Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mobile and Connected Experience 2.0

[This post is based on a presentation Heather Zimmerman and I gave titled "Moving from ‘We Should’ to ‘We Can’ in Creating a Frictionless End-to-End Experience” at the Wall Street Technology Association's (WSTA) October 27, 2016 seminar themed "Anatomy of Digital Business Moments"]

At this point in your company’s mobile journey you have probably created several mobile apps—but how well integrated are these apps with users’ complete interactions with your business?

Chances are that you’ve mobile-enabled segments of the experience—let’s call this Connected Experience 1.0—but users’ overall interaction with your brand remains inconsistent across channels.  

Moving toward a Connected Experience 2.0 model, which reduces customer experience friction and fragmentation, is an important step in your business’s overall digital transformation effort.

Connected Experience 1.0
What are the manifestations of Connected Experience 1.0 inconsistency?  Let’s look at a real-world example.  

In the Twitter exchange below an airline passenger looking for options in the face of a significant flight delay reaches out via mobile/social to customer service for help.  Unfortunately, the airline’s response indicates a real disconnect between customer service channels, resulting in exacerbating their customer’s frustration.

From this exchange we can identify several key aspects of Connected Experience 1.0 interactions:
  • Workflow Fragmentation.  Failure to identify and understand customer engagement workflows and then effectively connect them across channels.
  • Channel Transition Are Poor.  Users’ experiences are choppy—or are flat-out dropped—as interactions transition from one channel to another, especially from digital to physical.
  • Personalized vs. Individualized Interactions.  In the example above, the customer service agent can identify (personalization - “I know who you are”) the customer but is unable to take individualized action to help.  For example, “I know who you are, how long you will be delayed and can offer you an accommodations and a plan for how we’ll get you home safely.”
Barriers to Moving Past Connected Experience 1.0
Before we look at the characteristics of and strategies to move to Connected Experience 2.0 interactions, let’s recognize that there are a number of seemingly intransigent barriers for many companies, including:
  • Varying Levels of Channel Maturity.  For example, while customer service systems and web-based apps are 20+ years’ old, mobile and social channels may be only a few years old and only a few steps beyond initial release capabilities.  Consequently, interactivity capabilities for each channel may vary widely—not to mention that data-sharing between channels is likely poor.
  • Organizational Culture.  In many companies various aspects of a customer journey are owned by several internal groups.  These groups often develop capabilities and work in siloed delivery models rather than collaborative cooperation.
  • Technology.  Technology is an enabler and a barrier—especially when key legacy systems require upgrades that can take more than year.  This puts all dependent systems—and customer experience quality—in a holding pattern until an upgrade or new implementation finishes.
Characteristics of Connected Experience 2.0
Now that we better understand the “what” and “why” of Connected Experience 1.0 and the problems it engenders, what is Connected Experience 2.0?

The Connected Experience 2.0 is based on reaching four key objectives:
  • Understanding Complete Customer Interactions
  • Seamless Movement between Channels
  • Analytics and Actionable Insights
  • Individualization
Understanding Complete Customer Interactions
In most cases companies do understand complete customer workflows despite failing to connect them across channels.  Consequently, mapping out customer journeys is not difficult.  

The challenge, however, is then to design interactions that enable customers to interact with your business via their channel of choice from start to finish.  

Designing and them implementing this level of interaction is not trivial but will pay immense dividends, especially for mobile users who want to engage as remotely as possible.

Seamless Movement between Channels
This is probably the toughest aspect of Connected Experience 2.0 to crack.  Seamless interactions across channels require arming each channel with context and information on previous customer interactions in near real-time—as well as suggesting what to do next.  

Furthermore, as it is unlikely (or even undesirable) that all channels will reach functional parity, it is imperative to be up front and transparent with the customer when a channel transition must take place.  For example, if a customer must go into a retail location to complete a step of a workflow—say, completing a car buying experience—make sure this fact is communicated clearly and in advance.

From a technology perspective, creating an integrated system of record that all channels can equally access, is current, and in sync is a huge challenge.

Analytics and Actionable Insights
We are entering a new age of analytics where digital leaders are deriving significant insights and advantages from data.  At a high-level, digital leaders are differentiating their businesses from competitors by using data to drive consistent metrics, generate predictions and make both tactical and strategic business decisions.

A couple data points:
  • Digital leaders are 2.5x more likely to harness real-time data and analytics to deliver tailored Connected Experience 2.0-level customer engagements.
  • They’re also 2.5x more likely to use data insights to prescribe business actions to limit customer turnover.
In terms of using analytics to support Connected Experience 2.0 engagement it is imperative that analytics moves from a “back of the house” function to the forefront of business decision-making—and that data is readily available to business analysts without appealing to IT or the stats guys for help.

Now that you’ve addressed complete customer journeys, have enabled customers to move seamlessly between channels, and collect/analyze data, you’re ready to individualize customer experiences.

First, why the need for individualization?  According to a recent Accenture study, nearly 40% of consumers said they have left a business website and gone somewhere else because they’ve been overwhelmed by too many options.

“Too many options” can mean a lot things; typically, it’s a seemingly endless number of hierarchal features to navigate to find what is needed.  It can also mean that marketing messages are not well targeted and create so much noise—or worse, indication of lack of understanding—that customers are put off.

How can individualization better engage customers?  Again, the distinction we’re drawing between personalization and individualization is that the former is identification and the latter is much more prescriptive.  To contrast:
  • Personalization:  “Hi Bob, welcome back!”
  • Individualization:   “Hi Bob, we’ve been monitoring your accounts and customers like you have done XYZ and increased their yields by an average of 20%.  Would you like to discuss?”
Successful individualization will simplify and engage customers by showing that your business not only knows them but understands how to effectively interact with them as they attempt to transact business with you via their chosen channels.

Technology Support for Connected Experience 2.0 Strategy
Now that we have established the key elements of Connected Experience 2.0, let’s briefly discuss several key strategic technology enablers:
  • Embrace the reality of constant change by treating technology work as product development, not projects, with a roadmap and lifecycle plan.
  • Implementation of agile delivery models that bring speed, flexibility, quality—enable the business to keep up with dynamic customer demands.
  • Automation of time-consuming or error-prone manual activities such as Quality Assurance and DevOps.
  • Embrace advanced user experience prototyping technology to more quickly find the right customer engagement.
  • Data analytics:  Capture engagement data from all channels and then stitch together to get a complete, quantifiable view of customers’ journeys.
  • Enable data to flow through to all channels via APIs that are properly tuned for all constituent systems, from desktop to mobile.
Connected Experience 1.0 capabilities will shortly not cut it with your customers—or even become a brand liability in an era of fast-moving business innovation based on digital technology.

Implementing a Connected Experience 2.0 model, which reduces customer experience friction and fragmentation, is a crucial step in your business’s overall digital transformation effort that will pay valuable dividends.

Planning the best approach for your digital transformation is an incredibly complex task.  Making the right strategic and tactical technology decisions along the way is just one aspect of the journey.

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