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Customer Experience Management (CEM)

A case of do or die as firms refine the digital experience

Businesses today very often live or die by the digital experience they offer. Confusing navigation, slow page loads, disjunction between different devices and an ugly look-and-feel will drive users to rivals as more of us buy and consume online. That situation has led to the rise of a bumper crop of companies specialising in helping deliver strong, highly usable and consistent platforms. I spoke recently to Dave Page, the CEO of Actual Experience, a UK headquartered company that despite being founded as recently as 2009 already is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market cap of over £105m ($152m) at the time of writing.

Do leaders at the top echelons of businesses realise the criticality of the digital experience? The good news, Page says, is yes they do. Actual Experience recently commissioned research that suggests almost nine in 10 leaders across the US, UK and Ireland took the view that delivering a good digital experience was highly important.

“At the C-suite it probably is very well understood but it doesn’t always percolate down to line-of-business heads,” Page says. “As a company we’ve realised you have to go to the top. The Uber/Airbnb wake-up call has probably shocked leadership, and at probably every business in the world. Some of the ‘grey hairs’ do get it because they’ve been burned once, twice or three times before by the effects of digital disruption.”

But dig down and many executives are vague about what constitutes a strong digital experience and how to achieve it. Identifying specific quality issues, managing cost and (that old fundamental conundrum) knowing where to start from are all widely cited in the survey.

Part of the art of mastering the digital experience is not to treat it as a one-off project but rather as a longer process of continuous improvement and iteration to improve quality and consistency, Page argues. To that end, Actual Experience has signed multi-year global agreements with companies like Verizon and Vodafone.

Page believes that there is a “competitive imperative” for best practices to emerge.

“Quality is an easy word to use but it’s hard to do. “You have to continuously iterate. If you don’t start now then in a year you’re going to be inconsistent, low-quality and years behind your peers.”

Pressed for an iconic example of a company doing it right, he names Sainsbury’s Bank, the bank that is wholly owned by the UK supermarket chain.

“One of them we should be proud of as Brits is Sainsbury’s Bank,” he says, praising the speed and consistency of its service across devices and software.

For Page, “Digital is not a technology problem anymore, it’s a business problem”, but he says that technologists also need to change their attitudes and switch from a reactive to a proactive position.

“They’re brilliant at putting out fires and when there are no fires they’re not that interested. They’re like fire fighters where their mind sets are 100 per cent focused on the fire and they’ll play pool until the next fire.”

But won’t the importance and size of opportunity that Actual is targeting attract bigger consulting competitors, especially as the likes of IBM and Accenture have recently shown an appetite for buying smaller digital service specialists like Tequila, Bluewolf and Cloud Sherpas?

“We tend to partner with them but the thing were trying to solve is the elephant in the room and I’m sure it won’t be too long [before more large players focus on this]. We’re pushing at open doors.”

As more of our world becomes digital and home pages and apps become virtual front doors to brands, those doors are likely to remain ajar.

 

Related reading:

Bluewolf CEO sees pack of prospects in Salesforce consulting

Appirio won’t follow Bluewolf into sale

Accenture scales summit with Cloud Sherpas deal

No longer fugly, SAP makes a surprising UX splash

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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