Plutora Blog - Release Management, Software Development, Value Stream Management
Digital Experience: Your Complete Guide to Customer DelightReading time 13 minutes
Even when you have great product ideas and an awesome development team to code it into existence, making sure your customers experience delight often demands more from you. Almost every company now has to run on the back of some software (an app or a central website). Making sure clients for a business built around a system or an app are happy largely requires a digital experience (DX) campaign that wouldn’t be necessary for a business model that depends on walk-in service delivery. The latter requires more people skills than digital experience tweaks. Some businesses still delight their customers offline in analog ways. But if they, too, were to engage their clients through online interactive systems, the same question would arise. How can you delight your customers with digital experiences?
This article will steer you through the sort of thinking that ensures a software development team and the rest of the company are pulling in the same direction. A situation which predictably gets consistent results. Chasing the same goal across the entire product pipeline improves the speed of delivery. It also creates a happier customer or user base.
Usually, an article like this would begin straightaway with a glossary of terms. However, just so we’re on the same page, let’s look at a plausible business simulation. Not everyone reading this runs their products through the same sets of processes before releasing them. They have enough in common, though, that I can still illustrate the main points. Then you will be able to apply what you learn here to your own business. I’ll have to make a few assumptions first, though.
Assumption 1: Company Layout
First, your business has a software team creating new software or providing incremental revisions to ensure that what you already have remains relevant to your customers. And there are various departments tethered to this core mission: marketing, accounting, human resources, and customer support. At the very least, your company should be able to make a product, tell people what it is, and hire support people to keep users engaged to the fullest. Right? Great! Depending on how many people you have across these departments, keeping entire teams working at the same pace can be a daunting task. The pace is just one of the many variables that you should ensure is in sync across your departments if you want to create delightful customer experiences.
Assumption 2: Everyone Loves Their Tools
The second assumption we’ll make is that you are not using a comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to run the entire outfit. Such a kit would have all your teams log in daily and track their work until they knock off at the end of the day. In the event that you are: kudos! However, programmers work very differently from the marketing department. They will most likely have different project management tools, including integrated development environments, that wouldn’t work very well for marketing teams. Nor would marketing teams be able to understand what they were looking at if they had access to the developers’ tools. So in all likelihood, you will have a cascading stack of various tools at each level of the product development chain.
Very few solutions exist that can bring together all the data accreted in the diagram above in such a way that can increase delivery velocity. As such, meetings have to be conducted now and again just to find out how much progress the development guys have made toward deadlines carved in stone by the marketing folks. Consequently, the more complex your company organogram is, the more meetings you’ll have to schedule. That’s an unpleasant process that chews into time and even the zeal necessary to keep teams working on the product. And guess what: customers suffer when they have to use a product created by sad guys.
Alright, now that we are on the same page, let’s dive right into the reason you’re still reading.
Digital Experience: The Thought Process
By now it should be apparent that the marketing department isn’t the only one responsible for making the customer happy. It can help when the product is pushed out with social media management, hype casting, and whatnot. However, every team in your product delivery and value stream strategy should know what the end goal is. It is inevitable that bottlenecks will slow down traffic during the journey. With the right tools, though, you can mitigate them in time so that the product can still live up to the hype created at the marketing level. Creating good digital experiences requires taking every department’s speed into account and determining what is required of each by the overall strategy. To make sure that everyone you talk to after reading this is on the same page, let’s define two key terms.
Digital Experience vs Customer Delight
The digital experience starts within your company. It matters how your teams interact with equipment and software when making products. It then extends beyond your doors when the product meets the customer. At this point, if the software is your final product, a few things come into focus. The digital experience becomes how your product looks and responds when the user sees the interface and passes data and commands into it.
Customer delight is the emotional effect that a digital experience triggers. As such, a good customer’s digital experience will mostly result in delight. Often, the things you focus on internally will determine where your digital experience lands on either end of the delight scale. The hard part is that delight sometimes depends ultimately on the entire customer experience, not just the single things you focused on internally. You need a water-tight digital experience strategy from the get-go in order to check all the boxes.
The speed with which your digital product executes + how it looks. Add what your marketing crew sold vs. what is real + how well your product solves your customers’ problems. The result = the customer’s digital experience.
What You Can Do About This
The equation above is possible when you deploy cross-functional teams. Big companies like Facebook and Google have implemented such measures. They do this in order to make sure all departments pull in the same direction at all times. When organizing how data from one level of the product delivery conveyor belt is absorbed and assimilated by the next, speed alone can ruin things. Think instead of velocity. Speed is better if it is accompanied with direction and goals. The left side of the customer delight equation happens inside the product factory. Your company must create a good internal digital experience before you can do the same for your customers. To paint a rather sharp description of what that means, imagine trying to make apps using slow machines from a decade ago and expecting your customers to experience what they’re used to now.
Get the Digital Experience Correct First!
The axiomatic relationship between digital experience and customer delight gives a strategic IT leader the upper hand. The earlier you start thinking about digital experience, the better your chances of striking gold. Let’s look at the moment your business development team comes up with an idea. Quickly running concepts through the technical guys for feasibility is wise. Not only do you save time by not trying to develop an impossible idea (like having the website to make tea), including both teams increases their chemistry. And that’s vital if you want your project to end well.
There are plenty of other instances where a good digital experience enhances your chances of hitting the customer delight bullseye. Using the best tools on the market at each stage is one way to do it. Regardless of how hard it will be for the teams to share data at first, their increased productivity and quality levels will stack up. This last point brings us to the inevitable data issue. When handled correctly, it can remove doubts about achieving near-perfect customer satisfaction.
The fact that different software tools are used at each team level suggests that different things matter to them.
Typical Department Requirements
- Marketers want to know how many people are reading their content. They might need to see how their social media campaigns are performing in order to stop the bleeding budget.
- Accountants want to know how much money is coming in from subscriptions or purchases. Noticing a dip in their numbers allows them to suggest that appropriate departments carry out corrective action.
- Developers typically want to know if their product version looks anything like the intended final. Feedback from management and marketing either confirms completion or initiates sessions of debugging.
- Top management wants to know how close the entire outfit is to reaching expected collective company objectives.
- Human resources wants to track attendance and productivity.
Making sure each department’s specific requirements are met is the first step toward a good internal digital experience. If you’ve been involved in the policy formulation amendment process, you’ll likely agree that large corporations create productivity bottlenecks. (Here’s NASA’s process for reference.) Once you have concluded this stage and satisfied the compliance gods, we can move to the data question.
Dealing With Data During Production
At every stage of your product’s metamorphosis, hordes of data accumulate. And you often have to present that data during meetings we agreed not to have too many of. Contrary to your best efforts, you may end up trashing a lot of potentially useful information when you don’t have a way to condense it in ways that are useful for decision making. The different tools used, and whether or not they can export to the same file type, is the first thing that comes to mind. But you also need to present the right data to the right people in a way that helps them make better decisions. For that you need visualization. It would undermine the entire point of this article if you had to employ someone to waste hours turning CSV files into charts so that upper managers can detect trends.
Most modern tools can turn numbers into charts. However, the sheer number of reports and logins that management would have to go through on a regular basis (daily in some cases) would make the work too time-consuming. You need a software company that can integrate your entire stack and pull data from each tool and pass useful information to the other stages in the line.
A Guaranteed Customer Delight Strategy
When you solve the data presentation problem, you should be on your way to delivering good-looking products. Your software should be aesthetically impressive. It will have been developed with the least amount of time taking tasks back and forth on the scrum board. And it will have solved the problem. Nothing hurts a product more than being complete but useless and not solving the need that inspired the project in the first place. It certainly hurts customer delight too. A holistic approach to attaining customer delight is the way to go: from the inside, out. You cannot just throw money at this problem if you have no solid internal process to deal with upgrades when the time to scale comes.
Assuming that you’ve passed the foundation state with flying colors, here’s the strategy:
- Start with your customer’s digital experience. Most customers will try your product if it looks appealing. This is the part your programming team can fix.
- Get the entire brand to go along with the product. The marketing team should have a good marketing plan set in motion.
- Prepare a star-studded cast behind service desks. Your support team.
With these, you will have plugged the possible leak holes. The entire experience equation then tips toward a good outcome, often in the form of a growing number of users. Nothing to worry about since you already have people ready with scalability reports and action plans waiting. All this is only possible when the results touted by the marketing team tally with the users in the database growth rates. The same metrics are also visible as charts through a value stream map accessed by top management.
Business decisions made in such a scenario complement each product development level’s viewpoints. At this point, it becomes immaterial which tools you use to create the product. Nor does it matter which software you use to manage the support emails that are pouring in. Value stream management platforms (VSMP) such as Plutora’s solution for our hypothetical business’s conundrum provide a lot of insight, regardless of the tools used at each stage of the product development phase, not to mention the amount of time you’d save not having to teach your already competent team new skills for custom-made tools.
Replicating Customer Delight
Having a consistent stream of happy clients is by no means a fluke. If standards are documented and hardcoded into business processes, success replication becomes almost automatic. And having the advantage of the best tools at each stage and in each department goes a long way in the search for perfection. The inclusion of more than a single skilled participant in the various levels of development also counts. However, you don’t necessarily have to sit a marketing creative among your programmers to attain this. Instead, you can open virtual windows into each department’s progress reports when you need them. This way, you can see potential bottlenecks and nip them in the bud.
Companies that have defied critics and the worst expectations by creating hit after hit would, when dissected, confirm the above. For one, they process what looks like a blanket of data into useful information. Their teams have the kind of covalency that’s only possible when they’re working toward the same objectives. The best companies use Plutora’s VSMP to stay ahead of the competition and ensure only a very small amount of time passes between an idea and its deployment.
Think about having the best luminaries coming up with new ideas to solve problems. Then surround them with product development teams that are all working toward the same goals. Furnish them with an omniscient view of the product’s status. The project will hardly ever derail because a specialized API analyzes potential choke points. Topping all that is a marketing team that realistically describes the product’s capabilities, and a team that delivers it on the promised day to an eager market. Our made-up company will have attained psychological safety and be only a few steps (maybe versions) short of engineering a product that takes its target customer by surprise with delight.