Why improving user experiences should be the aim of your digital identity system
Across all sectors, customer centricity and user experience are a focus area in the battle to win, service, and retain income-generating assets (yes, that’s what a customer effectively is) for businesses.
An overused term is “Delight your customer” and I have two main issues with this:
- You probably don’t need to delight, but instead be just a bit better than good enough!
- What about employees? Surely they need a bit of love too?
Why do we think we have to delight our customers?
To set some context, everyone holds the big guys like Apple, Google and Amazon up as examples of delightful experiences. The argument is that they deliver delightful experiences AND that they can pretty much jump into any sector and disrupt things brilliantly.
Some of this is true but much of it is hyperbole. Yes the iPhone was revolutionary, it made its competition (BlackBerry) look Jurassic. It created devoted fan boys and girls the world over BUT if you use multi-factor authentication (MFA) with Apple ID it will still send the MFA request to all your devices including the one you are trying to authenticate - this to me, is broken security UX.
Google makes search simple. YouTube is amazing. Nest products are great. But have you ever tried to use Android as a mobile operating system? It’s the most fragmented ecosystem out there, making it ripe for all sorts of vulnerabilities (including human ones). And have you tried to set up your home with Google’s Nest products? Just try creating your own routines.
What I am saying here is that these companies have created some amazing user experiences, but not universally, and they have tended to focus on the key ones for their own users.
Pretty much every employee you have, uses services from these companies every day. So their expectations of user experience are driven from outside the workplace. We are in a momentous shift right now where the next generation of employees are 100% digitally native and will shun poor digital experiences at work. The previous generations were pathfinders to how IT could be incorporated into the workplace and as such are more accepting of fragmented systems and services leading to complex user experience.
Is it a delightful experience or just less frustration that we are after?
No one will ever tell their friends or colleagues that a password reset experience was “A-MA-ZING.” The same goes for any digital experience that is just effectively replacing a legacy human powered job. The one exception I have found is when folks first set up a new digital banking service from one of the modern challenger banks, however some of this is plain old confirmation bias (I did this, so therefore it's cool and so am I).
Instead, our target should be simplification – with just enough friction to remind the customer that there is something worth doing and protecting. We need clear communication with clean interfaces.
As a consumer, I much prefer self-service whenever possible. I hate trying to do something quickly from my phone and then getting frustrated when the end state is “Call our customer service department to be put on hold for 30+ minutes and waste time.”
As an employee, I want to have automatic access to the systems and services I need to do my job on day one. And I want one set of credentials, preferably with some nicely delivered biometrics/MFA. If I need something else, I can request it simply, if I need to reset my password I can do it myself - or even better we get rid of passwords altogether.
One area where I feel significant progress has been made is in citizen services, not just in the UK, but globally there are some very diligent people trying to make the boring necessities of paying taxes, registering vehicles and other tasks simple to do with digital services.
The mantra of every service designer should be: What is going to save my customer or employee time and hassle. No more than that.
Poor experiences drive people away or at the very least make them angry
While everyone fears the worst, that if you deliver a less than delightful experience then Google will eat you, bad experiences are frustrating customers and employees the world over.
A personal example for me is whenever I change my phone and have to redeploy my mobile banking application. Nine times out of ten, I end up having to go into the bank branch to get it all working again! The process is so complex and badly thought through it makes me wonder what my loyalty is for.
Being driven from a supposedly digital only process through to a human process is deeply frustrating and as previously mentioned wastes time. However we still don’t need a delightful experience. We just need one that works well.
In the workplace, it is often perceived as less impactful, with a common attitude of “oh well, it's part of the job to deal with this sh*t, isn’t it?” But broken processes as simple as password reset or provisioning the correct application to the correct user costs you money in both IT support costs and lost productivity.
So what should I do about this?
I would immediately go to your IT support and customer support teams to find out what repeatable things they get stuck doing the most often. Then fix that. It is likely going to be in the areas of: customer registration, password reset, consent management, registering a new MFA device, registering a new phone etc. And in the workforce it's the same reality with some different words: Staff registration and application provision (Joiner, Mover, Leaver), password reset, and MFA device registration.
Then look to re-engineer and simplify those processes. A comprehensive IAM platform can really help you here along with some very clever marketplace solutions for things like behavioral biometrics. A/B test these new processes with your users, and keep on iterating. The key performance indicators (KPIs) will be easy to track in IT department/customer service call metrics. The benefit to your business will be cost savings in these areas as well as happier but probably not delighted customers and employees.
Oh, top tip! If you have a support process that starts online and moves to the call center – for example from a chat bot to a call – don’t make them go through a complete life history on the phone to re-authenticate! Instead, use an out-of-band authentication direct from the chat bot or even just call them back automatically.
What this boils down to is time and cost savings
For every “customer” self-service password reset, profile update, or access request that does not end up with a customer contact center or your IT service desk, time and money is saved, not just at the service desk, but also in productivity - I fix my issue and can crack on with work. Another big benefit is increased customer satisfaction and increased revenues - I fix my issues and can carry on accessing your services.
The world is changing, across the globe economic and societal factors are shifting the way we, as consumers and employees, access what we need. COVID-19 is just the latest example of this. In Southeast Asia, one of our financial services customers is seeing a 300% increase in online service requests and a 50% drop in branch foot traffic. Employees are being told to work from home, Zero Trust and CARTA are being deployed to support these initiatives.
Identity experiences are the first interactions you have as a customer or employee when accessing what you need, and these need to be better than good enough. We’ve got ideas on how to achieve that bar.