Technologists now hold the key to customer loyalty

By AppDynamics EMEAR CTO, James Harvey,

For many years, ownership of customer loyalty within an organization has traditionally sat with marketing, customer services and, more recently, customer experience departments.

But one of the many new dynamics that have emerged in businesses over the last 18 months is the increasing realization that IT departments now have a critical role to play when it comes to maintaining and boosting customer loyalty. This is because, after 18 months in which consumers have relied almost exclusively on digital services to go about their lives, perceptions of brands are predominantly being shaped by the type and quality of digital experiences that brands are consistently able to deliver to customers.

A new appreciation for brilliant digital experiences

For technologists that have already been operating under the most extreme pressure for the last 18 months, spearheading their organization’s response to the pandemic, the idea that they now need to take responsibility for customer loyalty as well, may not be all that welcome! But they should take pride in the fact that their skill and hard work has made such a difference to millions of people all over the world during the pandemic.

In our latest consumer study, The App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app?, 85% of people reported that applications and digital services have become a critical part of how they go about their lives, and 84% of people claimed that digital services have had a positive impact on their lives during the pandemic, enabling them to get through this challenging period and to cope and function in most areas of their lives.

For millions of people, applications have become a lifeline to normality during the pandemic, and this is having a profound impact on how they view the brands behind these digital services. People feel grateful to brands that have innovated and invested in digital during the pandemic so they could access the services that they love and rely on. Our research found that 67% of people now feel more loyal to those brands that have gone the extra mile to improve the quality of their digital service during the pandemic.

Hard-won loyalty can be lost in an instant

Of course, technologists will be all too aware that there is a flip side to this new dynamic, where digital experience is the primary driver of brand perceptions and customer loyalty. The moment an application doesn’t perform as it should, or rather the moment it doesn’t meet the heightened expectations of today’s consumers, then loyalty can quickly evaporate.

People have become totally unforgiving when it comes to poor digital experiences. The first sign of a problem with an application and they delete it and move on to an alternative provider. In fact, 57% of consumers state that brands have only one shot to impress them and that if their digital service doesn’t perform, they won’t use them again.

As with so many other things, consumer attitudes and behaviors towards customer loyalty have become far more extreme in 2021. Brand love can turn to contempt in an instant.

Technologists need the right tools to drive customer loyalty

Digital experience has arguably become the most significant factor in how consumers think and feel about brands (certainly it is the most important in building an ongoing relationship) and every business is now walking a tightrope when it comes to customer loyalty. It doesn’t matter if they’re delivering the most innovative products and services, supported by the most compelling marketing messaging, consumers will turn their back on brands if they’re unable to deliver faultless digital experiences, each and every time.

Indeed, it would be interesting to see how consumer perceptions around what makes them feel loyal to a brand have changed since 2019, when KPMG published this report. Of course, product quality and value for money are still critical drivers of loyalty, but I suspect that more than 55% of people would cite ‘an easy shopping experience’ as being important.

Without doubt, the key to unlocking meaningful and sustainable relationships with customers now lies within the IT department, dependent on the ability of technologists to provide faultless digital experiences at all times. It’s vital that business leaders understand this and ensure their technologists have the tools and data required to optimize IT performance and meet heightened customer expectations.

Unfortunately, many IT departments still don’t have full or unified visibility of IT performance up and down the IT stack, and the rapid, widespread adoption of cloud computing over the last 18 months has only made the situation worse. Technologists are unable to easily identify the root cause of performance issues and find themselves in a cycle of constant firefighting as a result.

In the current environment, when the stakes around digital experience have been elevated so high, technologists need complete visibility across their entire IT estate. Not only that, but they need to be able to correlate IT performance data with real-time business metrics, so that they can identify and fix issues before they impact the customer, and focus their time on what matters most to the business.

If business leaders are serious about wanting to forge deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers now and in the future, then they have to start ensuring that their technologists have genuine full-stack observability with business context. Otherwise, they will never be able to consistently deliver the world-class digital experiences on which customer loyalty now lives or dies.

By Prith Banerjee, CTO at Ansys.
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