In a recent report, Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy said IT chiefs who have not embraced the shift to digital business are now under threat from chief data officers or CTOs with digital and customer experience expertise.
Sheedy is adamant that too many c-level execs are jumping into their digital journey without a clear plan or realistic understanding of their capabilities, and the importance of customer experience. He said many CIOs are ‘passengers’ who are farming out transformation activities to CDOs or ‘mode 2’ tech execs.
Senior IT executives recently gathered at a CA Technologies-sponsored luncheon in Melbourne to discuss the challenges they face when rolling out digital transformation initiatives that improve, not worsen, the experience for their internal and external customers. Attendees agreed it’s vital that CIOs play a key role in delivering a seamless customer experience across all digital channels.
“Imagine you can watch the release of your new mobile app as your customers adopt it, imagine if you had the analytics to see the quality of their experience in real time without having to wait for a customer review,” said Franco Mancini from CA Technologies.
Mancini discussed a customer example where exactly this happened through the use of innovative technology.
“I was working with a local customer that released the latest version of its mobile app. As the app was released, the customer could see, in real time, a small percentage of users who were having a problem with the app crashing. The organisation responded by telephoning a specific customer who was having an issue and asked if it could help via a different channel,” said Mancini.
As it turned out, the customer – who was preparing to launch a scathing review about the crashing app to his network of 35,000 Twitter followers – was pleasantly surprised by the organisation’s call and was converted from a detractor to a promoter of the brand he was using, said Mancini.
Michelle Beveridge, CIO Intrepid Travel, said the travel organisation is a global company with sales offices in Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the UK and USA. This means there is a variation in customer preferences across those regions from the non-digital visitor to a retail outlet or phone call to its offices through to customers who expect to be able to do everything on whatever device they use.
“Feedback is that even highly digitally-savvy customers like some form of ‘people-to-people’ contact before the trip starts – it’s part of the travel experience. We need to be able to cater for that range of ways customers prefer to deal with us,” Beveridge said.
Meeting customer expectations
Travel is an interesting industry in terms of digital customer expectations, said Beveridge.
“Online booking engines are relatively mature and expanding their range of travel options. The big players like Google and Airbnb are moving into enabling the booking of trips and we still have a thriving shop front travel agency industry, particularly in Australia,” she said.
“Globally, the industry is still fragmented enough that putting together your own journey, end-to-end, requires visits to different booking engines, websites or mobile apps. In many countries, the local attractions are not digitally-enabled for online access and it’s our destination management companies that have the people-to-people connection that enables us to book our travellers into these experiences.”
Intrepid’s key challenge is to provide a digital experience that excites customers about their upcoming travel, is easy to use and provides all the information they need to feel confident they are going to have the best travel experience, said Beveridge.
“Then there is the challenge of different digital customer expectations on the trip itself,” she said. “We need to be able to cater for everything from ‘digital detox’ adventures to constant access to Wi-Fi that enables sharing of the experience throughout the whole trip. In many of the locations we take our travellers to, access can be problematic.”
Traditional measurements don’t work
Attendees also discussed how they measure the success or failure of their tech transformation programs and why traditional methods, such as IT-based SLAs, are not particularly relevant in this digital world. Traditional IT project methods (and their sponsors) focus on deliverables, project milestones and sticking to project budgets, said CA’s Mancini.
“Rarely do they focus on the customer and how it benefits them. I am still surprised at how many organisations are rushing to get ‘something new’ delivered to market without actually measuring what value it provides to the business or how it benefits the customer,” he said.
Mancini said customers he deals with use multiple measures with the industry-recognised Net Promoter Score (NPS) at the highest level. This is a great measure but it can take time for this data to be captured across a broad customer base and usually requires a customer survey. At a program level, customers also typically measure speed to market and how long it takes to go from an idea to a product release, he said.
According to Mancini, customer experience is best measured by taking the pulse of customers’ experiences with your brand.
“Brand reviews drive many consumer and business buying decisions today; we are in a review-based economy. However, as with NPS, waiting for a brand review is often too late. This is where technology can help put the customer in your hands in real time,” he said.
Chartered accounting and advisory firm, William Buck, tracks the progress of its digital transformation initiatives from multiple angles: user adoption rates, frequency of usage, and the collection of feedback from both internal and external clients.
“Key challenges are measuring user adoption to change and underestimating the amount of time it takes to implement an end-to-end process,” said Lalitha Koya, IT manager, William Buck.
“We have transformed our operations to ensure customer satisfaction is still a key focus by adopting a few things. These include collaborating with business units in developing and implementing our digital strategy; forming an internal innovation group where members question and review all current processes, one at a time. We have also introduced an agile methodology and use technology to develop, test and validate ideas,” he said.
Reporting and analysis of commercial, digital and feedback data have been a major area of focus for Intrepid Group over the last 12 to 18 months, said Intrepid’s Beveridge.
“We use NPS at various stage of our customer journey to provide feedback on our quality of service and ease to do business with. We would like to get to a stage soon where we can equate digital initiatives directly to their impact on NPS. We use a data warehouse and tool for daily, weekly and monthly analysis of key commercial measures. We can trace the improvements in this availability and use of data directly to growth and profitability,” said Beveridge.
She said Intrepid has developed and recruited experts in digital analysis (web and social) who are providing data on the success or otherwise of changes to these platforms and marketing campaigns.
Intrepid is still in the early stages of its journey using employee net promoter score as a way of measuring user experience and has completed its first survey, said Beveridge.
“While we still measure the IT-based service level agreements of uptime and performance etc, I do not publish these numbers as they are only useful for my team and rightly, the users should not care about these numbers if we are doing our job well.
"We measure customer satisfaction through our service desk system and indicators of user satisfaction such as statistics that show if an issue was fixed at first point of contact, as well as repeat occurrences or number of escalations,” Beveridge said.
Intrepid is planning to develop additional measures for user adoption such as monitoring online bookings as a percentage of total bookings.
“The theory here is the more convenience we can bring to the online booking process, the more customers and travel agents will choose that travel method, and the better the overall customer experience related to the administrative side of the booking process will be."