The constant release of new features can erode customer trust, writes David Christie, intelligent engineering services lead for Accenture in Africa.
Businesses must release new, exciting digital experiences and products at higher velocities than ever before to remain relevant and continue to increase their share of wallet in this brave new world which we at Accenture refer to as the post-digital era.
This unprecedented pace of innovation has several unintended consequences, which, if not purposefully addressed, can erode trust and alienate customers.
Two key unintended consequences are increasingly presenting businesses with the dilemma of losing customers: the first being the way that new products and features are brought to customers, and the second being the partnership agreements and licensing models that underpin the ecosystems they need to deliver one seamless product or experience to their customers.
Companies must minimise the risk of eroding their customers’ trust as they embark together on the continuous evolution journey of products and services.
Businesses have three options in this regard:
Proactively minimise the risk of regression defects
In our experience, customers have shown a high level of resilience when it comes to installing new or modified versions of applications on devices, provided that these new versions are a result of system hardening, which basically improves the security of the device.
Customers are however not that forgiving when it comes to the frequent release of new features which requires them to permit a download to update it, because more often than not, it is perceived that this new version will introduce regression issues, which, simply put, means that it will break something that has been working before.
A recent example of how this kind of perception is typically shaped, is that of a leading global telephone manufacturer who constantly released new software updates to create richer digital experiences for users of their devices.
The richness of these new features and their demand on device resources introduced an unintended consequence – these updates resulted in significant battery degradation on older devices. As a result, the manufacturer introduced the operating system patch to throttle performance on older devices to address the battery draining issues.
The manufacturer was subsequently accused of deliberately slowing down their older devices to encourage customers to buy new devices, an issue which not only caused major damage to their reputation, but also led to them losing a substantial number of customers.
To minimise the risk of regression defects due to the continuous introduction of new features, it is critical for businesses to introduce modern engineering principles, including test automation in their software delivery lifecycle.
Simply put, test automation uses separate software from the actual software being tested, to control the programmatic execution of the tests after every release cycle, and make a comparison between actual outcomes and predicted outcomes.
Some of the benefits derived from test automation includes rapid feedback, faster detection of defects, accelerated implementation of the enhancements required, which in turn also reduces business expenses.
Meet customer demands by enabling them to co-create the experience
Customers are also shown to become frustrated with releases of new, enhanced features, when these features substantially change how the user interacts with the application (changes to user navigation and user journey’s through the solution). The loss of familiarity introduces a risk that users will stop engaging with that application.
At Accenture we assist businesses to deliver features and products that meet their customers’ expectations by enabling their customers to co-create these new features and products. This is done through modern techniques such as rapid prototyping with feedback sessions in focused labs.
Rapid prototyping consists of a set of methodologies to rapidly scale a model of a product and fabricate the product through 3D printing or additive layer manufacturing technology, or to quickly establish a digital platform that can be tested in a virtual environment.
Following such a procedure, we then set up a series of focus groups to test these products in our R&D labs, that makes it possible to detect issues and implement feedback for recommendations and improvements, straight away.
Eliminate excessive downloads
Another aspect of the constant releasing of new features that tends to irritate customers, is when they are requested to download new software or install new versions of the application on their devices on a frequent basis.
A sensible way for businesses to counteract this potential issue, is to release their new features through ‘silent installs’ (where new features appear on next login and that requires no user intervention to obtain the new feature) such as the capabilities provided by multi-channel frameworks, as opposed to native mobile applications that require in-app-store downloads to start using these new features.
Ensure sound licensing models to support ecosystems
The second key dilemma that businesses are facing in this era, is the increasing dependency on ecosystems (device partners, suppliers, trading partners, third-party service providers, etc.) to help deliver their products or services to their clients through one, seamless digital experience.
There are two critical factors that must be taken into consideration to make sure this is orchestrated in a way that helps you to not chase your customers away, but rather win their hearts.
Establish solid licensing agreements with ecosystem partners
A current example of such an interdependency between a software and hardware manufacturer, is that of a streaming service that allows its customers to watch a variety of TV shows, movies and documentaries on interconnected-devices, and the manufacturer of such an internet device, on which the application of this streaming service was pre-installed.
A myriad of clients bought this internet device specifically for the purposes of using the streaming service. Six or so months down the line, the relationship between the hardware and software manufacturer completely disintegrated. As a result, the streaming service application was removed from the internet device, rendering that device completely useless to all those clients who purposefully bought it to enable the streaming service in the first place.
To maintain continuity and protect their customers, it is therefore imperative for businesses to establish subscription-based models that decouple the requirement for customers to purchase the underlying hardware that their applications are run on, and make sure that their ecosystem partnerships are safeguarded through solid licensing agreements.
Enhance value propositions through subscription-based services
A great recent example of how a business can establish a symbiotic ecosystem partnership by using a subscription-based model to enhance its value proposition to its customers, is that of a global cosmetic manufacturer who introduced truly customised cosmetics to their customers, that are enabled through an online platform.
The system photographs each customer’s skin in-store and then uses artificial intelligence (AI) that considers factors like skin type, pigmentation, time of the year and weather conditions to recommend a tailored product that addresses the customer’s current skin issues. The system is also connected to the cosmetic dispensers via the Internet of Things (IoT) to ensure that each customer’s products are then dispensed accordingly.
Whilst it would be completely unaffordable for most customers to purchase such a system themselves as individuals, the service is made available to customers via a monthly subscription fee, which is determined by the licensing agreement between the cosmetic manufacturer and the software developer.
Whilst continuous innovation of new products and features is fundamental to stay ahead of competitors and retain and gain market share, businesses must implement proactive strategies to minimise the impact of the unintended consequences of these innovations.