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Dating Service eHarmony Taps Software For Help With Relationships

As growth in the online dating industry slows, eHarmony hopes to improve the experience of 15 million registered users through bettter Web site monitoring.

Mary Hayes Weier

June 15, 2007

3 Min Read

As the online dating industry faces mounting rejection from singles unwilling to pay in their search for love, eHarmony has started using Tealeaf's customer-experience management software to improve subscriber satisfaction.

The online dating industry hit $649 million last year, says Jupiter Research, thanks to lonely hearts who've chosen the comfort of their PCs over bars and nightclubs to find that special someone. But there's trouble in paradise. An industry that regularly doubled in size in its early years of popularity has slowed to about 10% annual growth, as fewer people are willing to pony up $50 a month for a subscription. Social networking sites can be one way to ride the love boat for free.

That leaves services like eHarmony, Match.com, and Yahoo Personals working to convince those willing to pay for love that they offer the best sites for matchmaking. The goal of eHarmony -- it's the service with the television commercials featuring founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren discussing his 29 dimensions of compatibility to a backdrop of the cheesy '70s song "This Will Be" -- is to offer a flawless experience under the weight of 250 million page hits a month from 15 million registered users.

"The hardest thing I face, managing a large-scale Web site, is it's really difficult to understand what your customers are doing on it," says VP of technology Mark Douglas. About 15 people within eHarmony began using Tealeaf last October, but its use has been expanding among several teams that make up a sizeable portion of eHarmony's 250-person staff. Engineering uses Tealeaf to quickly detect reliability and access problems, and the product team has begun using it to watch how people navigate the site to better tweak offerings. eHarmony saw that it was losing some potential customers during the four-step checkout process to purchasing a subscription, so it shortened it.

The marketing team has started using Tealeaf to determine the success of campaigns, and customer care reps can peruse specific user sessions to get to the bottom of a customer complaint. "If there's anything we can do to improve the matchmaking experience, that results in higher customer satisfaction and more revenue," Douglas says. Prices at eHarmony range from a flat monthly fee of $60 to a 12-month upfront fee of $251 ($21 a month).

eHarmony remains among the most popular online dating sites, but it's probably the most controversial. Members of the gay community have long criticized eHarmony, launched in 2000, for limiting its service to heterosexual hookups, and two weeks ago a San Francisco woman filed a lawsuit against eHarmony alleging it violates California law by discriminating against gays and lesbians. (You must choose if you're a woman looking for a man or vice versa; there are no woman-woman, man-man options.)

Founder Warren, who comes from an evangelical Christian background, said in a 2005 USA Today article that the site is open and used by people of all religious backgrounds, but the product was specifically designed for heterosexual matches based on his research in that area as a therapist; Warrens says he's unfamiliar with the matchmaking needs of the gay community.

And like many big Web sites that must handle the load of millions of users, eHarmony has had technical issues on occasion. At consumeraffairs.com, on a page dedicated to consumer comments on eHarmony, Patty of Grand Junction, Colo., wrote on June 9 that she paid $137 for a subscription that ends in September, yet she can't remember her password and eHarmony reps keep sending her a password link that doesn't work.

Sounds like a relationship in trouble. But as eHarmony gets better at using Tealeaf, it has a better chance of stopping customers from straying off to a competitor, or ignoring the industry altogether by pursing a cheaper dating option.

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