So you’ve got a slick website. Now what?

Sometimes a slick, respectable-looking website may be hiding a product or service that is just not up to speed, and this makes our jobs as marketing and communications people that much more difficult. It’s a serious threat to website credibility. How believable is online marketing when attractive design and captivating website content are used to sell something that, in reality, just doesn’t work?

Not judging a company by its website rings true in a recent domestic consumer experience of mine that has made me think about the types of competitive edge in the online space.

Attack of the dust bunnies

My wife and I have a terminal problem that needs fixing: keeping our flat clean.

Especially since we got a dog who sheds, keeping the floor clean has been particularly challenging, even though I do my best to hoover and mop up ever other week or so. I also do the washing up on a daily basis. Overall, however, the flat is not getting much deep cleaning, and this drives my wife crazy.

So over the last couple of years, we have hired a couple of different cleaning people to come in and help get the ship back into shape. They were okay at doing the superficial stuff, like cleaning bathroom surfaces or the floors, but I’m convinced that no one cleans like they do for themselves.

As my wife got her start in housecleaning on international cruise ships (eventually becoming the captain’s secretary on a famous one), she is a bit of a clean freak and has very high standards. This has meant that we end up wondering what we paid all that money for when we still find cobwebs under the couch. In weak moments, we have ended up trying them “one more time,” only to be disappointed once again.

Solving problems with a few mouse clicks

It had been a long time since we’d hired a cleaning person but my wife had reached a breaking point. She was desperate to find a solution when she discovered that one of the drugstore chains had an introductory offer to use a housecleaning service.

Placing the order is the easy part.

The company has a very attractive webpage, which gives users the chance to choose exactly what extra services they want (for additional charges) in addition to the basic cleaning service. The homepage has outstanding navigation menu design, looks professional and appears to make things easy and accountable, for you will receive and pay only for those services that you have requested and paid for. The company even features its good media coverage and customer testimonials (although one wonders about fake testimonials). It all added up to a good marketing pitch.

Ta da! We were sold on the business.

In her enthusiasm, my wife promptly ticked off numerous boxes for things like having the fridge cleaned, all of the cupboards wiped down, and the windows cleaned. She placed her order and paid about EUR 50 online. The cleaning person was to arrive on a Monday morning at 9.

We regret to inform you…

When she told me of her scheme, I had been skeptical. Having someone clean your house is like a personal relationship, it’s something that needs to be developed. It’s not like ordering a pizza online.

And then Monday morning rolled around and I got a call just after 9 that the person assigned to clean our apartment wasn’t answering her phone “because I’m pretty sure she was out partying last night,” the customer service representative told me. Could we reschedule?

“I told you so,” I said to my wife.

Second chance (fail!)

The next Sunday, the cleaning person who showed up seemed nice enough at first, but later informed us that she could only stay for 4 hours, which made getting all the services we had paid for virtually impossible; it probably would have taken one person 12 hours. She also told us how little money she would receive out of the money the company was charging for their services. We felt bad for her, but also felt we were being manipulated. In the spirit of triage, my wife informed her what she could skip, but she still did a slapdash job on what she did clean in our flat.

My wife wrote a complaint to the company and sent pictures of the rush job done by this person. It was not totally that person’s fault, we realized. It had been unrealistic to assign all those tasks to one cleaning person and expect the job to be done.

The good news is, the company sent back the money for the tasks that went uncompleted. The bad news is, for them at least, is that we won’t be using their services ever again. They lured us in with a convincing-looking website, which, however, is no replacement for the service we ordered and expected.

Digital marketers, which way is up?

In that case, good marketing,  like good homepage design, does not a good service make, because we may no longer be able to judge a book by its cover. It’s almost as if we now need to do something more to achieve any competitive advantage, something that goes beyond having a slick website. Perhaps more research needs to be done as to why customers choose to buy online.

What do you think, web marketing experts? What should internet marketing companies with seemingly great marketing do to increase believability in their product or service when everyone’s got well designed websites and a level playing field? We’d love to hear your feedback.

We think that a B2B content creation strategy is one way to bolster your company reputation. Contact us if you’d like to discuss the possibilities.

More on competitive advantage strategies for web marketing experts:

WEB MARKETING: HOW TO MAKE YOUR PRODUCT CLAIMS BELIEVABLE

9 Website Credibility Killers