Engineering Customer Experiences – Broadening the Perspective of Digital Analytics


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At the recent Digital Analytics Association Symposium in Washington D.C., I was on a panel with the somewhat grandiose topic of the “Future of Digital Analytics.” Jim Sterne moderated and his first question – which caught me half by surprise since Jim tends to trust his panelists and we don’t do much in the way of prep – was “What’s different or new for you since the Ernst & Young acquisition?”

It’s a great question. Much of the work we’re doing hasn’t changed. We’re still creating Web analytics implementations, still building dashboards (though with our recent focus on Predictive Dashboarding they’ve gotten cooler), and still doing lots of real analysis – from Use Cases to Digital Segmentation to Functionalism. Business as usual.

But there are some differences. The range of analysis projects I’m seeing here at EY is considerably broader than what Semphonic typically dealt with. The diversity of analytics projects here is truly amazing. In a few short months, I’ve seen projects ranging from wearable analytics to set-top analytics to social media targeting to competitive landscaping to traditional customer analytics projects around churn and segmentation. That’s pretty cool.

For me, however, the biggest change has come from our integration with EY’s existing Customer Group. The integration of a Customer Practice with a Digital Analytics Practice wasn’t uppermost in my mind with the EY acquisition, but I’ve quickly come to believe that it’s central to our future value proposition and to the role and function of digital analytics.

Shaping the customer experience has always been a significant piece of what Semphonic did. Our practice was heavy on site and mobile app analytics techniques that were clearly focused on improving the digital experience. Techniques like Use-Case Analysis and Functionalism are all about using analytics to optimize experience. The digital segmentation that is fundamental to our practice has similar uses. Targeted Marketing and personalization are, after all, simply ways of optimizing experience to create local maxima.

But it would revisionist to claim that we thought about ourselves as engineering customer experiences. We didn’t. We thought about improving Websites or Apps. The difference may seem modest, but particularly in a multi-channel world, it’s hugely significant. At Semphonic, we weren’t striving to improve the whole experience. We weren’t focused on defining the appropriate digital role. We simply worked to optimize the pieces of that experience that happened to be digital. This wasn’t really customer-first thinking.

That’s just not optimal.

We all know that digital is transformative. It’s a mega-trend, impacting almost every industry in fundamental ways. In particular, it’s changing the way industries as different as Pharma, Health-Care, Banking, Brokerage, Insurance, Travel and Hospitality, Technology, Retail and even the Public Sector interact with their customers.

Transforming those interaction patterns isn’t all about digital. Yes, the digital experience is increasingly central. But it’s a piece of the overall experience and, since it’s often a new and evolving piece, it’s critical to understand how it fits into the broader customer journey.

That’s what EY’s Customer practice is all about – engineering experiences that work across the entire set of client touchpoints, online and offline. It’s about fundamentally re-thinking business process from the customer perspective. I love this idea of engineering customer experience. It feels fundamental and important. People are consumed, these days, with creating great customer relationships and with improving NetPromoter Scores. That’s fine. But customer relationships aren’t formed in a vacuum. They are, ultimately, nothing more than the sum of your customer’s experience’s with your brand. Good experiences create strong relationships. It’s that simple. So getting those experiences right at every touch is the cornerstone of building customer relationships and strengthening the brand.

To do that well requires a different perspective than anything provided by “point” analytics techniques. You have to start with the customer and work across the channels.

It’s also the right use for our practice’s brand of analytics. This isn’t a one way street. Not only is experience engineering fundamentally an analytics exercise, but the techniques we’ve created for digital analytics are a huge value-add on top of a traditional customer practice.

Think about it. Our Two-Tiered Segmentation is a perfectly generalizable foundation for understanding how to think about experience engineering. Our Customer Intelligence System is the logical way to drive that type of customer-driven analytics on a cross-channel basis. Our Use-Case framework, App Measurement Framework and Functional Analytics provide the engines for assessing current digital experience and measuring improvement.

Tight integration of measurement in experience engineering doesn’t just add a new layer to experience engineering; it changes the exercise from one of subjective visioning and re-implementation to a virtuous-cycle of continuous, data-driven improvement.

These days, it’s hard to imagine a large-scale customer experience that doesn’t include digital elements. The Web, Mobile Apps, and Social Communities play a role in almost every type of customer experience. If you can’t assess the actual performance of those channels and you can’t optimize and tune them, how can you plausibly claim to engineer the overall experience?

Combining the two practices really is a win-win proposition.

EY’s Customer practice brings a relentless focus on customer-first, the broader methods of experience engineering, the non-digital perspective, and the methods and ability to tackle the whole process to the table. Our Digital Analytics Practice provides measurement discipline and the unique ability to assess the digital current-state, rapidly and cost-effectively understand customer attitudes and drivers of choice using digital research methods, and measure and tune every digital touchpoint.

Put those two together and you have a unique capability to address the wide-set of problems where one of the keys to success is finding the right role for digital in the context of a broader customer experience problem.

It’s just this simple; these days, building great customer experiences is almost never about just digital and it’s almost never without some digital.

If you want to engineer those customer experiences to be optimal, the lessons and the measurement discipline we’ve learned in digital are vital. Segmentation is essential. Customers aren’t all alike. That segmentation is inherently two-tiered: you need to understand who customers are (traditional segmentation) but you also need to understand intent – what each customer is trying to accomplish. You need to be able to measure not just whether an experience is successful, but why it works or doesn’t work. And you need to be able to create a virtuous cycle of improvement where effective measurement is embedded deeply in the whole process: from the initial assessment of what’s working and what isn’t to the creation of a future-state vision of what’s possible to the ongoing development, testing and selection of experience alternatives

For me, it’s exciting to see a deep and unexpected synergy and a whole new way to take the measurement techniques we’ve evolved and apply them to a broader and more significant range of problems. It seems to me inevitable that customer-focused experience engineering will become a big part of the broader context for digital analytics and a core part of how we think about and describe what we do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Angel
Gary is the CEO of Digital Mortar. DM is the leading platform for in-store customer journey analytics. It provides near real-time reporting and analysis of how stores performed including full in-store funnel analysis, segmented customer journey analysis, staff evaluation and optimization, and compliance reporting. Prior to founding Digital Mortar, Gary led Ernst & Young's Digital Analytics practice. His previous company, Semphonic, was acquired by EY in 2013.


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