Putting the human at the center of digital experience

While digital interaction is preferred by both consumers and providers, they have very different takes on it. In its 2021 edition, an annual global customer experience benchmarking study reported that only 35% of consumers are satisfied with digital experience, versus 75% of the companies offering those experiences. A leading analyst firm reported that for most customers (58%), their digital experiences do not necessarily influence the buying decision; this is something to think about for businesses, 90% of whom prioritized digital customer experiences last year.

One way to overcome this challenge is to make digital experiences more human-centric by bringing people from the edges of the interaction right into its center. Users’ wants, expectations and unmet needs should influence every step of the experience design process.

Strike at the heart

Human-centric digital experience is about creating digital interactions with some elements that are truly “human” and typical of in-person interactions.

The experience builds a personal connection with users, empowers them by respecting preference and agency, and is rich in empathy and understanding. Not just hard data, but also insights from ethnography, psychology, and human factors are used to understand the real needs and motivations of users.

Keep it simple

It is not surprising that people prefer speaking to a human agent than a chatbot. In a survey of 2,000 consumers from the United States and the United Kingdom, approximately two out of five respondents said that being able to talk to a human being was a top three factor in a pleasant customer service interaction. The subtext is that having to go from one robot assistant to another, when a customer needs immediate help, is very frustrating.

Customer satisfaction in robotic service interactions can improve by simplifying and streamlining the experience. Artificial Intelligence-powered Voice UIs — user interfaces, such as smart speakers and voice assistants, that people can interact with by speaking — can facilitate this, to create more enjoyable digital experiences. Today, natural language processing technology is sufficiently evolved to correctly interpret language as it is naturally spoken or written. So, the technology is in place; what’s missing from the digital experience is the human element — for example, a friendly tone or intuition about the customer’s next move.

By employing anticipatory design, enterprises can give users what they need, that is, relevant solutions to their problems instead of a generic menu of options. When facial recognition technology becomes standard in-service interactions, it will be possible to understand what customers are feeling — even when they are not articulating — by studying their emotional state through facial expression and other non-verbal cues. While this is a step toward human-centricity, enterprises should be very careful not to take two steps back when using AI as they must ensure their data is objective and of high quality to avoid creating subpar or even discriminatory experiences.

Make it accessible and inclusive

Human-centricity is about empathizing with people with different needs. Therefore, only an inclusive and accessible digital experience can be called human centric. An inclusive experience reflects the need of different users with diverse perspectives. Accessibility – making sure the experience is open and usable for all — is an inalienable part of inclusive experience. Such an experience considers not only disability, but any factor that might make an experience inconvenient for a user. For example, one messaging app has a left-hand orientation feature specifically for users of languages that are written from right to left. Today, all airlines have online check-in and mobile boarding passes; but one airline has considered the needs of people with visual disability by increasing contrast, spacing out graphics, and rearranging the way information is displayed on the screen.

Another key area where inclusivity across audience demographics applies is age. Organizations need to balance being digital savvy and avoid making their technology too difficult to cater to the different generations that they service. By keeping digital dexterity in mind, companies can appeal to new generations, as well as long-term customers.

Be sensitive to concerns

When a leading analyst spoke to nearly 6,000 people in December 2021, it found 71% and 86% of B2C and B2B customers respectively, expected businesses to be well-informed with regard to their personal details. However, they also expected their data would be used responsibly — only for the intended purpose, and with security and privacy assured.

This presents a tricky challenge to enterprises. Data-driven personalization contributes to human-centric digital experience, but when its risks are not managed well, it does exactly the opposite. So, there can be no human-centric digital experience without respect for security, privacy and confidentiality of user data.

Organizations can allay these concerns by making it easy for users to discover and understand preference settings for their data, for different use cases. Consent management is mandatory, and organizations must make consent options to consumers in a clear, digestible way. They should be transparent and proactive in communicating what data is being used, and for what purpose. Organizations should ensure local and regional data privacy policies that are constantly evolving are being adhered to, without creating confusion or adding complexity among those stakeholders trying to follow them. And above all, they should act fairly, making sure the data collection serves their interest and that of their customers.

Take a total, unified and holistic view

Gartner included Total Experience in its list of Top Strategic Tech Trends for 2022. The idea of total experience is that human experiences aren’t islands; so, what a customer experiences impacts the experience of employees, or business partners etc. and vice versa.

The reality, however, is that most enterprises create barriers between different types of experience by way of separate teams, applications or functions that do not take the experiences they are not responsible for, into account. This will likely result in fragmented, friction-ridden experiences for users, and inefficiencies for providers.

Also, since most human beings have multiple roles (buyer, worker, vendor) and therefore multiple experiences, it is more human-centric to offer a total digital experience that unifies all experiences, than a fragmented one, since the average person consumes externally and through many different channels. With this in mind, organizations must factor in what is happening day-to-day in the world, so that they can better appeal to stakeholders and provide a holistic experience.

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