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Dave Page

Customer Care

Quality Is Critical in the Age of Digital Transformation

Report shows that users demand consistent performance of digital products and services

Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 10:49

Digital technologies have reached a tipping point. Enterprises are moving from a focus on process automation to entire business models built on and driven by digital technologies. The development and convergence of myriad digital technologies such as the internet, cloud, mobile, big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IoT) is changing the way people live and the world works.

People are becoming digital consumers. They are spending ever-more time online and on mobile devices—socializing, gaming, and consuming digital entertainment, but also managing almost every aspect of their lives. Consumers are spending more money online, and this is more than a bit of online shopping. It’s hard to think of any area of our daily lives that doesn’t involve a digital experience.

Business is also being transformed by digital technologies. More B2B sales are being made on digital platforms. New digital business models are disrupting entire industries and changing the way we work. In every sector, there are technology startups plotting the way to become the next Airbnb, Uber, or Amazon. The potential for business transformation can’t be overstated.

The technology that underpins this digital age has, until now, been measured in speed and size. Bigger and faster have always been better, and Moore’s law is often cited. It accurately predicted that the power of computers would double every two years. There’s no doubt that the exponential growth in performance has made feasible digital products and services that were unimaginable even a few years ago.

However, any discussion of digital quality has been conspicuous by its absence. In the digital era, quality will become a key factor simply because digital is woven into everything we do. Our digital experiences are too important to each of us for the quality of our experiences to be unreliable or poor.

Digital-experience quality is defined as a digital product or service working as it was designed to, for every user, every time. In the digital world, all too often our experience with products and services is marred by the inconsistent delivery of pages that don’t download quickly or completely, or video that buffers or loses sync with the audio. A key feature of most people’s digital experience is variability—a product works well one minute but not the next, or it might work well for users in one location but not for those in another.

Actual Experience commissioned research into how senior business leaders think about digital experience quality and what they’re doing to measure and improve it. The Digital-Experience Quality Report 2016 surveyed more than 400 senior business leaders at director level or above in Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Quality is important for the digital experience

Almost all business leaders believe that digital-experience quality is important. Some 93 percent believe that their customers’ digital experience quality is important to their business’s success; similarly, 88 percent believe that their employees’ digital-experience quality is important to their business’s success.

Business leaders also understand the damage that failing to achieve digital quality can do. The consequences of poor digital experience quality are reported as reduced employee productivity (46%), lost customers (56%), customer complaints (43%), and lost revenue (39%).

In some regards, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Quality has always mattered in business and has often been one of the keys of success, but it is new as an issue in the digital world.

How good is the digital customer experience?

Most of the respondents of the survey believe their businesses are delivering a good digital experience to both their customers (54%) and their employees (63%). It’s also worth noting that 76 percent believe that the digital customer experience is better than the physical experience.

However, there is also real evidence that suggests leaders are overestimating how well they’re doing. For instance, 78 percent of respondents recognize that their organization fails to deliver consistent digital experience quality; only 22 percent report delivering a consistent and high-quality experience—these levels of inconsistency seem incompatible with good quality.

It seems that some business leaders are clearly setting the bar too low for good digital experience. If 70 percent is the minimum score for a good digital experience, 36 percent of respondents report digital-experience quality below that threshold.

Monitoring and improving?

A key question is whether business leaders know how to improve digital quality to ensure the success of their brands and companies. If you want to improve quality, you must measure and manage it. Most of the business leaders surveyed (89%) are satisfied with the technology and analytics they use to monitor digital experience quality. There’s evidence that their confidence is misplaced.

For most businesses, monitoring digital experience quality means relying on traditional network and/or application performance management tools, website analytics, and customer surveys. Some may be collating the data from these tools using a “single pane of glass” approach.

Almost half (49%) of respondents say that identifying specific problems that need to be addressed is a barrier to improvement. I’ld suggest that if the technology and analytics they use aren’t able to identify the problems, then they are using the wrong technology.

More than one-third of respondents admit they don’t understand how they are performing from the most important perspective: that of a customer or employee. In essence, they don’t have the digital voice of the customer that is so crucial to understanding quality and improving it.

Digital-experience quality analytics addresses these two problems. It provides a data-driven, real-time proxy for the human experience and tell the business why a customer is having a less-than-perfect digital experience. They identify the cause of any impairments to quality. In practice, this means understanding why complaints are flooding in when IT says all the lights are green, or why a net promoter score is yoyo-ing.

Another priority that’s worth mentioning is building the right culture. The survey noted that 42 percent of respondents say that having an integrated approach that puts the customer experience at the heart of all initiatives is a priority. I’d argue that getting the whole business to understand and act on the digital voice of the customer to improve the processes that deliver the digital experience is a prerequisite of success. This has to be led by the CEO.

There is often a digital chasm between marketing and IT. Marketing departments are increasingly investing in digital tools that benchmark digital customer experience, like customer satisfaction surveys and net promoter scores. However, the data have little meaning for the IT department, which focuses on measuring the performance of the network, applications, databases, and other components that underpin the delivery of digital products and services. Yet it’s IT that is ultimately responsible for ensuring a consistent digital experience.

Digital-experience quality analytics can bridge the marketing/IT gap by providing a common score that correlates the performance of IT infrastructure to the digital experience of the end user. The insights from digital-experience quality analytics can be understood and actioned by both departments. This is the cornerstone of a common culture focused on the digital experience.

Different attitudes, different outcomes

Research shows there is a big gap in priorities and levels of quality. North American business leaders are placing more emphasis on quality: 64 percent cite quality as a priority, compared to 39 percent in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. That focus on quality seems to be paying off because U.S. companies are also achieving a better and more-consistent digital experience than their European counterparts. Just 27 percent of North American respondents report delivering poor digital experience quality, compared to 46 percent of the European respondents.

This digital quality gap is a real threat to British and Irish businesses and, indeed, for any business that falls behind on digital quality.

Best practice

Whichever side of the Atlantic you look, there are digital leaders that are delivering a high-quality digital experience. I believe businesses that can deliver consistent digital-experience quality today will become the leading brands of tomorrow. Consumers, whether customers or employees, won’t tolerate inconsistent digital products and services when there are consistent alternatives available.

These digital leaders share behaviors and beliefs that others can learn from:
1. Their attitude to digital quality appears to be different from those not delivering excellent digital quality.

2. They attach greater importance to digital-experience quality and believe that it has more impact on their business.
3. They are more confident that they are focusing on the right areas for improvement.
4. They are more likely to take personal responsibility for improving digital-experience quality.

When it comes to measuring digital-experience quality, the leaders are more satisfied with the technology they are using and are more likely to be working with a third party on digital-experience data and analysis. Most important, they are much more likely to understand how well digital interactions are working from a customer and employee perspective.

Quality is the key to the next digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the new business paradigm that is sweeping all before it.

The first phase of digital transformation was about businesses developing the right strategies. This included how to integrate technology into business processes, and developing the right new digital products and services. It also saw businesses respond to customer demand for merged or omni-channel experiences. A final element has been the development of digital design that is increasingly effective and intuitive.

The Digital-Experience Quality Report 2016 shows that the next phase of digital transformation will see the focus shift to the delivering digital products and services. This means not just how consumers experience digital products and services, but also better understanding and managing the entire digital supply chain that delivers the digital experience.

The goal must be to ensure that every element in the digital supply chain, owned or not, is contributing to a consistent digital-experience quality that makes the business more profitable and builds its reputation and brand.

Discuss

About The Author

Dave Page’s picture

Dave Page

Dave Page is the co-founder and CEO of Actual Experience plc. Page has diverse commercial and technical IT experience. For the last 18 years he has advised on multinational corporate business systems. Page was the founding member of the management team at Nexagent, a venture-funded software business that enabled consistent application performance across fragmented international corporate intranets. In 1998, Page established and led the Consulting team for the $1 billion European Service Provider line of business at Cisco. Before this, Page worked at IBM Global Services, BT Global Services, and NatWest on numerous aspects of corporate IT infrastructure.