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Minding the Customer Experience in the Online Channel

Gain visibility into the customer interactions to drive more revenue and increase customer satisfaction

Enterprises are shifting the delivery of their customer focused services to the web in dramatic fashion.  No matter if you call this a result of the cloud, SaaS or one of the dozen acronyms for on-demand services, moving the customer interaction to the web remains the centerpiece.  Minding this online customer experience is becoming more important than ever as companies reduce their reliance on the more expensive relationship based channels.  With this shift to online services, organizations must also shift from reactive support to proactive interactions to make their online business a leading driver in future revenues.  This focus on the online customer experience can provide a significant advantage over competitors but only if investments are moved to the front of the line in 2011.

Executives and business line owners do not have true visibility across the online customer experience.  Companies invest millions of dollars in development, monitoring & responding to customer issues, yet they still make the assumption that the online applications are providing an excellent customer experience.   Unfortunately this isn’t the case in the real world.  With online channels, management looks at dashboards.  They look at call center data to measure customer complaints.  They get reports from their social media teams.   They look at web analytics to understand conversions.  With all of this data in hand, there is still a gap when it comes to analyzing the overall customer experience.   For most companies, the interaction between the web application and the customer is a black box.  Companies know what goes into the box (visitors) and what comes out of the box (conversions or abandonment).  What they don’t know is what happens inside the box that drives the final outcome.  Inside of the box hundreds of variables interact with thousands of lines of code and while an application may be "working" it may not actually enable the customer to complete their desired transaction.  Unless the company is watching the customer interactions it is difficult to ensure a positive customer experience. Worse yet, companies who fail and provide a bad experience are eroding their brand and loosing customers without even knowing it.

Customer Experience ErrorBad customer experiences inside of the black box happen all the time.   Just last week while I was writing this article I ran into a perfect example.  I visited the Charles Schwab website to execute a few trades.   Upon requesting a quote on a ticker symbol, the website displayed the programming code for the page, not the data I requested.   I tried several more times over the span of a few minutes and I received the same results (see inset screen shot).  Eventually I abandoned the site as well as my desire to make the trades that day.   In this brief moment, all of the work that my broker does to encourage my online business, enhance my experience and build a trust based relationship resulted in zero revenue.

Companies have an opportunity to distance themselves from their competitors by minding the online store better than ever before.  Although millions of dollars are being invested in social media programs to respond to dis-satisfied customers, there is an even greater opportunity to prevent that complaint in the first place.  Solutions do exist in the marketplace today to implement a proactive customer experience program.  One example is Tealeaf Technology’s Customer Behavior Analysis Suite. This solution enables companies to capture and evaluate the customer experience inside of the black box.  It can help to identify problems and provide the information needed for the company to proactively react to an issue.

Managing customer experiences will continue to grow as a significant issue for the eBusiness executive.  SmartPhones and tablets are driving new interactions between company and customer every day.  And with each new application comes the potential for increasing revenue while decreasing costs.  Yet it's up to the business owners to make sure those experiences always meet or exceed the customer expectations.

Think about it this way.  Brick and motar stores don’t open their doors without supervisors in place to ensure positive customer experiences.  Web applications shouldn’t either.

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David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.

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