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March 7, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 7:39am

Top of the Class: How to ensure your apps survive in the big wide world

Opinion: Michael Allen, Solutions VP, Dynatrace, on why developers need a solution that tracks the user experience in real time.

By Vinod

When companies release customer-facing applications it’s like sending a child to school for the first time. You prepare the child to the best of your abilities and send them off, hoping they don’t return that afternoon with tears in their eyes and mud in their hair. However, even they do, as long as you have the right data and insights at least you can learn valuable lessons and better prepare your second child for their first day.

Shockingly many companies forget this very basic last step when releasing applications. This is even more surprising when one considers that while a parent can’t do much for their child other than packing a nutritious lunch, there are steps digital business owners can take to ensure their apps thrive when they are released.

Maximising customer experience across every digital touchpoint – mobile, web, and mobile web apps – is the key to surviving, differentiating yourself, and ultimately driving engagement and revenue. Most organisations know this, and invest heavily in design and development. Yet strangely that’s where it stops for too many.

Digital business teams need to understand their users’ actual journeys. Developing an app that should provide a fantastic customer experience is a given. However, few organisations actually track apps post-production to see if the experience they planned for is actually happening.

Most do little more than a few voice of the customer surveys, so the reality is that most organisations don’t know if their customers are following a different use pattern than they had planned for. Indeed the first indication they get that their app is failing is when they hear their child crying. That is, when customers light up Twitter with complaints, expected results don’t materialise, and competitors start rising to meet or beat them.

In the grand scheme of things kids will always have the odd bad day, unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that other kids can be cruel. But, if you invested tons of money in designing a release to be top of the class, chances are you’re not really okay with it getting held back a year. So, how do you make sure your app survives school?

What you need is a digital performance monitoring solution that tracks every user experience in real time, and provides you with an indicator that grades your app’s experience from the end user perspective. With the right solution you can monitor for delivered user experiences, factoring in errors, transaction time, and adjusting for context (after all, a user accessing an app over a spotty 3G connection in the outer Hebrides is likely more prepared to wait than someone using a top of the line smartphone on a fast 4G connection in central London).

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Once you have the right monitoring solution, one that tracks every user action and journey rather than just providing a sample, you can actually grade every customer’s entire digital experience, and gain a real understanding of your user base needs and aspirations.

Don’t just monitor for mobile application crashes; if you do, you will only get technical context leading to the crash and not the user actions that lead to this situation. Instead you should track every user journey, performance, user behaviour, and environment in addition to errors. Grading on this type of user experience index gives you incredibly valuable insight and the answers you need to improve your app, head off issues before they become problems, and deliver the business results your leadership team is depending on.

With a proper digital performance solution in place you can even set up proactive alarms. Some retailers I work with have alarms set up for transactions of more than £500that encounter issues, thus enabling them to react and immediately reach out to save the transaction. Similarly, an insurance company I know has a notification set up for every time customers struggle with its mobile app. After all, since the majority of customers would use their app to file a claim, failure would directly minimise renewals rates.

The business world is every bit as merciless as the playground. While there isn’t much you can do for your child after you’ve left the school gates, you don’t ever have to throw your app to the bullies and hope it fares well. You can collect needed analytics to monitor and improve on your delivered customer experiences – not only will your customers be satisfied, your child will be on track to become king of the playground.

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