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Great (customer) expectations: why digital services matter

(Image credit: Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock)

Imagine this. You’re browsing your favourite online retail store and looking to buy a few statement pieces before your next holiday. You click ‘go to checkout’ and everything slows down, or even worse, crashes altogether. Do you keep trying until the website eventually works? Probably not. Do you find another outlet which sells the same items but is working properly? More likely. This growing frustration and reliance on seamless digital services is key for modern businesses. Customers are becoming ever-more reliant on digital services which means stakes are high for businesses, with a higher expectation placed on enterprise application performance than ever before.

For modern businesses, having access to a deep level of insight about a consumer, and being able to interpret it rapidly, is the difference between a happy and loyal customer, and one that abandons the interaction and heads to another brand with a superior digital experience.

The businesses getting it right are utilising the advantage that application performance monitoring (APM) data gives them and understanding the story it tells. Whether it’s one of unexpected use cases, rising demand or experience pinch points, the story behind the data can guide businesses into new opportunities, revenues and even business models.

John Rakowski, market specialist for application performance management and analytics at AppDynamics, explores the relationship between application technology, customer experience, and the importance of businesses to build digital services which meet the performance expectation of the consumer.

Growing demand for ‘always on’ digital services

Consumer dependence on technology has increased dramatically over the last few years. The overwhelming adoption of smartphones and the mammoth investments made by organisations into digital services have changed the way consumers interact with their favourite brands.

According to the App Attention Index, over half of consumers rely on services like online banking and shopping to relieve the stress of their daily lives. Whether it's asking Alexa for the weather forecast, communicating with loved ones over social media, using wearables to track wellbeing and fitness, or checking the fastest route to work - applications across multiple devices are constant companions for the modern consumer.

To meet this growing demand, companies are investing heavily in developing digital services, the combination of applications and associated infrastructure, that support the move away from in-person interaction to digital channels. Disruptive fintech businesses, for example, are moving their businesses away from the high street and onto mobile devices. Against this backdrop, consumer and business expectations around user experience continue to rise. Two thirds of consumers report that their expectations of how well digital services should perform are increasing. Customers will settle for nothing less than flawless execution, demanding a reliable, personalised service, regardless of time, location or device.

Digital transformation and the customer journey

Digital transformation is pushing all industries to improve and of course there will be winners and losers. Customer experience is one of the biggest drivers for change, and the world’s leading technologists have reacted and are already well ahead of the game. Worryingly however, only 17 per cent of UK technologists are very optimistic that their organisation is ready for the rapid pace of technological change, according to our Agents of Transformation research.

Technologists - and the companies they work for - know that if they don’t transform their digital services to meet these rising consumer expectations, they run the risk of losing a competitive advantage. In fact, 48 per cent of IT professionals see themselves as lagging more than five years behind their competitors - a worrying figure as consumer demand and expectations are expected to continue to grow exponentially.

With the proliferation of digital services, customers are free to start, stop, resume or abandon their journey at any time, at any place and on any platform. But this freedom hasn't made them any more forgiving. Eight in 10 users have deleted apps because they have not performed correctly, and more than half have deleted an app or abandoned a website after just one attempt due to problems with performance. Customers hold a particularly high bar for the banking and insurance industry, with two thirds saying flawless performance is critical.

Of course, the biggest challenge for technologists is that the more intuitive and personalised the application becomes - serving up the desired consumer experience - the more complex things become in the back end infrastructure. For example, today's digital services rely on a complex web of distributed, diverse and highly interdependent technology stacks. When someone 'adds to cart', summons a search result, or places a comment, a single click triggers millions of lines of code and activates thousands of servers, so managing these applications, and tracking a single user across each of them, is a huge challenge.

But this complexity brings opportunity for leading technologists who adopt the right application performance monitoring and analytics solutions. Today’s digital services create a wealth of data in real-time, that if harnessed quickly, can provide valuable insights into how to further improve customer experience and continue to meet and exceed their expectations.

Utilising data to meet customer needs and expectations

Application Intelligence solutions have become vital to providing companies with visibility into distributed, complex applications so that issues can be spotted early, before they become widespread customer experience problems. These solutions also provide analytic capabilities that allow businesses to easily correlate the technical and business metrics with the overall business process, and drive insights into how to improve customer experience.

Whether it’s migrating to the cloud or breaking a monolithic application down into microservices - there are many different approaches to delivering a better user experience. When choosing their approach, successful organisations are guided by insights about their customers’ behaviour. They must also test and iterate against their hypotheses, using real-time insight into user behaviour and business outcomes to guide their development.

Real-time APM is helping businesses to gain visibility and insight about customer journeys at a more advanced level than ever before. And it’s no longer just a nice-to-have solution. APM is now critical to any business engaging or transacting with consumers over digital platforms, whether that be a website, mobile app, wearable software, smart home software or in-car software, to name just a few.

For businesses to get this right, it’s imperative that the applications underpinning digital services continually perform and are reliable for users. Performance that meets the expectations of the consumer is the foundation of any digital service and businesses forget this at their peril. Smart organisations will use their application insight quickly, to get closer to their customers, pre-empt performance issues and identify opportunities to innovate and improve.

John Rakowski, market specialist for application performance management and analytics, AppDynamics
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock