By Mohsin Siddiqui
The customer experience (CX) represents an emotional outcome that result from every interaction a customer has with a brand, through every channel through which the brand engages, from product selection and navigating the company website to service and support interactions. Every customer engagement builds toward an overall impression that impacts future buying decisions and brand loyalty, which is why a great customer experience is a business requirement.
The Digital Experience vs. The Customer Experience
Digital transformation is redefining business. Business-as-usual used to depend wholly on one-to-one, human interactions that now happen online with intelligent forms, chatbots, and other artificial intelligence-based interfaces.
Many organizations are completely invested in the digital experience such that their customers never actually engage with a live human being, nor do their customers ever visit brick-and-mortar brand outposts. In these cases, customer perception is based exclusively on remote interactions that rely on technology.
In most cases, the customer experience is a blend of both physical and digital channels and interactions. In this case, the digital experience happens in an imaginary place that exists somewhere between the real world and technology interfaces where touchpoints coalesce into myriad shared experiences for end customers and employees.
Brands that have mastered the cross-channel customer experience abound in retail and consumer markets. Somewhat ironically, consumer goods brands have predominantly nailed the digital experience (insofar as they are invested in multi-channel engagement), while technology firms that develop its foundational components (digital environments and architectures, digital business and e-commerce platforms, and digital engagement channels) tend to lag far behind on the experience front.
The likely reason for this discrepancy lies in the raw physicality of consumer products and the sheer number of opportunities to engage over digital channels, with the rise of mobile phones and other devices. This has forced consumer brands to jump (quickly) onto the digital bandwagon—and get it right or die trying. For consumer brands, the starting point of engagement lies firmly in the material world, so digital channels are like a new frontier that offers brands a way to get closer to target audiences and exponentiate or renovate the existing customer experience.
In highly regulated sectors, customer experience has also delivered on its potential to add value to engagement strategies. Why? Financial and insurance products materialize in documents and records— promises about future actions and contractual terms and agreements, which means these products (insurance policies and financial products, for example) are more susceptible to emotional influences. For financial and insurance brands, the customer experience is everything and its cousin, the digital experience, has quickly become an integral factor of success in the marketplace.
Since technology brands start engagement from a digital location and have few tangible points of connection to leverage with their target audiences (unless and until they become end users), the challenge is to create touchpoints to which they can tether the sort of robust, cross-channel experience that consumers have come to expect.
Selecting the Right Digital Technology Platform
Today, digital experience has evolved into something more than theory. In practice, it has proven to be a valued focal point for marketing and product development for both technology and consumer brands. Experience is a point of common departure that instills value into offerings that is not possible with a traditional product marketing approach.
Critical and mandated customer communication is powered by digital platforms, data applications, and integrations that weave the human touch into its proper context, behind the scenes. For example, in regulated, documentation-heavy sectors of the economy, selecting the right technology is crucial for building and maintaining the customer experience. The wrong technology equates with the wrong experience and this can translate into increased churn and negative customer emotions that play out in publicly visible online reviews and can result in lost business. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and today word-of-mouth happens across channels.
A sleek interface is not enough to create a great digital experience. Technology must address the specifics of business requirements at the right portion and scale. Scalability can be the difference between a satisfied customer and a lost opportunity. Consumers exert a strong and often unpredictable force on every market and giving customers what they want (quickly) is key to survival and required for growth—in any market.
When evaluating the scalability of a technology platform for customer experience and communication requirements, the following considerations should take priority:
1. Does the platform provide a uniform experience?
The platform should offer a uniform and consistent experience, even during peak business and seasonal rushes. Customers expect more from an online engagement than they do a human one, and if they don’t get it, they can simply take their business somewhere else. The ability to scale back during slow times is also integral for cost efficiency. Truly scalable, modern architecture maximizes resources through thick and thin.
2. Does the platform have micro-services architecture?
A micro-services architecture enables attention to detail, reliability, and scalability. Rather than scaling up an entire technology platform, a microservices architecture helps deliver tailored, yet uninterrupted experiences for a range of business moments and challenges.
3. Can the platform scale up for seasonal/short life products?
A scalable platform will provide technological bandwidth during last-minute, responsive, seasonal, and short-life product offerings and campaigns. When customers engage, the system should adapt. In addition, a platform that tracks engagement using metadata applications and integrations with multiple systems and tools to capture and make use of crucial data for product innovation.
Providing on demand service is a must in the digital marketplace and scalability is critical to responsive customer communication. Unlike batch processing, where production loads can be planned and infrastructure can be checked, scheduled, and manually triggered, real-time and on demand paradigms are unpredictable. A digital platform should optimize resources and interactions with auto-scaling that can allocate resources as needed and then scale back to normal as soon as possible.
4. Does the platform have Open APIs to provide easy Integration into your existing ecosystem?
A technology platform with open APIs to integrate with multiple systems can take part in a digital ecosystem and scale in sync with its component parts. Online, consumers place a premium on efficient and effective interactions and there is no telling the number of hand-offs and integration requirements that can and will emerge in the near future. Many will become requirements for digital engagement. Investing in a scalable digital platform with an open API interface (and a solid roadmap for developing more) is highly recommended to enable and evolve a digital experience that customers will enjoy and recommend to others.
Giving customers what they expect keeps a brand alive, but a brand that gives customers what they want is poised for success. Today, communication happens in real time and consumers demand easy access to service and support across physical and digital channels, which puts technology at center stage as an opportunity to differentiate. SW
The customer experience refers to “… perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.” (Gartner) (https://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/customer-experience/)
Customer experience is “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” (Forrester) (https://go.forrester.com/blogs/definition-of-customer-experience/)
Mohsin Siddiqui joined Elixir Technologies in 2002 and currently serves as its Chief Technology Officer. He brings 17 years of experience into the role including years spent as Elixir’s Agile Scrum Master and overseeing the development of the Elixir Tango cloud-native customer communications platform. As Chief Technology Officer, he brings a forward-thinking expertise in business technology to develop industry leading digital technology and services.
Aug2019, Software Magazine