Customer retention: update 3

For this to make sense you do really need to read my last two posts on customer retention… or you can just not and read on here but it might be a bit muddling… quick update:

We know about the 301 and 410 redirects and switching these on permanently is sensible. Hansard and The National Archives (TNA) are being superstars in a) accepting our proposed solution for parliamentary questions that contain answers which link to the current FCO site and b) harvesting the whole of our site before we cut-over – to sit forever behind TNA wall and remain available in perpetuity should any queries arise.

Next question was about the blogs. Obviously we need to keep the stuff that we have and we need to ensure that RSS feed readers will obey 301 and 410 redirects. I am assured that this is the case – relief all round!

So far so simple.

Now it is my turn to tackle the comms. I got hold of a Nedstats report of our top 1000 referrers – but anyone can get this info from Google reverse linking – and:

1. Deleted everything after the first 150 referrers (this was because when I looked, there were so many dupes after the first 150 it was silly)

2. Deleted all search engine referrals (we are handling them with redirects and xml sitemap)

3. De-duped the remaining sites

4. Categorised them into: (a) those that we owned, (b) those that we are associated with (in this case .gov.uk domains) and finally (c) private sector sites such as Expedia etc

5. Stopped to admire beautiful and small list of key referrers

6. Created key messages for each group

Bingo

Now all I have to do is:

  • create a standard by which the success of customer retention can be measured
  • talk to the Press Office about all offline comms/printed matter and assess the size of the task there – do we need to reprint anything?
  • Wrap up all that I have done these last two weeks and precis it, with detail of whom I have spoken to and what we need to do next in each case

I feel strangely inadequate. What started as a dramatic and scary task has broken down into something beautifully simple. I shall update you all at the end of my fortnight.

Update on customer retention

After writing about how to retain customers, I was duly summoned by the FCO (my employers at the time) to put my theory into practice and go ahead to make it happen. I am half way through my fortnight of doing so, but thought it might be useful to update you all with how this translates in reality – with some incredibly brilliant help from Adam Burr from Logica.

Disclaimer: my boss, the wonderful Tracy Green (head of the e-media team in FCO) knows that I share this information, it is within the bounds of public sector knowledge share, and full accreditation is given where it is due.

The FCO web project is Prince 2 certified (I am assured there is a Prince 1 by the fabulous Dave Briggs, but cannot remember what it supposedly did) . Anyone who is either Prince 2 certified, or has worked on a Prince 2 project will realise that there is a requirement for minutising your work – which in this case is rather handy for blogging! My project manager, Darren Roberts from PA Consulting, insisted that I turned my musings into a set of deliverables over two weeks. This helped focus the mind…

In between writing the original blog post and the FCO asking me to make this real, I spoke to a contact in Logica, who could answer the technology questions for me – as it had become obvious that there was a relationship between technology and comms, and the money needed to be spent in one or other area. I learned so much and clarified the problems we were facing as follows:

1. Not annoying those who regularly use the site

2. Retaining the support and authority of key ‘linkers’

3. Checking that all Parliamentary Questions held at The House – containing answers referring to FCO web pages, would continue to point to the relevant information (pretty key)

4. Doing the decent thing with the thousands of people/companies reliant on regular updates from the FCO and associated sites

Adam read through my suggestions and proceeded to talk in a succession of numbers. After two meetings, several emails and a document, I think that I can explain what he suggests we do (from a technology/automated point of view). It is beautifully simple – so simple that I am sure it is the perfect answer.

Bear with me whilst I explain.

Glossary first, before I go on you need to know these two things:

Error 301: this code means that an old url which contains content that has moved, will be discreetly redirected to the new url – however, it sends some silent message to search engines that will ‘accelerate the correction on the search egine indices’ (quote Adam Burr). I suggest that you explore this further off your own bat if you need a full explanation.

Error 410: this a code that works better than a usual 404, because it explains that a page has moved permamently rather than being temporarily out of action. It also enables you to tailor redirects. Once again, this explanation could do with more research, do go off and look it up of your own accord.

Right, now you are ready for the beautifully simple automated solution.

We have identified two problems: Finding:

1. Content that has migrated to a new home on the beautiful new FCO website

2. Content that has not been migrated to a new home on the beautiful new FCO website

There are differing sets of reasons for why we need to ensure that all content is re-findable, but who cares? If we can solve the two redirects – we are winning.

So, the decision that we are musing over most seriously is for:

Problem 1: Content that has migrated – we put an error 301 ‘page moved’ notice on. This will help our readers, and the search engines.

Problem 2: Content that has been archived – we put an error 410 on, giving the reader a splash page with the opportunity to go to the new page and find updated information, go to the new website search page to hunt down what you need, or go to the old page that has been stored in The National Archives (this is a whole other story I am not so sure you readers will want to hear about, but if you do… yell)

How beautifully simple is that?

Now all that is required is a dissemination of the stakeholders, linkers and subscribers, and three tailored messages for each.

I will update you next week on how we handle the comms around this, and the other brilliant stuff that Adam Burr has un-earthed that might be even MORE useful!