It is easy to relate to the oft-quoted maxim ‘Customer is King’ as, without a customer, business does not exist. However, today’s businesses are not all about the product as is conventionally envisioned. Many online businesses today sell the very same brands and products even at almost the same price.
When all else is equal, it is the customer experience that becomes the clincher. Customer experience is what makes customers come back again and again, become willing and receptive to new offerings and voluntarily spread the word through their own social networks. It is easy to relate to the oft-quoted maxim ‘Customer is King’ as, without a customer, business does not exist.
However, today’s businesses are not all about the product as is conventionally envisioned. Many online businesses today sell the very same brands and products even at almost the same price. When all else is equal, it is the customer experience that becomes the clincher. Customer experience is what makes customers come back again and again, become willing and receptive to new offerings and voluntarily spread the word through their own social networks.
Rich Customer Experience – The ‘Secret Sauce’
Providing flexible access and efficient operation of an application to external customers effectively on all kinds of devices and form factors generally translates to a satisfied customer base for the business organizations. However, if those businesses commit to convert the efficient and flexible application functionality into a set of rich and engaging customer experiences, they are sure to graduate those satisfied customers into a loyal following. Customer Experience is now a significant factor in scaling the revenue and profitability and eventually, the long-term success of any business in the dynamic digital economy.
Consider the following examples of unique customer experiences that are transforming various fields:
• A banking road warrior successfully navigating work environments from home and his branch to meetings with clients externally using a mobile device/tablet to securely access all of the apps and information required.
• A care provider—from an out-of-hours call to the patient bedside—using technology as the platform for innovating healthcare. There is huge rise in Telemedicine too making it possible to afford high-quality medicine even in remote areas.
• Students moving between 3 or 4 devices to access the educational content they need and literally pick up from where they left off on their previous device.
As customers work in busy urban centers while living in suburban areas, they tend to work from home or on the move. In the banking sector, mobile banking has come of age as it has become the primary mode of interaction for many customers. Banks need to provide a consistent experience across multiple endpoints as customers move from one device to another even during a single transaction.
In the education sector, Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) revolutionized its content and the access to it into a set of rich experiences for its students by developing an extensive digital library and promoting access to online labs on the personal devices of its students. Its diverse students now have great flexibility to continue their learning whether they are on campus or in their hometowns. They have found that their digital initiatives have not only increased the efficiency of their learning outcomes but also increased the institute’s capacity overall. To top it all, they have encouraged students to take on more at their own pace.
Technology is the Backbone of Exquisite Customer Experience
Consider Book My Show on which a majority of retail transactions happen on small form-factor devices in unpredictable volumes especially on popular event days. Customer experience is a critical success factor for such businesses. When demand surges to a point where the application’s resilience is tested under exacting conditions, additional resources are required to be brought online at a moment’s notice in order to sustain a consistent experience. IT technologies are key to ensuring such exceptional situations are managed smoothly. For example, all the necessary IT resources such as server, storage and network need to be virtualized and be able to be provisioned with a simple software control.
If you were to follow the parallel journeys of several e-commerce online market places in India, they are punctuated by frequent ‘deep discount days’ or ‘mega sale days’. Such marketing campaigns tend to create a huge spike in new and existing customers transacting on their websites and apps. It is important that the associated e-commerce applications do not go down even for a moment and in fact, continue to engage the customers in a very responsive and compelling environment.
Sale or no sale, customer experience is what draws the customers in, keeps them engaged and brings them back.
Technologies such as Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC) provide a ring-side view of the entire complex environment on a single console. They help the IT organizations keep a close watch on the system health and bring in necessary additional resources and even move workloads around the data center environments quickly and effectively.
Finally, IoT is a pervasive and unobtrusive technology which can be perceived as a third-degree extension of digital workspace beyond apps and endpoints. It connects individuals to multiple sensors/endpoints and helps them manage the intelligence coming out of all these endpoints and compile it all to manage it better. As IoT adoption proliferates in sectors such as the pharma or research, customer experience backed by appropriate advanced IT technologies becomes a critical factor in ensuring FDA compliance for managing leakage and pilferage, for example.
The Building Blocks of the Digital Transformation Journey
It is clear that customers want consistent experience which is also effective and agile. If customer experience is key to differentiation and the ultimate success of an enterprise, where does it need to start from? What challenges is it likely to face on its journey? More importantly, what holds some of them back while others seem to go from strength to strength? At the outset, to put this vision into practice, organizations need a flexible and agile infrastructure at the foundation.
Enterprises need to plan for their data center capacity over a long horizon and begin with the virtualization of their infrastructure. They need to quickly follow that with the centralization of their content and implementation of unified endpoint management with complete security implemented through a central policy on their SDDC.
Across retail and learning, healthcare and banking, it’s clear that individuals want personalized access on the devices they carry. Yet, they expect it without compromise, through technology that protects the security and privacy of their corporate and personal information. They also do not discriminate between customers based on how they are accessing the systems and the endpoints they are accessing them on.
Companies embracing digital transformation are successfully evolving their IT infrastructures from the data center through the cloud to the edge to support greater IT agility. With the right digital foundation, care and learning, personalized services and immersive experiences can be curated and sustained. Services can be scaled on demand at a moment’s notice.
Consumers can acquire the services they want and need, whenever they wish. Physical distance that is a big factor in locating a traditional storefront becomes a non-issue by leveraging the appropriate technology to engage customers. This can all be done with less overhead and lower TCO as well.
Customer Experience Drives IT Strategy
In a sense, technology is an equalizer. For the most part, it is available to all who seek it. But, what differentiates an exceptional achievement from a mediocre success is the user experience on offer. It is common to see new technologies or tools dominating the IT strategy of companies for gaining efficiency, reducing costs or bringing in new features. But, is technology first or customer experience first? Having an intangible customer experience as a focus for companies embarking on digital transformation can be an extremely powerful and effective strategy. A keen focus on customer experience lends intensity and purpose to the digital transformation initiatives of any enterprise.