04:04 PM

TeaLeaf Helps Tower Records Improve Online Experience

Tower Records has implemented RealiTea 4.5, which gives Web developers the ability to view how customers navigate Web sites, as if they were looking through a customer's Web browser.

To anyone who's shopped online, this might sound familiar: You fill out a 20-field form to make a purchase using your credit card, and then click "submit." Up pops the message, "Error encountered, resubmit." You click on the "back" button to resubmit the form. But with chagrin, you see that all the data that took 10 to 15 minutes to fill in has disappeared.

Not only is this type of experience frustrating to online shoppers--it may be enough to drive them to a competitors' site.

Tower Records believes it has found the answer to this customer-service problem. The company has implemented RealiTea 4.5 from TeaLeaf Technology Inc., a provider of real-time monitoring software. RealiTea 4.5 gives Web developers the ability to view how customers navigate Web sites, as if they were looking through a customer's Web browser. Tower Records upgraded from RealiTea 4.0 to the new version in November, and the product became generally available this month.

When a customer experiences a problem at, the visual replay in RealiTea captures the information in a video format to help Web developers determine if it's an error created by the system or the customer. It also gives insight into the way customers move through the Web site to determine if the online ordering system or check-out processes are providing an optimal workflow.

"We sit around a conference room and design features for our Web site, but our customers are still going to do things we never expect," says Kevin Ertell, senior VP of online operations at Tower Records. "TeaLeaf helps us actually view what the customer did. When you see it, it gives you one of those smack-yourself-in-the-forehead moments because you could have never anticipated the problem."

Ertell says Web analytics from companies such as Fireclick Inc. aggregates rates in which customers abandon their purchases after they encounter an error, but it takes an application like RealiTea to dig into the problem to see what specifically led up to it. Some of the platform enhancements in RealiTea 4.5 include event-analysis reporting, enhanced customer-data security, and configurable indexing, distributive, and Web-archiving capabilities.

The Web has matured, and poor customer service caused by technical problems is no longer tolerated by consumers, says Geoff Galat, VP of marketing and product strategy at TeaLeaf. "Companies are trying to create the same high-level customer-service experience on the Web as they offer in the stores."

Today, fewer than 5% of 60,000 to 70,000 daily visitors to Tower Records' Web site make a purchase, but that percentage is growing, Ertell says. "We're continually trying to improve checkout, search, and other features to increase customer services, which increases customer loyalty."

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