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Test-and-Learn: Mapping the Route to Improved Digital Customer Experience

By Asa Schachar, Principal Developer Advocate at Optimizely,

With the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown situation in the UK that prevents customers from going into banks, the need for more efficient digital customer services is now more important than ever. Whilst companies like Apple, Spotify, and Stripe have the resources and spend to adapt to this and are continuing to release new features and products for their users, many traditional financial services providers lack their level of development resources and experience. For an industry that’s typically been slower to initiate digital transformation, this is placing its developers under increasing pressure.

Introducing Test-and-Learn

From anywhere, at-any-time access to financial information online, to completing transactions digitally, today’s banking consumer expects a seamless, always-on digital customer experience. Improving digital services isn’t simply a box-checking exercise though, and can be costly if it doesn’t deliver business impact. For companies that lack the time, resources, or margins to guess which digital experiences will delight customers, a test-and-learn approach can greatly increase successful rollouts.

For example, a recent survey of more than 800 business leaders worldwide revealed that an overwhelming majority (90%) of financial services organisations view digital experimentation, or a test-and-learn strategy, as critical to keeping their business competitive. In fact, more than half of financial services firms using experimentation-led strategies, have reported revenue gains of 10 percent or more.

Charting the correct test-and-learn course, creates its own challenges, however. Outlined below are some common obstacles—and solutions—that financial services organisations should consider before negotiating the test-and-learn path.

Obstacles on the Road to Test-and-Learn

Slow, Risk-Averse Culture

Despite the recent fintech explosion pushing traditional providers towards digital strategies, financial services remain unwieldy in its evolution to becoming more agile. Fears surrounding customer trust continue to fuel a culture that can be overly-cautious around product launches, resulting in fewer releases. By taking a more iterative approach, with smaller, more frequent releases, financial services companies could mitigate risk by ensuring only tested, positively-received improvements achieve wider rollouts.

Aged Infrastructure 

Thirty-four percent of financial services leaders say the biggest challenge when enhancing their digital customer experience derives from integrating new technology into legacy infrastructures. Many businesses cannot invest in new technology to improve digital experience, and those that can, still require time to implement them. A good starting point is to assess existing tools and utilise those capable of greater reach and ROI across the business.

An Alternative Route to Improved Agility

Despite inherent challenges, adopting a test-and-learn culture can be undertaken swiftly and with minimal resource investments. Fundamentally, successful transformation is built on a commitment to delivering holistic customer experiences and facilitating cross-team information sharing. In other words, it’s as much about the people and process as it is about the technology itself. Getting a ‘safe to experiment’ culture established, is the first step in utilising experimentation to its full potential.

Establish a “North Star” 

Any successful journey towards an improved digital strategy begins with a dedicated North Star metric that’s shared across teams. The idea behind a North Star is to identify the project’s purpose and ambition, and what this means for each team that will be invested in the journey. Once established it will provide direction and alignment, helping teams to track their progress and measure impact, whilst establishing shared accountability. It’s also important that the North Star evolves alongside the project, as with all experimentation, the learnings discovered may alter the direction. The most successful of testing environments is one where the organisation remains on a holistic path to success, encouraging employees to share ideas, questions, insights, and learnings to reach their ultimate goal. The North Star is the light that guides this kind of iterative, agile strategy.

Create a Testing Center of Excellence 

Testing teams are under constant pressure to reduce development time without compromising on quality. Investing in a Testing Centre of Excellence (TCoE) that can facilitate this process and ensure testing is maintained as a centralised service across the organisation, will provide all teams with a central point of contact. This core unit can help to standardise the testing processes, formalise metrics, and ensure the required tools, and expertise is provided to give the testing process the maximum chance of success, whilst also coordinating the learnings from any that are less successful. Implemented correctly, a TCoE will maximise the investment in testing, from the perspective of the people, processes, and technology used.

To remain competitive, forward-thinking organisations need to confront these test-and-learn challenges head-on. This will allow for continued discovery and enable financial institutions to not only keep pace with changing customer demands, but also uncover fresh opportunities to increase innovation and improve customer experience.