I’ve reached a point where I can rate most services based on the quality of my digital interactions. So much so in fact, that any human interjection into my daily digital consciousness has become, well, almost quirky.
It was with some surprise that after a prolonged period of digital engagement with my bank, I received a call from a customer service representative. After the initial shock, I was brought back to earth by a pretty standard question:
Based on the service you’ve received recently, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? Please rate on a scale of 0 to 10.
Now with a background in marketing, I understand what’s in play here. It’s an attempt to build what’s called a Net Promoter Score (NPS); a simple management tool to gauge the loyalty of consumers. If I respond with a 9 or 10 I’m considered enthusiastic – a promoter. On the other hand if I think the service sucks and score 0 to 6, then I’m a detractor. The metric is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Yep, management theory doesn’t have to be complex.
NPS as an indicator of business performance is important because most leaders understand they’re competing primarily on the basis of the customer experience. And, since this experience is predominantly based on a journey of linked digital engagement, maintaining the quality of these interactions is vital.
So what has all this to do with Application Performance Management (APM) and DevOps? Well, lots – let me explain.
If we think about digital engagement, there’ll be many points across a customer journey (from app on-boarding to service renewal) that’ll help determine the overall experience and whether or not customers become promoters. I call these “magic moments”; points of interaction where businesses have an opportunity to deliver an experience that transcends beyond the purely transactional into a more powerful emotional connection. It’s vital therefore that these moments become the focal points for our APM strategies – only this requires some new thinking. Here’s my take:
Monitor the Magic – IT teams must identify all the key magic moments (especially those that have the highest correlation to customer loyalty) and implement automated performance collection and measurement. Some of these may form part of a linked value chain (e.g. an airline flight experience = seat selection + mobile boarding pass + baggage collection + loyalty rewards), or be services designed to drive a recurring revenue model (e.g. free shipping / discount options), or even be delivered by partners through API’s. Whatever the model, APM must be capable of providing a unified end-user view into every contextual, situational or transactional interaction – mobile app and web-based – because it’s here that loyalty is determined and promoters are formed.
Make Metrics Matter – when a prospect navigates to your application (perhaps via some promotional web-advertising) that’s great, but it’s not yet magic – that is until the visit converts into a sale. It’s at these points that we should be connecting our “listening” strategy (via APM) to the customer and determining effectiveness in a business context. This can be tricky because traditional (but still important) metrics like MTTR are introspective, whereas what’s really required are external customer-centric indicators. To address this, DevOps practitioners should consider applying newer APM analytical methods and instrumentation in order to learn the relationships between service elements (e.g. web site sign-on / authentication time, response times) and customer experience – using the intelligence gained to drive improvements where they’re most effective – yep, you guessed it – at those “magic moments”.
Share the “Profits” – an advanced experience-based APM strategy must also include working with groups who can profit from rich information insights. From a DevOps perspective, this will involve development leveraging the data as the operational feedback needed to steer both functional and non-functional improvements – for example, mobile app usage and behavior analytics are critical early indicators of functional usability. But given the businesses reliance on digital services, many groups beyond IT will also profit. For example, if it’s reliably determined (and presented) that application performance is a key driver of Net Promoter (or any other business metric), which in turn is linked to improved financial outcomes, then this could serve as the basis upon which to prioritize future investment.
Instrument Culture – aligning with metrics like NPS is valuable because it helps shape collaborative, customer-centric behaviors. However, this requires tools that can embed these behaviors into everyday operational practices. Improving customer experience is a shared goal, so APM processes must facilitate the feedback of intelligence between Dev and Ops, while also meeting the needs of every function (Developers, Application admins, Level 1 and 2 support etc.) within each group – especially in context of the role each plays in improving customer experience.
As companies increasingly engage customers via digital channels it’s a given that IT will be measured on how it increases customer loyalty. While business metrics sounding like NPS may at first seem foreign, they present us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate what DevOps and APM is really all about – winning more customers and getting them to stick with you.