Driving customer experience with first-class search

Meeting the expectations of the next generation

With 10 million online visits a year, including 4.6 million from the public, Victoria University of Wellington had to transform its web channel for a diverse audience.

And when your audience is accustomed to doing anything from any device, seamless digital marketing and service delivery is essential. Victoria’s web team was challenged to meet these needs by creating a strong, sustainable platform for excellent customer experience. So how do you manage a web channel growing in importance with limited resourcing?

Getting a diverse group of users on the same page

The breadth and depth of content on a university website is unavoidably encyclopedic - and every user is looking for something different.

The web channel had to achieve these goals while supporting a diverse range of content: from marketing and student service information, to policy and staff reference material, to the work of its research and teaching community. Conventional website navigation would not be enough for rapid, reliable access.

Users would naturally turn to the site’s search bar - the free Google Custom Search - only to find it slow and unreliable. To add to the complexity of the web’s team challenge, different public sites were hosted on different platforms, meaning CMS based search was not an option.

Matthew Page, Google Technical Consultant at Fronde said

“The existing search on the Victoria University website was not meeting the needs of the end users, and as a result, users were resorting to Google.com instead. Victoria University knew restoring user confidence was key and they could achieve this through offering a prominent search feature on their revamped website.”

Building strong foundations - with less navigation

With so many platforms to maintain and internal site users to support, the web team wanted to shift from unsustainable, reactive support to taking digital leadership.

The solution was to shift to a structure which focused n delivering first-class customer experience, using first-class search to make it happen. After a comparative analysis of available search options, the web team found the Google Search Appliance (GSA) best suited their requirements, and partnered with Fronde to implement it.

The first step was a soft launch of the GSA, six months prior to the release of the major website redesign. The idea was to rebuild user trust in the reliability of the site search before actively promoting it, which proved an effective approach.

Technical Snapshot

A Google Search Appliance is feature-rich out of the box, but the Victoria web team sought more functionality and integration.

Fronde were able to integrate and add to the GSA capabilities, specifically:

  • Indexing over 100 public websites
  • Crawls SQL database for people and course searches
  • Navigation fully customised - allows refining of search
  • Integration of F5 APM security technologies - the GSA will only serve secured content if the user has logged in and has permissions to the document.
  • GSA Mirroring - allows two GSAs to synchronise, meaning only the primary device needs to be managed, less overhead.
  • High availability environment, using two GSAs - two data centres, back-up.

Becoming mobile-first and customer-focused

Search at the core of new website

The website now effectively serves all types of users. Prospective students and the public can explore Victoria’s academic expertise, as staff members and their research interests now appear in search results. Victoria staff members can log in to search internal content alongside the public websites.

For students, the daunting process of course selection and building a timetable is now much easier. Students can plan their study by searching and refining using course metadata - everything from subject matter to the time of day.

Madeleine Setchell, Director of Communications and Marketing at Victoria University of Wellington said

“We have been impressed with GSA – we use it as a platform, not just a search tool. It has allowed us to integrate a range of applications and content into our web channels. As a university, we have a large amount of course information and the GSA makes it possible to easily integrate this information with our marketing strategies. We really like the powerful and flexible tools GSA provides the web team.”

The features of great customer experience

Fronde added value to enable:

  • Secure search of intranet content. Fronde has built code to integrate the GSA in a way which allows staff members to log into the public website and search both external and intranet content.
  • One search for multiple public sites. Individual schools are able to update their own websites with the confidence that their information will be readily available for users via the victoria.ac.nzsearch engine.
  • Finding and refining complex information. Dynamic navigation allows users to filter search results based on metadata. For example, a potential student can filter course results by specific trimesters, schools, or staff.
  • DIY control and customisation. Along with training from Fronde, having an on-site search appliance allows the Victoria web team to add functionality and explore additional GSA capability.

Web team freed up to focus on customer experience

Search usage has doubled since the GSA implementation, with over 10,000 searches a day at peak time, trawling more than 100 public websites and three internal databases.

Integrating GSA functionality has improved the flexibility, dynamism and presentation of the University website. This in turn has increased trust in the website, encouraging an increasingly collaborative approach to web design across the University.

With a sustainable, search-first website, plans are underway for more customer-focused and mobile-first innovations. Fronde’s solution has liberated the Victoria University web team to focus on leading the digital transformation of their largest online channel.

Matthew Page, Google Technical Consultant at Fronde said,

Implementing GSA functionality improved the flexibility, dynamism and presentation of Victoria University’s website. This in turn, increased end-user trust in the website as a whole. Students and staff now experience quickly generated, highly relevant results.”

Google Search Appliance; Search for your organisation

With a team of Google Search for Work certified deployment experts, Fronde can ensure your systems are seamlessly integrated with the Google Search Appliance,and optimised to deliver results with the full power of Google Search.

What makes a good search solution? It comes down to three factors: relevance, ease of use, and speed. Google Search Appliance (GSA) is a scalable hardware solution that brings Google Search technology to your organisation’s content, whether it lives in file shares, databases, your public website or systems for PLM, content management and ERP. Along with the relevance and simplicity of Google.com, GSA offers enhancements and controls specifically designed for business use, making search even more intelligent and secure.

Fronde builds on the power of the world’s #1 search engine to deliver bespoke, highly scalable solutions that add value to your business with every query, enabling your business to see what you can find using the Google Search Appliance and the creative know-how from the Fronde Google certified team.

Fronde’s Google Search for Work certified deployment experts can guide you as to what is worth indexing and show you how to get the most out of your GSA.

You can get game-changing insights through rapidly trawling unstructured data in multiple content repositories, or improve customer experience with faster, more refined search results.

How your organisation benefits:

  • Higher productivity -Employees get more done when they can quickly find the information they need, avoiding time consuming hunts through multiple data sources.
  • Better search experience - GSA lets employees find what they need across internal content sources, but it can also add performance to your website’s search box. You get the chance to customise results, enable document preview, show secure content and more, giving visitors a high-quality search experience that promotes conversions and loyalty.
  • Faster time to market - Immediate access to relevant information expedites every step of the product development cycle, giving companies an edge over the competition.
  • Improved customer service - When a customer needs support, employees should have all the right resources at their fingertips. On your website, meanwhile, GSA delivers relevant results so that customers don’t have to call in the first place.
  • Less work for IT - GSA requires little ongoing maintenance and automatically adapts to your content. It learns from user behaviour and evolves with Google.com’s technology, delivering better results over time even if you don’t lift a finger.