The Future Of The Online Customer Experience…Is Your Agency A Capable Partner?

May 4, 2010

 

To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers” Source: Forrester Research.

 Back in January of this year I read an article from Forrester authored by Moira Dorsey titled “The Future Of Online Customer Experience“ and it has remained top of my mind ever since. As I look at the plethora of agencies out there who all claim to be highly proficient at developing websites (and the associated customer experience), and contrast that with my actual experiences across a broad range of sites, I start to see a huge disconnect – especially when judged by the parameters described in the article!

 In her executive summary, the author gives out the following advice to marketers:

 “To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers.”

 I am not certain about your particular agency, however, I do not know of many who could deliver on the tenants listed above. What’s even more alarming is that many seem to be unaware that they need them in order to create highly engaging online customer experiences.

 After all, it’s not that hard to design a website and the optimum online experience, is it? The reality is that it’s no longer as simple as you might think:

 Information providers ranging from large companies to prolific individuals continue to flood the Internet with a tsunami of online information targeted at increasingly wired consumers. Proliferating Web sites vie for attention and in the last three years, the number of active sites has almost doubled. Literally tens of millions of additional sites divide consumer attention, making it less likely that any one site can both attract and retain mind share. So, what can we do to break through all this clutter?

 According to Forrester, there are four attributes that will define the next phase of online experiences

  • Customized by the end user. Consumers will not only control what they get online, they’ll control the form that they receive it in to a much greater degree than they do today.
  • Aggregated at the point of use. Content, function, and data will be pulled from different sources and combined at a common destination to create a unique experience.
  • Relevant to the moment. This customized, aggregated content will appear on the device that’s best suited to the customer’s context at a given point in time.
  • Social as a rule, not an exception. Social content will be integrated into most online experiences, not segregated into today’s blogs, micro blogs, and wikis.

 The article goes on to conclude that:

 Firms with poor online experiences today will fall further behind their competitors. People prefer rich online experiences — and their interest in new technologies indicates that they will love CARS experiences even more. That means the days of online experiences dominated by the page-and-PC-based paradigm are rapidly nearing their end. But even as online interaction capabilities grow, so too will the complexity of designing those experiences and the number of opportunities for mistakes that will frustrate customers. As a result, the gap between great and poor online experiences will become even more dramatic, and online customer experience leaders will gain even more of an edge over the competition. 

 Multi-touch-point evaluation and analytics will become must-haves. Measuring customer experience across multiple channels is still a major challenge for most firms. But consumers will increasingly use multiple apps, devices, and sites to complete a single goal — online and in conjunction with other channels. In response, customer experience professionals will create centralized groups to coordinate metrics and a common framework for measurement. And to make data integration manageable, they will focus on one channel pair at a time.

 I believe that for most agencies (even those digital icons within our industry) that this is a wakeup call and at very least food for thought. With the right approach, this could be an incredible opportunity for the agency world to regain that long lost position on top of the client value pyramid.