The following interview was originally published on MarTech Advisor, official partners of the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards.
Research by Walker suggests that Customer Experience will overtake cost and product as the main differentiator for a brand by 2020.
Thirty-four percent of companies, according to SmartInsights, have a digital transformation program in place, while 31 percent are looking to begin their digital transformation operations soon.
Staying ahead of the tide, the UK Digital Experience Awards (UKDXAs) recognises exemplary performances of marketing teams who have managed to successfully conceptualise and execute digital transformation journeys that enable winning Digital Experience. MarTech Advisor checked in with three of the UKDXA nominees to discuss the role UX plays in building a compelling brand experience, and how data and analytics guide Customer Experience decisions.
Elliott Prince is Head of Solution Design, Geeks Ltd, where he is responsible for creating engaging experiences for their customers. He also designs software to improve business processes through automation.
Dominic Vye is Head of Commercial Development, Customer Management, and Digital Services at JT Group, and has over 15 years of experience in operational and strategic roles.
Marc Hetherington is Senior Digital Consultant at Three UK, who loves using data and analytics to solve tough problem statements.
What role does UX play in building a compelling brand experience for customers across digital platforms?
Elliott: UX design can help businesses go beyond merely creating a recognisable visual identity, to creating interactions that signify a brand. A simple example of this is Apple moving the close window “X” icon from the top right to the top left. When I see that I’m immediately in no doubt that I’m using an Apple OS.
Dominic: The objective of providing a compelling brand experience is to differentiate your product or service from others. This differentiation helps to build on our customer’s satisfaction and grow their loyalty. It’s so important to try to understand each customer journey and were possible tailor each Digital Experience to it, making it intuitive, simple, and rewarding.
At JT, we’ve recognised our customers are using new ways to interact with us, preferring digital platforms such as smart apps, online shops, instant chat, or email to the more conventional channels such as the retail store or our contact centre. With this proliferation of customer touchpoints, the importance of a seamless UX across multiple areas cannot be underestimated.
Marc: Testing with users to discover what they want to use the app/site for rather than what Three wants to push while they’re trying to accomplish a different goal. Three could improve at this. UX design helps enhancing the clarity of information and consistency of interactions across various touchpoints, within separate customer journeys. By combining quantitative data from analytics with qualitative data from usability testing, we manage to acquire a holistic view of what our users truly need and address these needs accordingly, either by introducing new solutions or improving existing ones.
What have you learned the most about leveraging UX to deliver the larger Digital Experience?
Elliott: The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that however much you think you’ve empathised with users; they will surprise you. Donald Rumsfeld was once ridiculed for saying there are things we know we don’t know, and there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. What I don’t know is if that applies to other disciplines, but when it comes to UX he was 100 percent right. People will fail to understand a workflow you thought was crystal clear or miss a call to action that looks to you like an enormous neon sign you put in the middle of your design.
So, list all your assumptions and validate them with real users, then test again, and test one more time for good luck. By doing this we can be sure what we’ve created is a truly enjoyable and engaging Digital Experience for everyone, not just the team that delivered it.
Dominic: Listening to our customers and understanding their behaviours was the biggest insight into what our app would be used for, by whom, and why. Our customers shared their motivations and trigger points for using the app and the logical journeys that flow from those trigger points. We learnt that friendly user trials only go so far in helping to design a compelling user experience. It’s vital to continue qualitative research with real customers, to understand their needs and meet their expectations.
Marc: Bounce rates, content, and bottom line. You can entice people through a seemingly useful call to action, say an offer, but if where they land is difficult to use or has poor content/inventory, then positive traffic is wasted and creates negative brand experience. Removing existing pain points and blockers our users struggle with is the first step in improving Digital Experience. This means ensuring users can go through and complete different journeys or find the information they are looking for, more efficiently.
In what ways can data and analytics guide Customer Experience decisions for measurable business results?
Elliott: There’s a simple answer to this one – look for lemmings. Analysing your sales funnel will help you see where potential customers are dropping off before they buy. This tells you where in your customer journey you need to focus your UX efforts. It won’t tell you how to fix something, but it can tell you what to fix. The goal here is to steer the lemmings away from the cliffs and to the checkout!
Dominic: Research-driven insights from customers have been essential in developing the right Customer Experience for JT customers using the smart app from prioritising the development of app functionality, understanding the logical customer journeys, and triggers for using the app and optimising the navigation and overall user experience.
We started with an analysis of the most frequent queries for which our customers contacted our call centre. These were used to guide the priorities about which functionality was implemented first in the app. For example, ‘bill shock’ was one of the key drivers for calls (following launch of 4G and FTTH services) and itemising usage was prioritised above adding a value-added service.
Following the initial design phase, a series of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to optimise user experience; friendly user trials were held to test the prototype. These helped to inform navigation around the site and iron out any bugs in the coding. A series of representative customer groups carried out beta testing with the app and this helped map out much more clearly the links between different customer triggers for using the app, relevant and intuitive customer journeys, associated navigation, and user experience.
Following the launch, we used Google analytics to validate and refine user interfaces with features such as page ranking, customer journey tracking, average time taken on app, and repeat visits.
Through backend reporting via session logs we were able to track individual users and understand frequency of use and purpose of use. For example, the post-paid app is accessed six times a month, with the biggest trigger being the itemisation page. Customers can feedback using the live chat function or leave their comments on the app with suggestions for improvement.
Marc: Utilising data and analytics effectively is fundamental in driving the right outcomes for both your customers and the business. At Three, we view data and analytics as core ingredients in helping to understand what our customers think of us whilst using our products and services. It’s used to tell us what our customers like, what they love, but just as importantly (and maybe more so) the things that they find difficult, annoying, or confusing when dealing with us.
That’s why at Three we place a great amount of emphasis on generating rich insights from our data and analytics and ensure that we act from them. We invest in the best tools and build strong relationships with our partners such as Adobe (marketing cloud), Medallia (Voice of the Customer) and Clicktale (session replay). We invest in our people, by providing extensive training on how to get the most out of these tools. We use data and analytics to help define our product team’s development roadmap, we measure the impact both pre and post any change to understand the impact that this has had on driving the right outcomes for both our customers and our business KPIs.
What are the top three most crucial aspects of building a winning Digital Experience?
1. Know your audience: You’re never providing a good or service. You’re providing a solution to a problem. Know what your user’s problems are and tell them how you’ll solve them.
2. Make it look good: People will rate a pretty thing that works OK better than an ugly thing that works perfectly.
3. Communicate in line with your brand: Develop a voice and stick to it. If you’re going for serious and stable don’t have comic error messages, it undermines your credibility.
1. Customer insight: This is the single most important factor in developing an excellent Customer Experience. Without proper customer research, the key questions of ‘who? (who is the customer), ‘why? (what triggers their usage), and ‘how?’ (how do they want to interact with the app) can’t be answered.
2. User experience design aligned to customer insight: Using wireframes and storyboarding, each customer journey (inform, transact, manage, add device) was mapped out into a logical intuitive sequence. Interlinked journeys were identified, and navigation flows were optimised. Post launch the team used Google Analytics to increase app interactions.
3. Change management: Ensuring the business is behind the digital change is key. Developing a new channel into JT necessitated the alignment of many teams within the business. The contact centre and retail teams needed to be able to respond to queries on the app, and recommend the app to customers who had a query. Marketing teams were key in working across multiple departments to ensure a consistent user and brand experience across multiple customer touchpoints.
1. Putting the customer first: Create features that customers want in ways they can use them, not business only-led features which make it difficult for the customers achieve what they want, but we don’t necessarily want them to do. Doing lots of A/B testing, having a culture and way of working in an iterative way, where quick change can be made based on the learnings from customers or tests. Not being afraid to fail is also important. If we aren’t trying different things and pushing the boundaries which perhaps have never been done before, you are likely going to fail, and it’s important that that’s ok.
2. The experience needs to be seamless: It needs to be personalised and relevant to the customer at the right time, based on what we know about the customer (so offering a personalised upgrade because we know the value of the customer versus offering a generic upgrade to a customer who joined us last week).
3. Having the right people and organisation set-up is important: This will ensure that people are listening to customers, can iterate quickly, it’s seen as ok to fail, etc. Being able to measure what the experience is that you offer your customers and gather new insights to improve it and improve it quickly.
What should marketers be prioritising?
Elliott: The key here, in my opinion, is consistency. Whatever platform, device, or channel I’m using to interact with a brand, the UX design should leave the customer in no doubt as to who they’re interacting with.
Dominic: The shift to digital has led to an explosion in channels and has brought brands in contact with customers across multiple touchpoints away from traditional bricks and mortar to apps, online websites, social media, and interactive chat amongst others. Departments often have different understandings and perspectives of what the Customer Experience should be. Acting as the CX glue between departments, marketing has a vital role to set a holistic view on what the customer experience should be helping to drive a consistent user and brand experience across multiple customer touchpoints.
Digitisation has led to a rich source of customer data across many platforms. Marketers need to prioritise building richer customer insight by harnessing data from multiple touchpoints into a single customer view. For example, by combining customer emails, interactive chats, and notes from customer phone calls into one view has given JT a much better understanding and a more personalised view of our customers.
Customers now expect a personalised experience based on their behaviours and history. Marketers need to embrace new technologies such as AI and cloud computing to build personalised recommendations to customers based on insights from multiple interactions.
Today customers are increasingly empowered to make their own choices. They understand their commercial value and are less sensitive to traditional forms of advertising. The brands that can provide the most compelling, personalised user experience in a self-service environment will drive the best customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Marc: I’m no marketer, but I would say that data driven campaign strategies and personalisation would be where I would be hedging my bets. Probably not the most creative of answers, and certainly nothing new, but I think the organisations that are getting this right are the ones that are leading the way, such as Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. I’d also put Sky Sports and BT Sports into this category.