Triangulate and collaborate to uplift customer experience

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In a digital world, no one supplier or service developer has complete control over the way their service is delivered to the customer’s device, yet each cares deeply about the path taken.

The simplicity, cohesiveness and performance of the digital connection impacts the way the digital service lands with the customer, and how it’s ultimately experienced.

If the customer encounters issues, it may impact their ability to use or transact with the service. This can translate into negative perceptions or sentiments being expressed about the digital service and/or towards its maker or provider.

This is why governments care so much about how their digital service delivery mechanisms land with constituents. As more public service agencies move to ‘one-stop-shop’ digital portals and online-based delivery models, there is pressure to ensure the citizen experience with these services is fast, frictionless, and available.

It’s also why employers with hybrid or home-based workforces care about end-to-end digital delivery, because any deficiency in the chain affects worker productivity. Sentiment towards company-supplied tooling is also known to affect the company’s ability to attract and retain talent. These are both good reasons to ensure an optimal digital workplace.

Web and mobile application developers and operators also care about end-to-end digital service delivery. They can create the most incredible in-app experiences and features, but customer experience is only as good as the least-performing piece of infrastructure between the application server and the customer. A pretty or elegantly-coded application is nothing if it does not perform as expected.

Optimizing the end-to-end service delivery chain to complement digital design and usage characteristics is essential for all digital service owners.

Many performance optimizations have already been realized. Governments, employers and app developers have optimized infrastructure under their direct control, and may also utilize some third-party infrastructure such as a CDN or VPN to try to bring the optimized experience even closer to the customer.

The root cause of any residual performance issues is likely to be in a common blind spot for digital service owners and customers alike: the last-mile connection to the front door of a residence, and the wired or wireless propagation of the signal and data traffic once inside.

Mike Hicks

Principal Solutions Analyst for Cisco ThousandEyes.

What better visibility into the last mile brings

Digital service providers, governments, employers and app owners all have a keen interest on the last mile because without visibility into this part of the end-to-end delivery mechanism, there will always be suspicions about its contribution to or role in causing performance degradation.

Suspicions about the last-mile are not without basis. In countries where retail Internet services come bundled with consumer premises equipment (CPE) such as a combined router/modem, for example, this CPE hardware may utilize outdated WiFi protocols, or have a hard time propagating signals inside of the home in an acceptable way. It’s a similar story for cellular connectivity: in recent years, we’ve seen the rise of in-home boosters and other ways of improving signal propagation in-building. Again, this is because there’s often no problem delivering bandwidth to just outside the premises, but it is hard to maintain those performance characteristics once you go beyond the front door to the building.

Without visibility past the physical front door, if an outage occurs in the last mile, all that’s known is the endpoint is inaccessible - the customer or employee or citizen is unable to connect out, for reasons unknown. Digital service owners are left guessing as to what is the cause. Responses made on guesswork or limited insight can only achieve so much.

In reality, all parties to a digital transaction can benefit from strengthened visibility into the last mile.

Optimum visibility

Optimum visibility into the home or office can boost the chances of triangulating the source of a performance problem. With visibility, it is possible to determine if there is a carrier-specific problem in that local area or region, such as a fiber cut or a problem with a cell tower. Combined with visibility into other parts of the service delivery chain, the digital service owner suddenly has the granularity to triangulate the source of the issue and to equate accountability to that.

This could be used to inform the customer or citizen of the right party through which to pursue resolution and to have the evidence at hand to collaborate with them to resolve the degradation or performance issue.

Or, in circumstances where an elevated “service-level relationship” is in place - between the digital transaction operator and customer, or an internet provider and the customer - the operator or telco might agree to take a more active or lead role in the resolution, even if the problem is in part of the delivery chain they do not own.

Though they can’t fix the issue directly, they have enough telemetry evidence to escalate the issue to a downstream provider and get resolution on the customer’s behalf.

For an operator, that more active role allows them to more effectively curate the performance of their end-to-end digital service. It also moves them out of a compartmentalized, transactional relationship and into something deeper and valuable.

This is the essence of uplifting customer experience of digital services today.

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Mike Hicks is Principal Solutions Analyst for Cisco ThousandEyes.