' needs, or creates positive experiences for them?"
Tell Me about It
"As a manufacturer of more than 50,000 products, 3M handles lots of detailed product information, and our customers expect to be able to see all of that data on our Web site. Meanwhile, we need to know what content customers value most, and then we need to make sure that it's easy to find. If our site doesn't satisfy our customers, we take a big hit. So we need to know when customers are satisfied — and, more to the point, dissatisfied."
What's Your Solution?
Instant feedback."We use online surveys that randomly pop up on users' screens as they navigate through our site. Each survey measures 5 of 20 site attributes, such as whether product descriptions are complete, whether navigation is simple, and whether users can download pages quickly. Respondents rate each attribute for its importance and satisfaction on a scale from one to nine. For example, users may give the site's search tool a high rating for its importance — but then give that same tool a low mark for satisfaction because they don't like the way that it works.
"Evaluators use the difference between those two ratings to monitor satisfaction and to prioritize content. Before, we used anecdotal information and common sense. Now we get instant feedback as a compass for fast improvement."
Contact Russ Vander Wiel by email (email@example.com), or visit 3M on the Web (www.3M.com).
A version of this article appeared in the June 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.