How to Rapidly Build and Scale Customer Facing Apps While Delivering the Performance Users Expect
Danielle Goodman / November 20, 2017
In my previous blog posts, I established four use cases for using a low-code platform (innovation, customer engagement, operational efficiency and legacy migration apps), and solved the challenges of developing innovation apps. In this blog post, I will focus on the unique challenges of customer engagement apps and how a low-code platform helps address them.
Customer engagement apps enable customers (or partners) to better interact and transact with the business, improving satisfaction, retention, and revenue. There are many great examples of customer engagement apps, including customer self-service customer portals, agent/broker portals, claims management applications and student service applications for universities.
With these apps, the business has a fairly well-defined idea but must adapt to unknowns revealed during the design and development process. Customer-facing applications are often faced with high expectations from unforgiving users in terms of both usability and seamless, multi-channel access. In addition, there are typically underlying operational improvements required to support customer-facing processes, and integration with Systems of Record is required to support the experience layer and existing processes.
These applications are a great way for organizations to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but their development is met with three main challenges.
3 Challenges to Developing Customer Engagement Apps and the Low-Code Solutions
Limited budget and UX skills:
Delivering an engaging user experience is challenging with limited UX resources. On average, enterprises have just one UX designer for every 17 developers, while 35 percent of organizations have no UX design competency at all. In contrast, many experts put the average designer-to-developer ratio for innovative consumer tech companies at 1:4.
Look for a low-code platform with a UI framework to enable people without front-end development or UI design skills to create beautiful, engaging and highly usable apps. In addition, low-code platforms enable the business to participate in the design process, supporting an iterative, user-centric approach (i.e. Design Thinking) which is key to ensuring the solution solves the right problems for users and has the right feature set/UX to ensure app usability and success.
Implementing the required process enhancements and automation:
It is often challenging to integrate with Systems of Record to implement the required process enhancements and automation. To alleviate these challenges, look for a low-code platform that provides out-of-the-box connectors to common Systems of Record, enabling less technical developers to orchestrate core systems and automate workflows. In addition, professional developers should be able to create their own connectors and make them available to less technical developers as native platform elements.
Scaling customer-facing apps while delivering the performance users expect:
Apps delivered quickly won’t scale and deliver the performance users expect. Customer-facing applications are inherently used by large amounts of people, particularly in B2C scenarios, making scalability and performance that much more important. Low-code platforms can marry rapid development with a web-scale run-time architecture. When thinking about scale, look for a low-code platform that offers the following:
- A cloud-native architecture to enable elastic scaling for large user bases
- True multi-cloud deployment strategies
- On-demand scaling (vertically and horizontally)
- The ability to leverage any best of breed CI/CID pipeline tools for seamless automation
- The ability to migrate apps across clouds in the event you need to change directions
- Automatic failover for continuous operation of critical apps or portals
Examples of customer engagement apps built on a low-code platform
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. AZL is a leading Dutch pension administrator who handles the administration of more than 60 pension funds with more than 1 million participants.
The organization recognized that while their business model had historically focused on traditional operations, their customers’ preferences were changing. The original process of using call centers resulted in a high number of inbound calls, limited operating hours causing inconvenience and lower customer satisfaction, and high internal costs due to manual, paper-based processes.
To improve the exchange of information with third parties, the organization launched an administrative portal for employers. Looking to extend this self-service model to pension participants, they used the Mendix low-code platform to deliver the new portal in a much quicker, more agile fashion. Specifically, since the organization’s individual pension funds would provide their participants with a personalized version of the portal, a low-code platform was crucial to rapidly delivering a standard application and then easily adapting it to each fund’s unique processes.
Now, instead of being required to call during business hours, participants can do more in their own time. The self-service portal not only resulted in better customer engagement, but also a 40 percent reduction in pension fund administration costs.
Broker portal with successful low-code integration
A great example of a customer engagement app that used a low-code platform for seamless integration to ensure a frictionless experience for brokers and their clients, is a Broker Portal delivered by a leading commercial insurance company.
Unlike many of their competitors, this insurance company goes to market through brokers, not directly to clients, making agent experience and engagement critical to global success. Orchestrating great experiences and the right product offerings across a distributed geographic footprint can be challenging. The organization built a broker portal to digitize ratings and quote-to-buy processes. The portal is fully integrated with the organization’s existing systems, including Duck Creek, acting as an integration and business process layer – extracting data from one system, and orchestrating it with others.
With the success of the product in the UK – offering a window to the world to engage with agents, offer products, and quote and bind policies – the insurance company was looking to expand to other markets with common customers. The organization decided to expand the new broker portal product to France.
Building French insurance lines and digital experiences with an insurance-specific product were estimated to take millions of dollars and 24 –28 months. By using already developed Mendix application components from its U.K. 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 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. This is singularly achievable because of the previous work the company committed to with a component-based architecture and the Mendix low-code platform.
Learn more about the value of low-code platforms in the recent Forrester Wave on Low-Code Development Platforms.