Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Why Customer Experience must be at the heart of Digital Strategies

Gartner’s Hype Cycle shows how the point at which adoption and implementation of technologies by the general public and organisations lags behind the hype surrounding the technology.  That time-lag could be months, but in the case of some technologies it could be years… virtual worlds and augmented reality being a case in point.  It is only now, 10-15 years after people started talking about the potential of virtual worlds and multi-user virtual environments such as SecondLife that the hardware is finally catching up (through immersive 3D viewers such as Oculus Rift and the type of non-tactile interface provided by the type of technology running the Microsoft Kinnect gaming console), in the same way that 4G connectivity and the speed of mobile phones allows for augmented reality to become viable proposition.  Wearables have gone through a much shorter hype-cycle, with consumer-orientated products such as the Apple, Samsung or Motorola watches being desirable gadgets selling in large numbers.

But the technologies mentioned have still not achieved the critical mass for organisations to make them an imperative to achieve competitive advantage - most people still use their mobiles for Facebook, texting and that old-fashioned habit of calling people.

What has changed with the growth in the technologies are two important factors: 
  1. that there are large segments of the population, who might be a core target audience for a particular organisation, for whom these new technologies are used on a daily basis - organisations can only know this by understanding their customers through research, communication and insight; and 
  2. people are becoming more impatient as the variety of information they have available on their mobile devices allows them to be more connected, share their content more easily and find information quicker. 

A result of this is that any organisation that puts obstacles in the way of allowing a customer to complete their desired task in the moment is in danger of losing that customer to a competitor.  This could mean providing an app that allows the customer to purchase the goods or services on the mobile (at the very least, a mobile-friendly website); allowing them to talk to a customer-services representative when they want to and not just during normal office hours when the customer is at work and potentially not able to call; and allowing the customer to share their experience, or the product with their circles of friends.

For many organisations, these principles of putting the customer experience first are obvious and have been a part of the way they have interacted with the customer for many years now… but there are still shocking numbers of organisations that do not put their websites and mobile interfaces through user testing, who allow design to overrule functionality, and who fail to realise that whilst we all embrace new technologies to some extent, there are thousands of sub-groups and niches within any target audience where both the luddite and the technophile need to be catered for.


Organisations who ignore either of these groups are doomed to lag behind their competitors...