Are internal controls stifling customer experience innovation?

Simon  Mathews

April 21, 2015

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Today was a great day. We just launched a completely re-imagined digital experience for our client, a large regional US bank. The first phase was the public, customer acquisition-focused site and was delivered in a completely fluid, fully responsive design that works great on the smallest smartphone to the largest desktop.

So, a great day!

However, soon after launch, the emails and phone calls started flowing in, related to some problems in-branch staff and other employees were seeing. After digging into the web analytics we worked out what was happening. Some staff, including those in-branch had 'lost' the main menu and hence could not log in to the online banking and other authenticated tools.

Going deeper, the issue was simple, and slightly unexpected. The horizontal screen resolution on the desktop PCs they were using was just 1024 pixels-a more typical resolution for tablets (and even quite small for the modern crop of tablets)-and hence in the responsive design framework, they were being served up the mobile style 'hamburger' menu rather than the full menu.

If you were to go to a Best-Buy today it is impossible to buy a PC, laptop or monitor with that low a resolution and has been for years.  So, our client's customer-facing employees are using computers that are either very old, or deliberately configured to older specifications.

We had a hunch that this was different than the technology their customers are using, but just how different? As it turns out, quite different.

Diving back into the analytics data, we looked at another dimension of the user's technology, the web browser being used and its version number.  Mapping version numbers to the date that browser version launched (thanks Wikipedia!) we built the chart that follows.

It shows the percentage of external customers (in blue) & internal employees (in orange) based on which browser version they were using when they visited the site, grouped into the year of the launch of that version. The data includes all the major browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox Safari, etc.).

Browser age

What we can see immediately is that internal employees are using much older browsers. While 43% of customers have a browser version launched since January 2014, only 5% of bank employees do.

The average browser age for customers is 1.9 years, while for bank employees its 4.57 years. To give that age some context, 4.57 years from today takes us back to Oct 26th, 2010, when the iPhone 4 was brand new, Katy Perry was #1 on the Billboard chart with 'Teenage dreams' and making headlines by marrying Russell Brand.

So, while I may joke with the thought that these browsers have lasted four times longer than Katy Perry's marriage to Russell Brand, there is a deeper underlying problem that needs to be discussed.

While enterprises must manage their technology to support older applications and security, employees are experiencing their customer-facing applications and tools in a very different way than their customers.

In a service-orientated business, which is more-and-more being delivered mostly, or totally, online, employees are the facilitators and enablers of the customer experience combined seamlessly with the technology. If they are not able to put themselves in the shoes of their customer, to empathize with them, they are at a disadvantage in aiding and driving them to better outcomes.

Taking this argument further, how can all employees assist in driving innovation and new digital ideas if they are already disadvantaged in the experience they are using? We used to talk about the digital-divide in reference to social opportunity. I'm beginning to wonder if the digital-divide may be alive and well inside of organizations, helping limit the opportunity for organizations to innovate.

Now, back to my Katy Perry playlist on Spotify.