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Do companies visit their own websites?

Large corporates spend substantial sums of money in creating and maintaining their websites. In a technical sense, at least, writes Ravi Srinivasan.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2007 02:00 IST

I wonder how many companies actually monitor their own websites. Given the fact that almost the entire world wide web of “.com” domains are dominated by commercial websites, most expressly (or at least stated as such) aimed at making the life of their customers easier and attracting more business, you might find that statement somewhat surprising.

There is, unfortunately, no data available on the subject. Nor does it appear to have been the subject of any study. But my own experiences, as well as anecdotal information from a wide range of users, have left me wondering whether most companies — at least at the leadership level — have this on their list of priorities.

It’s not that they do not recognise the need for a digital presence. A random search using “meal services” and “home delivery” on Google will be enough to convince you that the message has gone home even to tiny, neighbourhood businesses. Large corporates spend substantial sums of money in creating and maintaining their websites. In a technical sense, at least. But is an impressive looking home page, or a nice picture of their chairman or their latest “corporate social responsibility” initiative enough? What about customers, whose first point of contact with a company, in urban India at least, is increasingly becoming the Internet? Are companies monitoring their own website traffic, and ensuring that they reach out and solve customer issues?

I don’t think so. Let me give a few examples. I am currently in the market for a new car, since my old one (like its owner) is getting a bit wheezy. So I have been visiting the websites of auto manufacturers, and registering for everything in sight. What has been the result? Nothing. Every month, a nice young lady or gentleman from Maruti calls up and inquires whether a dealer has contacted me in response to my query. When I tell them (truthfully!) that nobody has tried to contact me, they express shock, horror and grief and assure me that somebody will be calling me very soon. Somebody usually does, but only to ask if I have been contacted!

Hyundai’s site emailed me a brochure immediately, but has since maintained a stony silence on the subject of a price quote. Ditto for Ford. Reliance Energy’s home page link to their electronic payment system produces a pop-up box which says “dummy text”. The real link is hidden inside an ad on the same page!

MTNL’s e-bill payment link takes me to MTNL Delhi, where I am politely informed that I do not exist. I can reclaim my identity only after rooting around MTNL Mumbai’s site. Citibank’s netbanking site sets a “cookie” using the browser I happen to use on my first visit. If I subsequently try to log in using a different browser (say Firefox instead of Explorer) I am asked to register again.

I could go on. Government or private sector, big corporate or small, glitches can be found almost everywhere. For a globally recognised information technology superpower, this is a worrisome thought.