At Ness, we help our partners navigate through and find success in the digital economy. Our Chief Digital Officer, Mark Lister, in this expansive Q&A, talks about how Ness ensures compelling user-experience and design and why it is not possible to provide the “perfect” customer experience.
What do you do in your role as Chief Digital Officer?
My job is to bring user perspectives and expectations to the table and to challenge our customers and the vision they have for their businesses. Are they being ambitious enough in the age of digital disruption? We help companies realize what’s possible when user experience strategy and design is done properly and used as the foundation for rapid, iterative and transparent delivery of successful software. It’s all about creating well-thought-through solutions and putting those solutions in the hands of the users who value them – and improving them with their feedback. And we keep learning from the best examples out there in the market to improve and challenge our own thinking.
How does Ness work with customers on their approach to user experience and design?
We help customers uncover new business opportunities by providing a valuable outside perspective on their business. We typically begin the process by conducting interviews with stakeholders and actual users before we collate ideas around how we can enhance the user experience or create a new one. During our competitive research phase, we uncover opportunities that businesses often miss because they’re so focused on day-to-day initiatives. Great ideas from other sectors are often the catalyst for new and disruptive thinking to change deeply-embedded attitudes. After we uncover opportunities and challenge our customers to transform their focus, we partner with them in applying our innovative design thinking to bring solutions to life. Invariably, they generate value – insights, brand equity or financial results – almost immediately.
Is it possible to provide the perfect customer experience?
No. You can’t perfect something that is always changing. What you can do is commit to making it better all the time. You do this by engaging with the people who use the product and find out the minutiae around how they use it, which is often in unexpected and unintended ways.
A common mistake many companies make is they focus too much on internal processes. They need to step into the shoes of their customers and understand their needs and how it fits into their working life. Listening carefully and acting on fresh insights is the route to continuous improvement; your customers will respect that and are likely to tell their friends.
Can you provide some examples of companies that are excelling in their customer experience?
I’ve been impressed with Adobe, which has reinvented its business model. In the past, Adobe would sell a CD of software for thousands of dollars and customers would maybe need to upgrade three or four years later. It changed its business model by moving to the cloud and using a subscription-based model with a lower dollar entry point. This helped the company to gain and retain more customers at a rapid pace. And, they’ve added service offerings which strengthen their reputation as the best-in-class solution used by experts for experts. They’ve created a club you want to be a part of.
Intuit is another great example. The company has taken a design-led approach to make its financial software easier to use. Its software can be used without the need for a financial adviser; everything can be done on a self-serve basis at home, which is why it’s so successful with small and medium enterprises. Like Adobe, the company has made impressive strides to make its software accessible to more of its target users.
Are there certain industries that are taking advantage of digital technologies? Are some industries lagging behind?
The financial services industry is incredibly dynamic at the moment with FinTech startups disrupting every aspect of the financial landscape. There is so much scope for radically changing the traditional fee structure, that disintermediation is forcing change with astonishing speed. Take a look at the value propositions of TransferWise for travel money or Funding Circle in Peer-to-Peer lending. Those are the sorts of companies that I can imagine using and would never have considered a year ago.
Certain publishing companies are having a hard time transitioning to digital platforms. They frequently view the history of their brand and their journalism as sacrosanct – but they play a risky game when so much comparable content is available for free and ad-blocking software challenges their existing business model. They frequently don’t even understand the need to invest in new technology and digital workflows and, as a result, are falling behind. However, there are new publishing businesses that have embraced the digital ecosystem by understanding the new channels of opportunities. I’d always promote the offers of The Economist and The Atlantic as case studies in how to put amazing content together for a modern audience and succeed.