Customer Experience: The Key to Digital Success
By Jayajyoti Sengupta, APAC Head, Cognizant, and Swami Nathan C, Director, QE&A Technology Centre of Excellence, Cognizant
Thriving in today’s fast-moving digital age is about building businesses around the needs of customers. Staying competitive and relevant is increasingly about meeting heightened customer expectations for hyper-personalisation and instant gratification. Digital technology advancements have enabled customers to more effectively interact with brands, search for information, try products, communicate with other customers and, perhaps most importantly, buy in real time. Today’s well-informed customers are spoilt for choice and ensuring a seamless and differentiated customer experience has a direct bearing on their purchase decisions and on ensuring that they keep coming back for more.
The game has clearly changed. When it comes to delivering a consistent, personalised and seamless customer experience digitally or in-person, businesses are under mounting pressure to excel. Rather than compete just on product quality, 90 percent of businesses this year will also compete based on customer experience. This is a substantial jump from previous years — 36 percent in 2014 and 58 percent in 2015. IDC Asia Pacific describes this as customer intimacy at scale, predicting that by 2018, 80 percent of B2C and 60 percent of B2B organisations will overhaul their “digital front door” to support 1,000 to 10,000 times as many customer touch-points as they do today.
With power in the hands of the connected customer, the business landscape is set to rapidly evolve, accelerating the efforts of consumer-facing companies to ensure end-user delight. Companies that fail to redefine their customer experience journeys will jeopardise their competitiveness.
From banking to utilities to healthcare, the tendrils of technology have permeated every industry. Customers can now choose from a wide array of products and applications, transaction channels and influencers before making their decision. Meeting the expectations of digitally empowered customers requires IT teams to not only quickly build software solutions, but also ensure these systems are of the highest quality. The stakes are high, as all it takes is one great digital experience to win customers from the competition, or one bad experience to lose them forever.
Yet, in a comprehensive research study of 500 organisations globally, Forrester found that while many companies today embrace the importance of digital in theory, there is a big gap they need to fill when it comes to converting that recognition into a hard focus on ensuring software quality and speed.
The terms ‘user experience’ and ‘customer experience’ are often used interchangeably, which can confuse IT teams mapping out the customer journey. User experience is typically confined to an individual’s interactions with a product, whereas customer experience encompasses the entire customer lifecycle.
With digital business opportunities and consumer expectations changing, all companies, especially consumer-facing enterprises need to understand the customer journey from discovery to action to feedback and finally, support.
An effective customer-centric strategy should understand the needs of customers — and therefore encompass both intrinsic and latent characteristics, as well as tangible and functional traits. While elements such as ease of access, use and navigation are vital, intrinsic human behavioural elements, such as cultural fit, psychology and emotions, also need to be addressed from a customer experience perspective.
Here’s a potential approach to customer experience testing.
- Live the customer journey.
Customer experience architects help create the customer journey map and end-user personas, as a step towards defining the customer experience testing strategy. End-user personas will differ within and across segments based on customer intent, which can range from acquiring information, to conducting a financial transaction or making an online purchase. The customer intent and journey map will enable understanding for prioritising the different testing needs — functional, performance, security, usability, etc. — within the overall customer experience test plan.
- Assess the maturity level.
A customer experience strategy must begin by assessing the maturity of the business against a customer-centric maturity model. This will provide insights into the alignment of customer experience with the business vision, and the level of interaction between various organisational stakeholders. This assessment will also help understand the current state of customer experience measures, tools and technologies used, and build a cross-departmental synergy needed to pursue the strategy.
- Execute the strategy.
In addition to testing during the product development lifecycle, digital organisations need to inculcate post-production QA as part of their extended test lifecycles. This will include periodic interventions through an effective mix of crowd testing, social sentiment analysis, ticket analysis, non-functional requirements testing, and so on, to identify potential defects in production and better understand end-user needs in order to drive future enhancements and new product ideas. Customer experience architects will help define the customer experience testing strategy by answering the “which,” “when,” “where,” and “how” of crowd-testing, A/B testing, social analytics, etc.
Ultimately, today’s digital organisations need to understand and appreciate that customer experience testing is — and will always be — a continuous journey. Customer experience architects will emerge to focus on customer interactions within and across channels, and across the multiple touch-points between customers and digital channels. These professionals will deliver an analysis of these transactions and post-purchase behaviour. As the digital world evolves with the advent of new channels, devices and options, so does customer experience.
 Gartner, Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is the New Battlefield, July 2014
 Cognizant, Quality at Speed: The Key to Digital Success, September 2016