Three Overlooked Truths About the Digital Experience

By Nancy Porte | 11.20.17

“Digital” has become synonymous with convenience and immediacy. Want to make a reservation? A few seconds on your phone and the job is done. Looking to research a new product or service? A visit to Google, a social site, or an online community, is often the first step.


So, it’s no wonder that digital is all the rage among marketers today. We’re all consumers; we know that consumers want fast access to information, and want to use the channel that makes the most sense at the time and for the situation at hand.


Understandably, as consumers’ digital habits have matured, marketers have naturally come to appreciate the dramatic impact that digital experience (DX) has on customer experience (CX), for better or worse. On the extreme end of the spectrum are the tales of woe when DX goes horribly wrong and the impact on consumers is immediate and tangible. When an airline’s systems go down and leave travelers stranded, or a popular weight loss application crashes on Thanksgiving, it makes the headlines.


Increasingly though, there’s a far greater appreciation of the role that subtle aspects of DX have on customers, their loyalty, and how they feel about the brands they do business with. That’s of course a very good thing. CX professionals must consider DX as important as a phone or in-person exchange. And DX professionals must include and draw on CX to ensure that what they deliver is not only customer-focused, but also consistent with the business, channels, and brand they seek to strengthen.


For that reason, it’s never been more important to make a counterintuitive, even contradictory distinction: DX and CX are not one in the same. In fact, confusing the two can create problems—big problems. Consider a few often-overlooked truths:


1. Just because you can bring a new DX offering into operation doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s face it, most DX professionals love technology. And most technophiles are genuinely excited when something new comes along. Even so, having the ability to shape the customer experience with the shiniest new gadgetry or most novel software code doesn’t mean you should.


Ask yourself first, will this really help my customers? Chatbots, for example, are useful in many applications, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a good fit for every business, every customer, or every customer interaction. They’re somewhat primitive at this point, so offering them for functions beyond their capabilities could cause frustration and dissatisfaction for your customers. Overly complex sales, such as those for investment portfolios, often necessitate too many questions for the artificial intelligence and real-time data most organizations have at their disposal today. Setting the expectation that a customer could complete that complex sales transaction—only to have them fail—creates an early dissatisfaction from which it can be difficult to recover.


2. Customers don’t want to start over.

A customer is pleased with his purchase, but has questions about the assembly. Your DX system worked flawlessly and gathered information on the situation and the product in question from the pleasantly surprised consumer, who is now on the phone with the right agent at your customer service center. The digital experience aligned perfectly with the customer experience until the customer heard five dreaded words: “How can I help you?” With those words, the representative is letting the customer know he wasted 10 minutes and is now back to the starting point.


When DX is viewed in a vacuum and the information that stems from it isn’t properly relayed throughout the organization for use in other channels, such as the call center or in person, customers inevitably feel let down. The harsh reality is that if your digital efforts operate in isolation or the information they glean is not immediately used to provide the contextual awareness required to foster a great customer experience, your DX efforts could be doing as much harm as good.


3. Consumers have different views on DX. And your customers do, too.

It’s well understood that millennials are drawn to the digital experience and fast to embrace mobile and automated channels—a fact I’m reminded of when I look at how my daughter and I approach banking. She turns to her phone. I turn to the local branch. We all accept that there are very real differences in how different age groups view DX, but often forget that all consumers, no matter how old they are or where they live, prefer different channels for different situations. Not only must the DX be consistent and complementary of the customer experience you’re trying to create, but it also should make it easy for customers to engage the channel they prefer at that moment.


Last year, as part of Verint’s survey research of more than 24,000 consumers globally, we sought to better understand this dynamic and what we refer to as the Digital Tipping Point—the point at which consumers prefer to interact with people rather than through digital means. The research found that even those in Generation Y prefer to speak with a real human being as customer service situations grow more complex. Likewise, we also discovered there are unique differences between geographies. For example, most consumers in the U.S. and U.K. prefer to contact their service providers online, while consumers in France, Germany, and Japan prefer to visit the store or branch office when faced with the same situation.


The key takeaway is that even if your customer is the epitome of the connected, digital consumer, great CX still requires effectively trained employees who can quickly and seamlessly access the information they need to make sound decisions, and who have the authority to act on it.


Creating a powerful partnership between DX and CX

These observations all reflect the fact that DX and CX are, in the best scenario, a wonderful partnership to strengthen customer engagement. It also demonstrates why the lines of communication between both teams should be stronger than ever. It’s time for marketers and CX professionals to seriously consider how they collaborate with the DX team in their own efforts. 


One simple, yet powerful way to do this is to ask the DX team to participate in customer journey mapping activities on a regular basis. Doing so will ensure that the digital side of the business, including any new digital offerings, integrate seamlessly with all of the processes you have in place to support the customer experience. This collaboration works in reverse, as well. Working with the DX team can also uncover opportunities to add new DX functionality that supports the spirit of your ongoing CX efforts and overall marketing effectiveness.


DX will continue to play a significant, important and growing role in CX as new innovations continue to improve how we share and use information in even the most challenging customer service and marketing situations. Even so, always remember that CX—and ultimately its success or failure—will always be shaped by an organization’s ability to address each customer’s needs and how they prefer to engage at that moment, whether it’s via app, chat, email, phone, or in person.


New channels will proliferate, and the consumer demand for consistency and high service levels across all of those channels will never wane. Remembering that DX and CX are not the same, but are inextricably linked, is the first step in ensure success across all available access points.

About the Author

Nancy Porte, CCXP, is the vice president of Global Customer Experience at Verint, a board member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association and a frequent speaker at industry events where often presents on her passion: developing meaningful customer experiences through the collaboration of numerous business functions and effective employee engagement.

Find Nancy on LinkedIn and at @nporte