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Is your digital customer experience nirvana or a nightmare?

April 7, 2017

In this age of digital disruption, the move to digital customer experience seems inevitable.

Companies across industries are aggressively implementing a variety of digital technologies — from mobile apps to virtual reality — to enhance their customer experience.

But how much digital do customers really want?

The IBM Institute for Business Value took a step back from the buzz to ask this really fundamental question: Why would customers — who for years have been using traditional methods to engage and transact with companies like retailers, hotels and banks — be willing to adopt digital alternatives? It’s important to know the answer, because if companies get it wrong, they could be designing digital experiences that customers aren’t interested in adopting.

We learned that, in fact, companies cannot assume all consumers are digital enthusiasts. Our research uncovered alarming disconnects between what executives believe customers want from digital experiences, and what consumers say matters most.

Our research revealed three major disconnects between companies and consumers about digital customer experience.

For example, executives said they think customers adopt digital customer experience to have an improved sense of control. Consumers, however, ranked that near the very bottom of their list. Instead, they want time savings. Consumers don’t care if they have to engage with a person, so long as they get what they need quickly and conveniently. If “being in control” means having to figure out a new digital interface that isn’t intuitive, that becomes a liability. And voilà, you have just introduced a new pain point.

Perhaps the most troubling finding focused on consumers’ reasons for avoiding companies’ digital touchpoints. A subset of consumers in our study had tried companies’ digital options but had decided not to adopt them. It wasn’t because they had lost interest, or that the option to use these digital alternatives wasn’t readily available. Instead, their initial experience had somehow disappointed them. The initiatives didn’t work like people expected, weren’t convenient, or were too confusing or hard to use — deal-breakers all around.

Top reasons consumers are disappointed with companies' digital customer experience: 1. It didn't work as expected 2. It wasn't convenient 3. It was hard to use 4. It was too confusing

No one is suggesting that companies abandon their digital ambitions. In today’s competitive environment, digital innovations often create disruptive experiences that can differentiate a brand or create new business models. But this type of success only comes if a digital alternative offers a superior experience that eliminates customer pain points. It cannot just provide a marginal improvement over traditional customer engagement.

These are only a few highlights from our findings. Download the report, Digital disappointment — why some customers aren’t fans, for recommendations to help ensure your digital customer experience doesn’t miss the mark.


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Meet the author

Carolyn Heller Baird
Global Research Leader for Customer Experience and Design, IBM Institute for Business Value


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