When we think about customer experience (CX), what often comes to mind is how slick and modern a user interface is or how easy it is to use.
Of course, the modern customer experience is much more than a well-placed hamburger menu and some slick gesture-based interactions. Today’s CX represents a total set of touchpoints and engagements that cover the customer’s journey with your business over time.
Building out that type of experience and building it in a way that ensures it’s always adapting to customers’ needs requires a different way of thinking—and a different backend—than most organizations are used to. To serve today’s customers and serve them well means that businesses must shift their integration strategy and create a backend of composable capabilities.
From Nice-to-have to Necessity
Customer centricity—i.e., the idea of being a customer-first organization—is not just a matter of reskinning a desktop app to work on a mobile device. When it comes to how customers and employees interact with your business, they now have all the leverage. That mobile app? That customer portal? A speech-based customer service agent? It’s no longer unwarranted for users to expect these touchpoints—and that each one knows who the customer is and what they want to do.
If the last couple of years have taught us anything, these expectations have turned into necessitations. In fact, a Gartner 2021 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey revealed that increased usage of digital technology, digital channel flexibility, and an expectation of better CX were notably the biggest shifts in customer behavior.
Businesses need to flip the script: they need to better understand their customers and employees to determine what are the best ways for them to engage with their business; not foist their own engagement biases or technological dearth upon them.
A hole, not a drill
The old marketing adage, “No one wants a drill; they want a hole,” applies well here.
Customers don’t want a multichannel experience, they want the ability to pick up where they were in an ordering process. They don’t want a secure log-in or SSO. They simply want their device to be remembered when logging in. Customers don’t want an automated process that connects your SAP to your CRM. They want to easily check or modify a placed order.
In other words, customers expect, no matter the device or modality, that the interaction with your business gives them what they need to accomplish their goals.
How do businesses deliver that when all customers are unique and therefore have different preferred methods of engaging? By better arming their employees and customers alike with the tools to get the job done. Take for instance a customer service interaction. Some users prefer chat, some are fine with AI-driven chatbots, some would rather speak on the phone with a human. Now shift the focus to employees: Customer service associates need the ability to easily jump into a chat initiated by a chatbot. They may need to transfer from chat to a call. Organizations need to provide different means to the same end, which requires different UXes.
Of course, more UXes beget more technologies, beget more tenuously stitched together siloed systems. This is a huge issue of which the enormity can’t be understated. So much so that Gartner predicts in “Drive Seamless Digital Customer Experiences with Composable UX” that by 2025, 50% of organizations will have failed at unifying engagement channels, resulting in siloed, disjointed CX.
Your backend is showing
Being customer-first is a holistic strategy, one that requires a cultural shift, a technological change, and a process pivot. Blocking that strategy are traditional methods of development. Processes that don’t support continuous iteration make it difficult to continuously improve on the customer journey. On the backend of things, building modern and multiple UXes from monolithic software (take your classic ERP suite, for instance) can make for siloed or disjointed interactions that lack context and/or consistency up and down the customer journey.
Modern—i.e., seemingly seamless—customer experiences require backend integrations that ensure all your data sources, systems, and touchpoints speak to each other. When they don’t speak (or speak well) to each other this results in what Gartner describes as “time wasted on irrelevant experiences.” Suffice it to say, the more disjointed the systems, the more disjointed the interactions on a customer journey. Where there’s friction, it stands to reason customers will disengage.
This is where composable business capabilities come into play. The number of organizations turning to this philosophy is not insignificant. According to the Gartner report “Adopt a Composable DXP Strategy to Future-Proof Your Tech Stack,” 60% of mainstream organizations will use the composable business as a strategic objective by 2023.
Composability offers modularity, portability, and autonomy to organizations when developing new solutions from backend functionality. Think about those multiple UXes. To deliver bespoke experiences at scale, businesses need modularity and adaptability in their backend.
The composable business is not a technological solution, but rather an IT philosophy that many businesses are using to quickly pivot to meet internal and external changes. Gartner defines it as a means of “creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks.” Of course, from a technological point of view, this philosophy becomes practice with APIs and, increasingly, microservices.
In “Drive Seamless Digital Customer Experiences with Composable UX,” the authors call for composability: “Application leaders have to make sure the UX is composable to deliver a different UX to different customer [and employee] personas.” (brackets my own.)
APIs and the Composed Modern Customer Experience
Getting to a composable backend that serves customers and the business of course necessitates APIs. But if you’re thinking microservices and technical APIs, you’re only half right. You also need APIs that represent business capabilities. For example, consider the role of an order management system in a composable business. You need to expose APIs that represent business capabilities like creating an order or modifying one. The design of these particular APIs must support adaptability for the business. Making it easy to discover and leverage business capabilities, through a catalog for example, lends your organization the ability to construct experiences—and beyond that, automate and adapt the operation of the business—at will.
Building for the multi-touchpoint, multi-modality customer journey doesn’t have to be a Sisyphean process of bespoke development. Now you can create a composed experience, one assembled from a set of packaged business and technical capabilities.
The composable enterprise is also an efficient way to deliver new capabilities and solutions. A byproduct of packaged capabilities is re-use. Build once, and you can reuse the same component across different solutions. But you can also adapt the component for different business cases, or even leverage it to create new ones.
The key here is exposing and cataloging these capabilities so that your developers can discover and activate them appropriately. With a low-code platform, you can simplify complex, multi-modality builds. Used in conjunction with Data Hub, a metadata repository that pulls together and catalogs your data from disparate systems and makes it easy to connect with them, you can easily discover, use, and govern data.
So, streamlining your development and integration processes gives you the opportunity to streamline and continuously improve how you engage with customers.
Next Step: A Better View of the Customer
Like most digital transformation efforts, composability is not a done-and-dusted strategy. Composability isn’t just a means for enabling flexibility and adaptability. It’s an approach that allows you to make more sense of your data.
The next level of connectivity is not just making sure things are connected, but understanding how they’re connected—not from a technical perspective but from a real-world business perspective. Business capabilities are only as good as your understanding of how they relate to each other—between things (people, systems, objects) and data.
Data is the lifeblood of a strong customer experience. Gartner goes as far as to say that CX relies on “real-time contextual data to identify the customer and sense their stage in the relationship, and identify the company operations to enable the orchestration of experiences at the right time.”
Making sense of how all that knowledge comes together to inform can help you, for example, train AI and machine learning algorithms. Which can then lead to hyperautomation, hyper-personalization, and predictive analytics—all vital to the modern customer experience.