Called the "Web Trust" methodology, the system is deployed on Intel's download center – a site where customers can obtain drivers and other support software for Intel products – and uses "trusted advisor" techniques to help customers through the online process.
Researchers tested features such as better navigation, a logic wizard, and a virtual persona in a test environment used by a portion of the download center's users. Successful techniques became part of an improved user interface for the site, said Bryan Rhoads, Intel web strategist.
"We were seeing that a lot of our user base is novice. Installing a piece of support software often can be a daunting task or a task most of them aren't comfortable with," he said. "Empowering the user and making them feel more confident in their decisions was beneficial. It made them less likely to contact us via email or phone."
MIT Sloan Professor Glen Urban said the Web Trust methodology was the result of a series of research projects at the university over the last three years. One of the projects involved working with General Motors on a site that helps customers shop for vehicles.
"For GM, it [the goal] was to increase the consideration rate for new cars and increase the sales of GM products by building trust and consideration through an internet advisor," Urban said.
MIT Sloan also is working with a Japanese company on the methodology and has worked with other companies such as Qwest in the past, he said. Urban said Web Trust is part of a strategic framework that he calls "customer advocacy," which he is writing a book about.