Customer Experience Interview with Angel Tsvetkov, Progress Sitefinity
From Software to Experience Development
I am Angel, a Sr. Product Owner for Progress Sitefinity. I am driving the Sitefinity Cloud part of the Progress product portfolio. I do customer interviews, market research and work together with Engineering to ensure that we address the right problems and provide the right solutions. I am happy to work at Progress because I believe the company and I share the same values and goals. We develop the best platform for building and deploying the business applications of tomorrow, today.
A few months ago, I spent a week with my family in a SPA retreat. The concierge greeted us at the massive gate and promptly took care of our luggage and parked the car. At the reception, two kind ladies checked us in, with a smile. We grabbed a cup of coffee at the lobby bar, most welcome after a 2 –hour drive while our kids spent the time in the indoor playground across the hall. All pretty simple stuff so far, but we don't have that sort of time off very often. Throughout the day, hotel staff were treating us like old friends. I couldn’t help thinking how good that place was as I turned on the TV. A welcome screen with a "Good evening, Mr. Tsvetkov! We hope you and your family enjoy yourselves." Another one of those small touches that make a difference.
This is what customer experience means to me - the magical touch, the appreciation of simple things that simply work. Like magic, it’s not all in your face, bits of it are hidden and therefore even more enjoyable to discover.
There are two aspects of the customer experience, both linked and interdependent:
- Physical - our family in that place
- Digital - my wife on the phone or laptop
My wife opens Google on her mobile and starts searching for a family-friendly place (around 60% of all searches are done on mobile devices). An SEO optimized website and targeted online marketing make some of the hotels stand out from the crowd. High Google ranking and retargeting, which is another popular marketing approach, influenced her decision.
What does this mean?
The hotels that stand out leverage marketing tools to identify the most suitable set of keywords and targeting the right audience. Their websites are responsive and work equally well on any device. Pages that are not optimized for mobile have dropped in search engine rankings by 21%. That is accomplished by leveraging the right platform for building and hosting that website.
My wife focuses on the hotels that stand out and starts looking closer at her shortlist.
It takes about 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about the website, that is whether they like it or not, whether they stay or leave. First impressions are 94% design related. The website should be visually appealing. It should grab the visitor’s attention and keep it.
The website must be fast and capable of handling many visitors. My wife is not one to wait for too long. And if site gets slow or stops responding, she will switch to the next one. And she’s not an exception. 46% of people claim waiting for pages to load is what they dislike the most about browsing the web on mobile.
The information on the website should be up to date and grammatically correct. The content should be available in the customer's language. The information should be relevant to my wife, so she wants to feel like this exact website is custom-made for her and her current needs. 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.
What does this mean?
The platform where the website is hosted provides all the needed capabilities to the IT team to transform the ideas of the UX/Designers into reality. The platform should enable and support them in doing so, not limit them.
Having a fast website is a huge challenge, and again, the platform plays a significant role in that. All the best practices in place when it comes to the underlying infrastructure is critical.
There are tools and services that continuously check the content for syntax errors and save content editors time and effort.
And last but definitely not least, personalization. Your website should adapt to the customer based on the collected information.
Once she chooses the right hotel out of the few, she has shortlisted, it's time to book. The e-commerce part of the website should be seamlessly integrated.
What does this mean?
The information submitted through the website goes to another system where the transaction is de facto processed, and then a record goes to the hotel's CRM. My wife is going to receive personalized offers and marketing newsletters going forward. Another system that takes care of the hotel facilities is also integrated with the CRM so that when we check in, the room number will be added to my wife’s record, and everything we order, and purchase will also be added to that. Every cup of coffee, dinner for four or bicycle rent, all the information will end up in her profile.
This is how the hotel collects data throughout the entire customer experience and use that data to optimize it. Next time we visit the hotel, they will know our car number plate. The concierge will welcome us, get the keys, and will know which room to bring the luggage to. We will go to the lobby where my wife’s cappuccino and my ristretto will be kindly offered by the bartender who knows us from the last time.
Based on that story, my definition of Customer Experience is an iterative process that aims to move a customer from point A to point B by collecting data and getting better at it. Then, off to point C and so on.
If we look at the bigger picture, it's all about the data and how we collect it, how we interpret it, and how we take actions based on it. There are three types of challenges in delivering that first-rate customer experience:
The CMS that the companies choose to build their websites (brand identity) on should have the capabilities that power up the customer experience: personalization, A/B Testing, analytics, multi-channel content delivery being some of them. The good news is that there are great CMSs in the market, which is a pretty mature place overall. Of course, the right choice is always a balance between price, quality, available features and customer support. I think the quality is quite high across the board and the reason is the sufficient time these products have had to evolve. Nowadays, almost all of the CMSs can be extended, meaning that even if there isn't a particular capability available out-of-the-box, it can be developed. So, when you evaluate the CMS for your websites, the comparison is primarily based on the cost of ownership and the level of support the vendor provides.
All the systems that power up your customer experience should be up and running, hosted by yourself or hosted by the vendor. I strongly believe in the separation of duties and I think that companies should start choosing the products that are offered by the vendor as a Platform as a Service or Software as a Service. Taking that decision, you outsource the hustle of maintenance and support of the underlying infrastructure to the vendor. Otherwise, that's going to be a considerable investment for you, just maintaining it and keeping it in good shape. The general expectation is to have 83% of enterprise workload in the cloud by the end of this year.
The data is collected from system A, transmitted to system B and C, and leads to actions in system D. That's the main challenge, integration! In response to this challenge, there is a new market that has been evolving over the past several years, the Digital Experience Platform market. This is the ultimate bundle of tools and services, everything you need to build a compelling customer experience across multiple channels, devices and platforms. And here is the question - is it possible for a single vendor to build the best in class CMS, ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and so on. I believe that to have a sustainable and growing business, you need to aim to be number one in what you are doing. To achieve that, you need to have focus. Very few companies, if any at all, can build the entire stack of services to power complete digital experiences. And that's good - the more players on the market, the more competition, the better products.
I genuinely believe that the solution for building great customer experiences is called Digital Experience Platform, and that platform consists of products that are very well integrated and built by different vendors. That's going to be achieved by partnerships. At the end of the day, the customer doesn't want to purchase all the DXP pieces and integrate and configure them. The customer wants a fully integrated solution; the customer wants to pay a single bill. That could be achieved through partnerships between vendors.
The gap at the moment is related to the integration between products, especially delivered by different vendors. I think that gap could be bridged by a common DXP interface that defines a communication standard between different products. By implementing this interface, each product will ensure that it could be part of a DXP and will communicate with the rest of the products out-of-the-box.
We are living in a customer-centric world where the decisions are made by the individual. These decisions are based on the information we receive from a vast number of sources. Shall I buy this pair of shoes? Shall I stay in that hotel? Shall we buy that house?
To make those decisions, you will use social media, web, recommendations from friends and user reviews to collect enough information and make sure you are doing the right thing.
The entire process from intent to action is customer experience. That experience could be steered! The solution for managing these experiences is called a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). By improving the platform, we will help the experiences evolve as well.
This is my perspective on the customer experience and how the market evolves. I would love to hear yours.
One thing’s for sure, we are not developing software anymore; we are developing experiences!
Find out more about the event and read the interviews with Fintan, Fergal and Ronan.