mPulse

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Web Measurements? Part II: Customer Retention

In the first part of this series, using Web performance measurements to generate new customers was the topic. This article focuses on using the same data to keep the customers you have, and make them believe in the value of your service.

Proving the Point


Getting a customer is the exciting and glamorous work. Resources are often drawn from far and wide in an organization to win over a prospect and make them a customer.

Once the deal is done, the day-to-day business of making the customer believe that they are getting what they paid for is the job of the ongoing benchmarking measurements. CDNs and third-party services need to prove that they are delivering the goods, and this can only be done by an agreed upon measurement metric.

Some people leap right into an SLA / SLO discussion. As a Web performance professional, I can tell you that there are few SLAs that are effective, and ever fewer that are enforceable.

Start with what you can prove. Was the performance that was shown me during the pre-sales process a fluke, or does it represent the true level of service that I am getting for my money?

Measure Often and Everywhere


The Web performance world has become addicted to the relatively clean and predictable measurements that originate from high-quality backbone measurement locations. This perspective can provide an slightly unrealistic view of the Web world.

How many times have you heard from the people around you about site X (maybe this is your site) behaving badly or unpredictably from home connections? Why, when you examine the Web performance data from the backbone, doesn't this show up?

Web connections to the home are unpredicatble, unregulated, and have no QoS target. It is definitely best effort. This is especially true in the US, where there is no incentive (some would say that there is a barrier) to delivering the best quality performance to the home. But that is where the money is.

As a service provider, you better be willing to show that your service is able to surmount the obstacles and deliver Web performance advantages at the Last Mile and the Backbone.

Don't ever base SLAs on Last Mile data - this is Web performance insanity. But be ready to prove that you can deliver high quality performance everywhere.

Show me the data


As a customer of your service, I expect you to show me the measurement that you're are collecting. I expect you to be honest with me when you encounter a problem. I do not want to hear/see your finger-pointing, especially when you try and push the blame for any performance issues back to me.

As a service provider, you live and die by the Web performance data. And if you see something in the data, not related to your business, but that could make my site faster and better, tell me about it.

Remember that partnership you sold me on during the Customer Generation phase? Show it to me now. If you help me get better, this will be added to plus column on the decision chart at renewal time, when your competitor comes knocking on my door with a lower price and Web performance data that shows how much you suck.

Shit Happens. Fess up.


The beauty of Web performance measurement is that your customers can replicate exactly the same measurements that you run on their behalf. And, they may actually measure things that you hadn't thought about.

And sure as shooting, they will show up at a meeting with your team one day with data that shows that your service FUBAR'd on a massive scale.

It's the Internet. Bad shit happens on the Internet. I've seen it.

If you can show them that you know about the problem, explain what caused it, how you resolved it, and how you are working to prevent it, good.

Better: Call them when the shit happens. Let them know that you know about the problem and that you have a crack team of Web performance commandos deployed worldwide to resolve the problem in non-relativistic time. Blog it. Tweet it. Put a big 'ol email in their inbox. Call your pimary contact, and your secondary contact, and your tertiary contact.

Fess up. You can only hide so much before your customers start talking. And the last thing your want prospects seeing is your existing customers talking smack about your service.

Summary


Web performance measurement doesn't go away the second you close the deal. In fact, the process has only just begun. It is a crazy, competitive world out there. Be prepared to show that you're the best and that you aren't perfect every single day.

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