As the world continues to adapt to the new normal, the shift to digital customer experience has accelerated. And with this change comes an urgency to bolster and secure networks, systems and digital capabilities. More and more customers are moving to digital-first experiences. With about two-thirds of the buyer’s journey taking place in the digital realm, it’s imperative that businesses invest in their digital capabilities. Studies have also shown that customers value a seamless online experience and are willing to spend more if they are satisfied with their digital interactions.
To lend some professional insight on the topic, we brought together experts from a variety of organizations for a DevOps Insight Forum panel discussion to answer questions on the business impact of customer experience:
- Omar Koncobo, IT Director of E-commerce and Digital Systems at Ulta Beauty, a national retail brand blazing new trails in customer experience innovation with AI, augmented reality (AR) and more.
- Farnoush Azadi, Director of Engineering at Acquia, an open-source Drupal-based platform for companies to deploy digital products and services.
- Keri Melich, Senior Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) at Noble9, a service-level objective platform that connects reliability metrics to business via engineering workflows.
- Mitch Ashley, Principal with Techstrong Group research analyst firm that covers IT industries and practices that are reshaping the world of technology.
- Bruno Kurtic, Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Sumo Logic.
What does digital experience mean to you?
Digital experience can mean many things, depending on who you ask. For Ulta Beauty, the digital experience is understood to mean a seamless blending of its retail and e-commerce experiences.
Similarly, the digital customer experience is increasingly multi-channel. As explained by Mitch Ashley from Techstrong Group:
“We're really in a world of multiple digital experiences. The mobile experience that I have with the customer might be different than the web, might be different than the combination of ordering and curbside pickup or in-store and scanning the QR code to find out more information. So it's this mixed environment or multiple environments that are sometimes intersecting with each other that are all part of a digital or hybrid experience.”
For Azadi, the meaning of digital experience is a reflection of Acquia being an open-source company.
“For us, this really translates to having a cutting edge platform for our customers, to allow them to host their web applications and then seamless integration with our various value add SaaS offerings.”
How do you look at the experience that your customers are getting and understand what that is?
You can’t manage what you can’t measure, right? For companies of all sizes, the continuous challenge with digital experience is identifying what key performance indicators to track, being able to measure what matters and knowing how to turn the resulting insights into an actionable strategy.
As Melich points out, collaboration is key.
This point directly relates to one of the biggest challenges businesses face today—how to streamline communications and visibility across multiple tools, systems and networks.
At Noble9, they rely on service level objectives (SLO) to translate developer services into tangible customer experience metrics. For example, measuring the rate of failure on customer data ingest.
Especially for B2C companies like Ulta Beaty, not surprisingly, customer feedback is essential for understanding the digital experience. Koncobo highlights that you need to listen to your audience to help prioritize your products and drive what you’re trying to accomplish. At Ulta Beauty, they have a KPI that represents the combined interests of business and IT leadership: orders per minute.
“That's actually the first thing we look into if new promotions need to be updated or some excitement needs to be refreshed on the site to drive more traffic.”
On the technology side, Ulta Beauty has three main KPIs: crashes per minute, homepage load speed and conversion rate. And to ensure the reliability of all these KPIs, Ulta Beauty set up alerts that notify their team every fifteen minutes.
As varied as these panelists’ answers were, they all share the common idea that organizations need to be agile and able to adapt to changing customer and business needs. But all too often, companies are easily overwhelmed. Speaking from his experience, focused on observability, Azadi emphasized the importance of being able to filter the signal from the noise.
“It's really important that you're bubbling up the right perspective to the right people and investing in mechanisms to make sure you have the right filters.”
With the goal of having flexible reporting, Acquia is not unlike many other companies where KPIs vary widely from function to function and across roles. Their frontend teams keep an eye on the health of key cloud UIs, while the quality engineering (QE) teams configure alerts on those results. Based on the KPIs tracked, Acquia has automated inputs into tools that make data-driven recommendations.
What are some best practices, when it comes to observability?
It’s only recently that observability has been applied to information technology and cloud computing. A system is observable if its current state can be determined in a finite time period using only the outputs of the system. For such a system, all of the behaviors and activities of the system can be evaluated based on the outputs of the system.
The key to achieving true observability of IT infrastructure and cloud computing environments is not the event logs themselves - rather, it is the capability of monitoring and analyzing those events, along with KPIs and other data, that drive observability and yield actionable insights.
The consensus among the panelists was that observability is critical for combatting alert fatigue and managing the volume and velocity of incoming data. Most organizations have already started their journey to observability with an ML/AI solution tuned to solve a specific use case within a specific domain, such as infrastructure monitoring, or application performance monitoring (APM).
This tuning means that it’s great at understanding one type of metric, but not necessarily good at understanding how those metrics might relate to other types of telemetry. As Kurtic highlights:
“There might be things that ultimately are hard to associate with the actual customer experience, because, oftentimes, it's not really affected by the issue. It could be, but it might not be. And so people spend a lot of effort working on the wrong problem, not solving things that actually matter.”
End-to-end visibility cannot be realized in silos. Not only is it impractical, but it is inefficient to get answers from dispersed data. Insights from telemetry must draw from cross-platform AI/ML algorithms that detect anomalies and connect dots, processing data in volumes far beyond the human brain’s capacity.
To make your apps observable, you need to design them so they emit enough useful signals to describe their state. That needs to happen across your delivery chain, so the app is equally observable on a dev’s laptop, in pre-prod and in production instances. This requires tight integration with something on the code level across all your apps.
Organizations looking to maximize their observability efforts will be well-served with a single unified repository of telemetry data, accompanied by a domain-agnostic AI that can look across all the data with full fidelity to detect and identify patterns and relationships. Melich explains:
“Think about what is actually affecting the customer, to use your existing monitoring tools to find better data and translate into how your dev team handles those incidents, as well.”
Watch the entire panel discussion to learn more about how to provide reliable and secure digital experiences, and balance and align business, security and tech concerns.
Or, visit our website to learn more about how Sumo Logic can help improve your digital customer experience.
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