2018: Time to tackle new customer experience challenges

The demand for constant availability of apps, sites and services is nothing new. Digital users are only getting more demanding, and businesses that ensure their services are ‘always up’ and performing will dominate those who can’t successfully tackle performance issues.

Even established industry players still experience challenges when it comes to maintaining a culture of constant availability, and moving forward this year, we’re set to see companies get proactive to ensure availability, top performance, and ultimately, unparalleled user experience.

So, what issues are organisations at the forefront of user experience excellence looking to tackle?

Availability needs to be addressed before companies can compete on user experience

2017 saw more than its fair share of major website and application outages, from Virgin Money Giving going down the night before the London Marathon, to WhatsApp crashing over new years – forcing people to actually talk to one another…via Facebook probably. The impact on organisations’ reputations, not to mention their pockets, ranged from inconvenient to disastrous.

It’s not just an overwhelming volume of online traffic that is reducing many critical websites and applications to near failure – it’s the so-called glitches we’ve seen in IT layers behind these channels which make it tough for sites to function as they want.

Recently, it was revealed that hundreds of parents in the UK are struggling to access their tax-free childcare benefits via an HMRC-run website, resulting in many nurseries and other childcare providers not being paid and parents scrambling to allocate personal funds. In some extreme cases, parents found that all records of their childcare benefit funds had been wiped from the system without explanation.

It’s examples like these that show how far many organisations still have to go before they can even compete on a user experience level. Regardless of whether it’s down to the prevailing organisational attitude, failing to ensure a 24/7 culture of availability and user-first culture impacts how competitive you can be in the market and in many cases, how you can deliver critical services.

Businesses will look to improve user experience by exercising and testing the supply chain

Application supply chains are becoming longer and more complex as digital enablement is bolted on top of legacy systems putting new and unforeseen workloads on applications.

This means that it is no longer viable to assume a good user experience from the monitoring of individual components and that the experience needs to be measured at the edge at a macro level.

For organisations looking to differentiate from a user experience point of view, exercising and testing the supply chain could be a real market differentiator in 2018.

UX requirements will drive evolution of the C-suite

As organisations become increasingly digitally enabled, it will become more important for the whole C-suite/board to be involved in looking at the ‘performance dashboard’.

Roles will have to transform in 2018; the CIO and CDO (Chief Digital Officer) will start to merge as the necessity for customer awareness and UX appreciation supersedes technical expertise alone.

The head of customer experience will rise to become one of the most important roles supporting digital services. In some companies, this may mean that CDOs begin to address more customer experience requirements, and in others, it may mean that CDOs morph into the customer experience role over time.

In both instances, CDOs will need to begin to work more closely with UX design teams, playing a key role in user research and people-centric design before moving on to play an integral part in the direction of application load testing to ensure services work on all levels, end-to-end.

The ultimate goal here is to design user-friendly digital services that perform during peak traffic times, allowing large industry players to deliver a user experience in line with customer expectation, and giving smaller competitors the opportunity to compete in the fastest evolving digital landscape we’ve seen to date.

Organisations will prioritise web and application monitoring and load testing

If you don’t know by now that unhappy users make for an unprofitable business (presuming that you haven’t cornered your market entirely), then what you might not be aware of is the scale of the impact that poor website or application performance can have on the success of your business. Let’s take website homepage loading time, for example. How long is ten seconds? Long enough to lose you 40% of potential users if they can’t access what they want in that timeframe.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if a site or service’s graphic user interface is optimised for an amazing user experience – if performance and response times are not up to scratch, organisations will lose users. In 2018, we’re set to see CEOs prioritise web and application monitoring and load testing so that user experience teams can focus on what they’re good at: developing innovative digital services that make the user experience easier and better.

Written by Tim Cox, global head of operations, Apica.