There are so many benefits to digitizing the customer experience. But there is a danger that as organizations invest in data solutions, they may see customers as data and not humans.
While many customers welcome the digital experience for convenience and efficiency, it can also mean that the relationship becomes disconnected and transactional. Without imparting any brand values, companies may fail to communicate emotion and drive loyalty.
These dilemmas were under discussion at the recent CX APAC virtual event produced by Forrester, where global investment firm T. Rowe Price offered insights from its recent digital transformation.
Like many companies in the financial services sector, T. Rowe Price has been on a path of ongoing digital transformation. An early part of this project was to transform the account open process for customers wanting to invest in the mutual funds the company offers.
Harsha Thayi, the senior manager of user experience at T. Rowe Price, said the project team was a large one, comprising product owners, legal, compliance, and people from the call center and the technical team.
Using an agile approach, they incorporated what they thought was extensive user feedback into the first iteration of the landing page.
“We were truly working to transform the end-to-end account opening process,” said Thayi. “And being one of the first projects in the journey, there was a lot of visibility for this right up to the C Suite.”
Wrong data-driven assumptions
The first iteration was launched after 16 weeks, and then the early verdict came in.
“It was a week or two after launch. And after our daily standup on a Friday morning, the business intelligence guys said the analytics were showing a 37% drop off in the first page of the experience,” said Thayi.
The percentage drop-off utterly wrongfooted everyone. Wasn’t the new sign-up page the product of weeks of collaborative work by all stakeholders? Hadn’t it been road-tested through research?
Thayi conceded that he and his team had no hypothesis to explain the drop-off. The first page was a straightforward form where clients were not asked any personal details, just their name, age, email, and how much they planned to invest.
One step Thayi and his team took was to implement an investigation using the tools from usertesting.com, which delivered an unmoderated collection of customer responses within a matter of hours in video form.
These videos showed that users were expecting to go to a page with more descriptions of the account features.
The designers had assumed that anyone who landed on this page was already a converted customer, which was premature.
“They were looking for more details on the account features, such as minimum investment amounts and fees before they could get into starting to enter their details,” said Thayi. “We were so focused on the account opening experience that we didn’t put the same amount of rigor into the experience, which actually leads the users into opening an account.”
In this case, the rapid feedback provided a clear insight into the problem, which was addressed and set the company up for success.
Invest in the human experience
It was a lesson, said Thayi, in investing in human insights to drive better CX rather than making assumptions and reducing the experience to a purely transactional level.
From usertesting.com, chief insights officer Janelle Estes told the CX APAC event that investing in human insight results in a six-time return on investment, equivalent to USD 2 million in benefits to an organization over three years.
Many organizations also invested in their CX during the pandemic, which changed the customer relationship.
Forrester’s recent research shows that this had driven an improvement in outcomes as measured by its Customer Experience Index, with 21% of brands registering an improved outcome compared with 2020.
“As the coronavirus crisis worsened, brands responded to evolving customer needs with digital transformation, new shopping options, and different ways to interact with customers that emphasized safety,” Forrester said. “The increase in scores can be attributed to the goodwill the brands built with customers — their CX equity — in creating experiences that reassured customers of their safety.”
Industries in the pandemic's crosshairs had mixed performance: Airlines, credit card issuers, health insurers, hotels, and retailers were especially challenged by COVID-19 because the crisis disrupted their business models or taxed their services. However, against this headwind, health insurers performed best, with most providers improving their scores.
"Brands must build experiences that help them empathetically engage with their customers, especially during volatile times," said Harley Manning, vice president, and research director with Forrester.
"We know this is important because experiences associated with positive emotions, such as resolving issues quickly and demonstrating empathy, create and sustain customer loyalty. But, to do this well, CX pros must have a disciplined approach to envisioning, designing, and delivering consistently high-quality experiences."
Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and DigitalWorkforceTrends, and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/BlackSalmon