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How Agile Development Delivers Seamless, Multichannel CX

 

Prabhakar Karamsetty
Global Head, Quality Engineering & Transformation
13 August 2018

Developing one great customer experience for smartphone users, and another for smart speaker users, is no longer cutting edge. It’s not even desirable. (And, developing separate experiences for different devices is time consuming and expensive.) Voice-activated devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home now seamlessly integrate with websites, phones, social media, search and recommendations, and that’s what consumers want and increasingly demand: one consistent, excellent cross-channel experience that’s device agnostic.

While it’s impossible to provide a harmonized and personalized CX and UX without a single view of the customer that combines data from all interaction points, data collection and analysis is only part of the equation. Embracing an Agile development approach, one that uses data as a means for designing, testing and delivering new experiences, is a proven way to create a seamless, multichannel CX efficiently and cost-effectively.

Agile development relies on frequent tests and iterations so that a final product or service can be developed quickly, and pressure tested before a company makes a major investment. The approach also benefits from an IT infrastructure that supports rapid and frequent testing of software-based services.

Agile development starts with an idea for a minimum viable product that includes only the essentials to be validated as determined by a team that includes people from all relevant functions, not simply IT. The process then refines the idea via iteration, market input, and cross-functional collaboration within the company. Companies can test and refine additional features in rapid succession to determine the scope of the final product or service. This process significantly reduces the chances of falling flat in the market. And it provides a way to validate the quality of the experience in different channels. 

For example, a challenge for many retail financial companies is understanding what investments make most sense for specific customers. To address that in a thoroughly modern and differentiating way, mutual fund advisor Vanguard took an agile approach to creating a virtual Personal Advisor that presents customers with a consistent and compelling omnichannel CX. The Advisor, the fruit of a collaboration between the Retail and IT division, is personalized, easy to use and, when appropriate, connects the customer to human financial advisors, thereby reinforcing the firm’s commitment to providing low-cost guidance for financial planning.

To develop this service and experience, Vanguard embraced Agile in its own business design methodology. As Vanguard CIO, John Mercante, says, the development leveraged “an experimentation-based design process.”

The iterative development allowed Vanguard to test individual components of the service with small groups of early adopters before it was launched. And the company’s IT architecture was configured to help the design team test, iterate and reuse components of the service in other offerings, thereby controlling costs down the road.

It was important for Vanguard to design a product that was customer-friendly because, as insurance provider USAA chief design officer Meriah Garrett notes, customers “compare us to every other digital interaction they have with Facebook, Google, Amazon and Venmo.” To offer a competitive CX, USAA recently opened its own design studio in Austin, Texas, staffed with 10 professionals from different fields and disciplines. The company’s goal is to look beyond solutions typically offered by insurers to create game-changing improvements in USAA’s CX. It also plans to leverage machine learning and AI to gain deeper insights into what more it can offer. 

Great interactive customer experiences are often delivered through a mobile device. But customers expect their mobile experiences to be consistent with those at all other touchpoints. Achieving that is not easy. According to Forrester Research, banks are losing sales in part because of a lack of cross-channel harmony, giving customers different experiences in different channels, on different devices. Frustrating! Only Design Thinking and agile approaches can provide that seamless experience, as it did for Vanguard and USAA, which in 2016 was awarded a Gold Medal by Life Insurance Monitor for its “innovative in-app help.”

In an increasingly complex, interconnected world, providing a helpful CX is what all companies, in all sectors, must do.

About the author(s)
Prabhakar Karamsetty
Global Head, Quality Engineering & Transformation

Prabhakar Karamsetty is the Global Head, Quality Engineering & Transformation (QET) Unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In this role, Prabhakar focuses on how to bring the highest Quality Engineering and Testing solutions for various TCS customers across multiple business verticals and geographies.

Prabhakar works closely with his team of engineering experts to offer customers a comprehensive portfolio of AI & machine learning powered services spanning the entire Quality Engineering value cycle - including consulting and advisory, testing services implementation, and managed services for test environment and test data management. He is also in charge of helping global clients address their business, quality and risk management challenges.

Prabhakar has over 22 years of experience at TCS, working in various international roles across engineering, program management, software development and assurance services. He has had an integral part in customer acquisition for TCS and has supported many large, strategic deals within the organization. Prior to his current role, Prabhakar has worked across other strategic portfolios within TCS including Head, Assurance Services (UK, Europe, India), Practice Manager, Assurance Services (UK, India), Program Manager (US) and more.

He currently resides in London with his wife and 2 daughters. Outside of work, Prabhakar has interest in travel exploring few new places every year.

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