Triumphant Touch Points

by , Sep 28, 2012, 1:55 PM
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Great digital experiences don’t happen by accident. Forrester explains the top 10 ways to get there.

Companies need to understand that great digital experiences are no accident. They must be actively designed. This means adopting a user-centered design process that includes research, analysis, ideation, prototyping and testing. And to maximize digital budgets and ensure ongoing funding, companies need to deliver Web, mobile and tablet touch points that align with core brand attributes and support business objectives such as cost savings, revenue generation and loyalty building.

Customer experience chart

The whole point? Creating a unified customer experience.

What can firms do to get the most out of their digital investments? Forrester recommends the following 10 tactics for understanding what digital improvements are needed, making the right redesign decisions, and aligning improvements with business objectives.

No. 10: Flex Your Analytics and Operational Data
Quantitative data from analytics platforms and internal operations systems — like those used in your call center — can help improve digital experiences dramatically.
• Web analytics software is the best tool for understanding where visitors go on your Web site and what they do when they get there.
• Study customers’ mobile and tablet behavior, too. Just like Web site interactions, mobile and tablet behaviors are highly measurable.
• Examine customer behavior across channels. To fully understand your digital opportunities, you need to know the answers to questions like: How many people phone the call center after visiting another touch point, and what are they calling about? Lands’ End realized that a large number of customer service calls focused on selecting the right size for an article of clothing. When the company added contextual help about product sizing and fit to its Web site, call center volume dropped by 20 percent — a huge cost savings.

No. 9: Conduct Expert
Reviews of Web, Mobile
and Tablet Touch Points
Expert reviews, also known as “heuristic evaluations” or “scenario reviews,” are quick ways to determine what’s currently broken on your sites and apps. Identify potential reviewers who can empathize with your customers’ needs and then have them:
• Try to accomplish relevant customer goals that are specific to the business purpose of your site or app — such as configuring a four-door sedan or purchasing a set of bath towels.
 • Look for well-known customer experience flaws. Examine if a particular touch point has content and functionality that’s easy to find and digest.

No. 8: Reach Out to
Real Customers
It’s easy for behind-the-scenes staff to get out of sync with real customers’ needs. When that happens, digital project team members will make decisions based on flawed assumptions.
• Solicit customer feedback about the current experience. Surveys can help you gather feedback about specific digital interactions.
• Gather and analyze unsolicited customer feedback that can be found in emails, support calls, and posts on social media sites. When Pizza Pizza, one of Canada’s largest pizza chains, was building a mobile ordering app, the design team reviewed recorded calls, Web site comments and email, and found many customers preferred fewer steps to the ordering process. The team also mined blogs and app-ratings sites for reactions to competitors’ apps.
• Uncover hidden customer needs through ethnographic research, which is simply observing your customers’ behavior in a natural setting — their home, office, or even at the mall. For example, employees from the interactive agency Organic noticed members of a fitness club lining up 30-deep before some classes. By chatting with the members, the team learned they were willing to stand around not only to get into a class but also to snag a specific spot on the studio floor. Based on this insight, Organic developed functionality that let members reserve a spot from the Web or a mobile device.

No. 7: Adopt Proven User-Centered
Design Processes
Great digital interactions happen when companies employ a user-centered design process.
• Conduct and analyze customer research. During this process, your team may need to reframe the project focus. Why? Project teams often set out to solve one problem, but research insights lead them to discover that there’s actually a bigger (or just different) problem that’s more important to tackle.
• Prototype and test the possible solutions. Rather than getting stuck in analysis-paralysis, focus on making your ideas tangible through quick and cheap low-fidelity prototypes.
• Co-create with your employees and customers. You need to include people from across the entire customer experience ecosystem to help synthesize research data, ideate possible solutions, create prototypes and provide feedback.

No. 6: Take Advantage of the Inherent Characteristics of Digital Touch Points
Web sites, mobile phones, tablets and other digital touch points offer many different ways for customers to connect with your company. However, they vary wildly in their display characteristics and capabilities — and these factors have a significant effect on customer experience.
• Create touch-point-appropriate interfaces. While the differences between a Web site viewed on a tablet and a pc may be slight, that same site will look vastly different on a mobile phone. And input capabilities vary drastically.
• Look for opportunities to make interactions social. Digital interactions are becoming social as a rule, not an exception. But social is about more than sharing, and companies need to look for ways to integrate social behaviors across the entire customer journey. For example, to draw attention to its Black Friday deals, J.C. Penney gave its Facebook fans access to exclusive deals and a chance to win a vip shopping experience.

No. 5: Get Outside Help
Where You Need It
While in-house design and development teams have the advantage of deep domain knowledge, it’s difficult for any but the savviest internal teams to do it all themselves. Companies should look to outside firms to help them:
• Carry out and analyze ethnographic research. Most companies don’t have the in-house skills to conduct this kind of research or synthesize the results into actionable findings. Firms such as Boston-based Essential Design and stby in Europe have extensive experience with techniques like in-home observations and diary studies.
• Conduct user-experience research. At the other end of the design process, companies need to gather feedback on how well their digital products and services meet customers’ needs. Consultancies like AnswerLab and Bentley University provide services ranging from remote usability testing to lab-based eye tracking studies.
• Simplify complex information and transactions. Many of the firms we talk to cite extensive usability prowess and the ability to leverage digital touch points as the reasons for seeking outside help. For example, when tiaa-cref needed help improving online tools that explain how participants’ retirement investments would annuitize over their lifetimes, it chose to work with Effectiveui, in part due to the firm’s experience in simplifying complex customer interactions.
• Spark new ideas for digital innovations. When companies embark on customer experience improvement projects, they’re typically trying to do a better of job of meeting customers’ needs. But when Citibank partnered with digital service design agency Fjord to design a tablet banking app, it aimed to far exceed them. The resulting app included rich data visualizations and comparisons with how other people spend money — tools not available on the Citibank Web site.

No. 4: Plan for the
Post-Launch Reality
Digital project teams put a lot of effort into any launch — but that’s just day one of a touch point’s life. What happens on day two through infinity? Companies that launch without an answer to this question wind up with unsupported sites and orphan apps that confuse or annoy customers. Don’t fall into this launch-it-and-leave-it trap. Instead, make sure your digital touch points get ongoing attention.
• Plan to maintain and improve existing sites and apps. After Citibank launched its iPad banking app in July 2011, the company updated it three more times before the end of the year, adding access to check images for bank customers, contextual help in the form of tutorial overlays, social media sharing, and in-depth visual analytics for credit card accounts.
• Create an end-of-life plan before you launch. Most digital touch points aren’t going to live forever: Links will change, sites may get merged, or companies may decide to stop supporting apps. Changes like these will likely meet with negative customer reactions. To avoid this, firms need to create contingency plans for sunsetting their digital products and services without leaving customers high and dry.

No. 3: Bolster Your
Company’s Brand
Whether you’re gutting your entire Web site or launching a new mobile app, every decision you make will ultimately shape your brand in some way. To create digital experiences that support your brand image:
• Surface your company’s brand positioning statement. In our conversations with customer-experience professionals, an alarming number say that they’re not sure exactly what their brand stands for — and many admit that they’ve never even talked with their brand and marketing groups. If this sounds familiar, stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone, and start to forge these critical relationships.
• Use content, functionality, and design elements that support key attributes. For example, in support of its mission “to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world,” Nike’s Web site showcases innovative product features that translate into performance-enhancing benefits, and provides useful tools like a training log and pace calculator for runners.

No. 2: Measure Digital Touch Point Performance Against Business Metrics
Digital customer experience projects don’t get funded without some anticipated benefit to the business.
• Begin and end every project with a discussion of business objectives. Fidelity Investments’ digital design group starts projects by setting business objectives, like increasing new account registration rates by 6 percent. This becomes the driver for projects like redesigning the registration form to increase enrollments. The team finishes projects with an examination of performance. If results are less than expected, the group examines the reasons why and uses what it learns to improve the next project.
• Build roi models. Using measurable business goals — like boosting revenue or lowering service costs — it’s possible to construct customer-experience roi models that even the mathematically challenged will appreciate.
• Create a holistic customer-experience measurement framework. When firms only measure outcomes from digital channels, they’re not viewing the entire picture. For example, a customer might buy a product online but then call to ask about delivery timelines because the site didn’t specify a shipping date. This could lead to dissatisfaction or worse. Web site metrics alone won’t connect those dots. That’s why customer-experience professionals need cross-channel metrics that track what customers think and feel (“The package took forever to get here!”), what actually happened (the package took four days to arrive), and what customers will do as a result of their experience (like tell a friend or cancel the order).

No. 1: Unify the Overall
Customer Experience
With customers able to interact through multiple channels at any given moment, companies need to present a coherent face across all interactions. When they don’t, they risk diluting their brand and frustrating consumers. To create a unified customer experience:
• Use recognizable visual design patterns. The first thing customers react to when they hit any digital touch point are the visual elements. Ideally, the styling of the imagery, typography and layouts should be carried over from one touch point to another. For example, The New York Times’ stately serif fonts accentuate the firm’s heritage across all of its touch points — traditional and digital. And toms Shoes incorporates elements of its imagery, typography and layout on both its Web site and its Twitter page.
• Make it easy for customers to shift from one channel to another. Consumers now move seamlessly from the Web to their phones, then to Facebook on their tablets. Unified customer experiences facilitate this touch-point hopping and don’t force customers to start cold in each new channel.
• Create cross-channel governance practices. For most companies, working across silos will take some adjustment. Formal customer experience governance processes can help. For example, Barclaycard us assigned one executive to oversee each of nine high-level processes that were part of the customer journey, like acquiring a customer or servicing customer issues. Each exec is responsible for every digital and physical interaction that affects that part of the journey, regardless of where the supporting functions for those interactions report into organizationally.

Adapted from Forrester Research’s Digital Customer Experience Playbook; The Top 10 Ways To Improve Digital Experiences, by Kerry Bodine, 2012.

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