Digital Experiences that Delight and Engage Demand

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April 04, 2016
Mobile
Traci Terterian

This is the first article in a series that will focus on two core customer experience fundamentals that you can leverage to better position your company for delivering exceptional digital guest experiences,

Capturing the mindshare, hearts and unwavering loyalty of today's tech-hungry guests takes more than fancy website features, mobile apps and the latest on-site technologies. To survive in what industry analysts call "The post-PC era," hospitality companies must put in place the methods and skills to deliver innovative, high-value experiences that separate, evaluate and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Gone is the era of the “one size fits all” digital guest experience. Customers’ expectations have matured beyond the basic need for mobile-accessible, always-on services. Easy navigation and useful information are considered a must-have, not a differentiator. Next generation customer experiences are personalized, adaptive and predictive. Tomorrow’s industry leaders will be the companies that can successfully deliver the “right” experience, to the right customer persona, at the right time – before your customers know they need it. These experiences are contextually aware and predict a customer's next need. They merge the physical and the digital experience throughout a customer’s entire journey. For instance, if a guest experiences an air travel delay, a hotel experience of the future can detect the delay has happened and send a notification to the guest to automatically confirm a late arrival time. Additionally, if a guest is in the vicinity of the hotel, a mobile app can change from the in-transit interface to a more contextual in-house interface that delivers more contextual services, like ordering room service or interacting with a virtual concierge.
But what does it take to engage and satisfy customers at this caliber? How can hospitality companies keep up with increasing customer expectations and the constantly evolving technologies required to support them – all while struggling to keep the lights on?
Adopting a few core customer experience fundamentals can better poise your company to deliver the next-generation experiences that your guests are craving. The next two articles in this series will focus on each fundamental to dive deeper and offer practical tactics and techniques to achieve your digital experience goals.
 
 
IMPROVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND DIGITAL EXPERIENCE DESIGN PRACTICES
Moving from mediocre to magnificent requires that companies adopt and integrate customer experience and digital experience design best practices. For maximum success, leaders should focus on pragmatism, business value and time to market. Customer experience and digital experience excellence is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Identifying problems and opportunities, prioritizing them, and steadily moving forward is the key. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
1 Develop a Deeper Understanding of Your Customers
Analytics data, Web metrics and customer surveys are fine, but customer experience leaders embrace the value of qualitative and quantitative data. Get out of the office and interact with your customers. Walk a mile in their shoes, but do it fast. Great research doesn’t have to take months. Conduct contextual inquiries with guests in their own setting to develop empathy among your team. Use tools like journey maps and personas to capture and communicate guest experiences – including the good, the bad and the ugly. Share this information with stakeholders. Collectively identify touchpoints that can be improved and develop success criteria to measure the value of improvements and innovations.
 
2 Improve the Digital Experience
Leverage digital experience designers to quickly produce low-risk, rapid prototypes of your improvements. There is a plethora of software on the market for creating fast, low fidelity mock-ups. Test these prototypes early and often with customer experience teams, technology teams and customers to assure that the digital experience is:
• Meaningful: It solves the right problem
• Engaging and motivating
• Simplified, seamless and usable
Once tested and refined, use designers and coders to build high-fidelity artwork and production code. Engineering studies have proven that early testing and validation can shave 30 percent off the cost of rework that is typically associated with traditional development processes.
 
3 Measure, Analyze and Continuously Improve
While early prototyping and validation techniques can eliminate approximately 80 percent of usability issues that would otherwise make it into production, measurement, testing and refinement is necessary. The key for effectiveness is to do this fast and continuous. Many tools and systems of insight exist that can assist teams in quickly measuring, testing and correcting experiences in a fast, low-cost manner.
 
 
INSTITUTIONALIZE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT AND DRIVE CULTURE CHANGE
According to customer experience research analysts, in 2015 less than 25 percent of companies surveyed reported having a dedicated customer experience team. The role of customer experience is largely an informal, shared role across the executive team members. Subsequently, customer experience activities are not formalized, nor is there a clear, common understanding of customers across the organization. Organizations must strive to put into place more formalized, disciplined and proactive customer experience management. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and best practices available for companies of all sizes to assess their capabilities and build out a successful customer experience delivery model. Some characteristics that identify a mature customer experience organization include:

1. Proactive vs. reactive customer experience management
This is defined as companies that don’t just respond to customer problems, survey results or quality data. It is defined as having the management structure in place to ensure that the right experience is actively designed, shared and consistently delivered throughout the physical and digital customer experience.
 
2. A customer-centric company
Customer experience leaders nurture a company culture that puts the customer at the heart of everything they do. They establish a business-focused design leadership philosophy that empowers and inspires employees through shared understanding, to design and deliver breakthrough experiences that consistently deliver to your brand value.
 
3. Plan and prepare for tomorrow’s digital experience technology today
Many companies struggle to deliver a seamless, unified, simple experience across multiple channels and touchpoints due to limitations from older infrastructures, security constraints and fragmented systems of record. Keeping the lights on is the main priority, and added budget and resource constraints add increased complexity. However, resourceful executives are partnering with other line of business executives, such as CIOs, CMOs and customer experience teams to collectively win executive investment dollars for next-generation experience investments.
 
Traci Terterian is a user experience director with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
 
©2016 Hospitality Upgrade
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