Customer-Facing Apps: Examples, Benefits, and Challenges

Build and Scale

Customer-facing applications aren’t just for B2C retail brands like Target or social media platforms like Facebook. Organizations across all industries – manufacturing, financial services, insurance, education, government, etc. — can achieve high ROI and increase customer loyalty just by offering tailored apps and portals.

Read on for a closer look at the characteristics of customer engagement apps, their unique development challenges, and examples of successful use cases.

What does customer-facing mean?

Something that is “customer-facing” is the interface or experience that a customer accesses and sees. It’s “the manner in which a business service feature is experienced or seen by a customer,” as Techopedia defines it.

“Customer-facing” is a term used regularly when we talk about user experience (UX) and application development. “Client-facing,” “user-facing,” or “consumer-facing”  technology similarly describe the client, user, or consumer’s experience of your product.

A lot of work can go into making a superb customer-facing experience, and much of that work might be hidden from the customer to enable seamless engagement. Think of client-facing app development like the elements that move puppets in a theater performance: hands, strings, and pulleys are obscured from the view of the audience, so they can enjoy the show on the stage.

What are customer-facing applications?

Customer-facing applications are the apps that your customers use to connect and engage with your business. These are often in the form of mobile applications or customer portals. For example, a client-facing web app is the part of the app that a client uses on the web.

Customer engagement apps enable users to better interact and transact with a business, which enhances customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue. Examples of customer-facing applications include:

The competitive advantage of customer-facing apps

Customer-facing applications provide maximum convenience for customers and prospects.

If you’re building a mobile app, your users will have constant access to your brand, even on the go. And if you’re creating a customer, vendor, agent, or broker portal, you can fully customize every element to ensure that it provides the tailored experiences your users need.

One of the biggest values of customer-facing apps is the ability to provide instant customer service, which can have a significant impact on revenue. Bain & Company reports that businesses can increase revenue by 4% to 8% when they offer valuable customer service experiences.

Apps and portals also make it easier to showcase your products and services. If your competitors don’t provide a similar offering, consumer-facing technology can boost your competitive advantage.

3 app development challenges and the low-code solutions

1. Limited resources, budgets, and UX skills

Building an engaging customer-facing or consumer-facing app is no easy feat for companies with limited UX resources. But the global adoption of low-code development has made custom app development more attainable for everyone.

G2 reports that 84% of enterprises have embraced low-code development, “because of its ability to reduce strain on IT resources, increase speed-to-market, and involve the business in digital asset development.”

Low-code development platforms make app building easy for people of all development skill levels, including the business team and other non-developers. Mobile capabilities and UX tools are embedded into many low-code platforms, making it easier and faster to build dynamic native mobile apps.

2. Complex integration processes

Connecting new customer-facing or client-facing apps to existing systems using traditional development methods is a sophisticated process. But if you want your app to include customer support, purchasing capabilities, or any other on-demand service, integrations will be a crucial part of the development process.

Your options are: Build custom integrations using a sophisticated programming language, or use a low-code platform with built-in connectors to third-party systems. Low-code platforms also provide professional developers with environments to create custom connectors when needed.

3. Scaling and delivering the performance customers expect

Customer-facing applications often have high expectations from users in terms of usability and multiexperience capabilities.

If your app routinely crashes, takes too long to load, or constantly requires maintenance, your users will take note. According to Google, only 9% of people will continue to use a mobile app if it provides a poor user experience.

Scalability and reliability should be built into every customer-facing app, but this can be a complex undertaking with traditional development. On the other hand, low-code platforms have built-in features to ensure that your app continues to deliver value:

  • automatic failover for continuous operation of critical apps or portals
  • true multi-cloud deployment strategies
  • on-demand scaling (vertically and horizontally)
  • the ability to leverage best-of-breed CI/CD pipeline tools for seamless automation
  • the ability to migrate apps across clouds

Your app’s loading time is one of the most important factors for reliability. Neuroscience researchers found that customers see slow mobile loading times as more physiologically stressful than watching a horror film.

2 examples of successful customer-facing app development

1. A pension portal that scales to over one million users

One great example of a customer-facing application with a large user base is AZL’s custom web portal for pension holders.

As a leading Dutch pension administrator, AZL handles more than 60 pension funds with over 1 million participants. While their business model had historically focused on traditional operations, their customers’ preferences were changing. The traditional operations included:

  • call centers with a high number of inbound calls
  • limited, inconvenient operating hours which led to poor overall customer satisfaction
  • high internal costs due to manual, paper-based processes

To improve the exchange of information with third parties, AZL started with a new administrative portal for employers. Next, they extended this self-service model to pension participants and used the Mendix low-code Platform to deliver a new portal in a much quicker, more agile fashion.

Since AZL’s individual pension funds would provide participants with a personalized version of the portal, low-code was essential to rapidly deliver a standard application that could be altered for each fund’s unique processes.

Now, participants can do more in their own time. The self-service portal skyrocketed customer engagement and AZL has seen a 40% reduction in pension fund administration costs.

2. A broker portal with successful low-code integration

A leading commercial insurance company used low-code to deliver a frictionless app experience for brokers and their clients, called the Broker Portal.

Unlike many of their competitors, the insurance company goes to market through brokers, not directly to clients, making agent experience and engagement critical to global success. But orchestrating great experiences and the right product offerings across a distributed geographic footprint is challenging.

The Broker Portal is fully integrated with the company’s existing systems, including Duck Creek, and acts as an integration and business process layer by extracting data from one system and orchestrating it with others. With the success of the client-facing product in the UK, the insurance company was looking to expand to other markets with similar customers and chose France as their next quest.

At first, building French insurance lines and digital experiences with an insurance-specific product was estimated to take millions of dollars and 24 – 28 months. By using already developed Mendix application components from the UK implementation (e.g., integrations to core systems, business process logic, and user interfaces), the company was able to reduce its time-to-market substantially, delivering the same or better client-facing products and experiences in six to nine months.

This accelerated time-to-value gave the company an 18-month head start on earning revenue and collecting data it can use to cross-sell/upsell, enabling the company to continue to deliver superb customer-facing experiences. This is singularly achievable because of the previous work the company committed to with a component-based architecture and the Mendix low-code Platform.