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Digital Experience

By Randy Robinson, VP of IT, Customer Solution, Unum [NYSE:UNM]

Randy Robinson, VP of IT, Customer Solution, Unum [NYSE:UNM]

Customer Expectations

When Apple released the first iPhone in 2007 followed closely by Google’s Android phone in 2008, the digital landscape began to change. As adoption of the new smartphones increased, customers became increasingly dependent upon their new handheld devices. Users now expect to be able to leverage this technology to conduct business.

The era of single or dual-channel customer engagement has long since passed. Companies cannot hope to compete in the digital marketplace with web sites and call centers alone. Customers expect a rich experience using their preferred technology. Companies that understand this demand and focus on delivering rich solutions in this digital marketplace will remain relevant and competitive.

An omni-channel digital experience strategy is essential to compete in the digital marketplace. Companies that recognize how their customers want to interact with them and can deliver relevant solutions which will have higher customer retention.

While call centers, mail, e-mail, social media, etc. play a vital role in servicing our customers, this paper will focus on two key digital aspects of an omni-channel strategy: web sites and mobile apps.

Understanding How Our Customers Want to Interact with Us

Consumers have many options today. They can pick up a phone, send a fax, letter or email, visit a web site, use a mobile phone, tablet or smart watch. Smart companies will use tools like analytics and surveys to better understand their customers.

"An omni-channel digital experience strategy is essential to compete in the digital marketplace"

• Step 1 is understanding who the customers are. Different age groups may choose to interact with businesses using different channels. Younger users are very open to the idea of using mobile apps for this level of interaction.

• Step 2 is defining which channels will satisfy most customers.

• Step 3 is building those channels using a customer-first perspective.

Web Channels

Most companies start with their web sites, since that is a familiar landscape. The web is a mature technology, and most companies have access to experienced web developers. Modernizing a web site to meet the demands of the digital customer involves many tasks including:

• Ensure that the sites can be consumed on the devices owned by your customers (i.e. responsive / adaptive design).

• Focus on the user experience (i.e. usability, performance, compatibility) and make the necessary design changes to meet customer expectations.

• Focus on security. Companies must establish security protocols and practices to ensure that their data and their customers’ data, remains secure.

APIs and Web Standards

To achieve these goals, companies must focus on delivering services and information quickly and securely. In many cases, this involves writing or re-writing web services to restful JSON APIs.

Companies should plan their security protocols carefully. They should consider whether they are servicing consumers only, or whether they need to provide business to business (B2B) connectivity. Leveraging industry standard protocols (e.g. OAUTH 2.0) with appropriate encryption in place is essential.

The API layer is where all the data interaction occurs. The APIs should be designed so they can be used by the web sites, mobile apps and any B2B interactions.

Mobile Channels

Companies must decide how they wish to deliver a superior customer experience using mobile technology. In some cases, re-using responsive and/or adaptive web content in a mobile container may be acceptable. Often, however, customers expect native mobile applications tailored for their specific device.

Companies must carefully analyze the services provided by their web sites and determine which services need to be delivered via mobile apps. This analysis highlights the importance of analytics gathering on customer interactions.

The data from the analytics is used to target the specific mobile platforms used by their customers and to design apps tailored for those platforms.

Continuous Improvement

Customers expect companies to evolve and grow with technology advancements and trends. This requires diligence and investment to continually improve the web and mobile experience to keep them both relevant and continue to provide the customer with a rich, personalized and immersive experience.

Be loyal to your customers! Give significant consideration before making any major usability changes to your web sites or mobile apps unless the changes are driven by complaints. Customers appreciate improvements but may not like the “new interface” as much as the people behind it may think.

How Important is the Omni-Channel Strategy?

According to market research firm, eMarketer, there will be more than 2 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2016.

Companies that make the effort to understand who their customers are and how they wish to conduct business and create an omni-channel strategy to meet their customers’ expectations will be successful in the digital marketplace.

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