Strengthening Customer Experience in a Time of Recovery with Identity

It’s no secret that customer behavior is constantly evolving. But the changes we’ve seen in the last seven months and the acceleration of customers adopting digital-first experiences for nearly every aspect of their life is unprecedented. And this trend is only going to continue, creating a need for customers to navigate digital touchpoints in a way that is both seamless and secure. 

To better understand how customer interactions have changed over the past several months, and what opportunities and challenges must be overcome to increase customer engagement, Okta has partnered with HMG Strategy to conduct an online survey of 691 CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives from the world’s largest organizations. The survey explores the level of engagement companies have had with customers since March, and the factors that inhibit or enable effective interactions with customers and business partners across digital channels.

Understanding the customer landscape

Since COVID-19, 76% of technology executives characterize the level of interaction their organizations have had with customers and business partners as Very Strong or Fairly Strong. This uptick can be attributed to organizations rethinking the customer journey as they shift to a digital-first approach. And 96% agree that COVID-19 has only accelerated the shift from in-person to digital. This trend will only continue—as customers and companies increase their use of technology, 84% expect most, if not all, interactions with customers and business partners to occur over digital channels instead of in-person through mid-2021 and beyond. 

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In order to enhance customer engagement now and in the future, organizations need to address the cultural, operational, and technical challenges that hinder frictionless customer engagement.

Tackling the barriers to customer engagement

The sudden shift to digital has created several challenges to delivering exceptional customer experiences. More than half (53%) of technology executives face some barrier that hinders them from delighting their customers. Specifically, 21% don’t deliver seamless omnichannel customer experiences, including moving from one channel (e.g., website) to another (e.g., chat) without friction. If customers are researching a product or service, or trying to receive support, then experiencing friction across these touchpoints may result in customer churn. 

Beyond seamless customer experiences, 18% also struggled with acting on customer feedback and customer data (behavioral and transactional) as effectively as they could. Gathering these customer insights and embedding them into the customer journey is a critical part of increasing customer engagement and satisfaction. 

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The factors negatively affecting customer engagement have become even more difficult to face since work-from-home went into effect. There are now operational and technical factors that create additional challenges for organizations interacting with customers and business partners across digital channels. 

The two biggest factors are organizational policies that restrict the use of digital tools to enable seamless interaction (31%), and the challenges associated with securing these interactions (31%). For many organizations, technology costs contribute to restrictive policies against using collaboration technologies to interact with customers and business partners. But executives often look at direct license costs and ignore hidden costs like development delays to customize solutions and user friction. Instead, they should consider a cost effective, best-of-breed approach when selecting customer-facing digital tools. And when it comes to the security challenges, they’re largely in part due to organizations building new applications to meet customer demand for digital capabilities without planning for security from the start or using existing applications that have not kept pace with modern, internet-scale security requirements. Executive teams need to apply a security-first mindset and address security during the application development process and throughout the application stack. 

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Additionally, 23% of technology executives list technical or integration issues as key factors that limit or prevent digital communication with customers and business partners. Delivering seamless interactions with customers and business partners often requires a deep understanding of a customer’s identity and real-time response across the technology stack. But having to build this integration into existing apps and services can shift the focus away from other value-add business activities. These activities can be streamlined by leveraging Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) tools with deep integration and automation capabilities to build identity-centric customer journeys, enabling organizations to go to market faster while strengthening both B2B and B2C relationships. This includes the ability to integrate with hybrid on-premises and cloud native services, so organizations don’t have to abandon investments made in legacy systems. 

A more holistic approach to identity that is tightly coupled with marketing, communications, security, and application development tools allows organizations to communicate securely and seamlessly with customers across the customer journey.

Unlocking customer engagement with CIAM 

In today’s changing landscape, organizations need to respond quickly to shifting customer behaviors and market trends. 65% of technology executives agree that CIAM tools are the preferred technology to address these digital challenges. The strategic use of CIAM tools enables organizations to accelerate their go-to-market strategies while strengthening relationships with customers and business partners. 

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Leveraging a scalable CIAM solution like Okta can transform the customer journey in a few critical ways. First, you can create an elegant customer experience from the very first digital touchpoint by removing heavyweight registration forms and enabling customers to sign-in from any device. This includes assigning a risk level to each user and device, so the right security measures can be implemented to protect high-risk transactions to strengthen customer trust, while allowing low-risk transactions by removing customer friction. 

Additionally, CIAM tools can increase customer trust by protecting customer data and privacy. Privacy-by-design principles should be prevalent throughout the customer journey, and organizations should consider whether information needs to be requested at the front-end of the journey, or later on when customers have developed greater trust. And regardless of when data is collected, it needs to be readily available, auditable, and secure—but relying on manual processes is cumbersome, error-prone, and time-consuming. By automating these tasks with privacy-centric Workflows, organizations can lower operational costs, while increasing customer engagement and data privacy at scale.

Finally, CIAM tools deliver speed—both speed to development and speed to customer success. Relying on monolithic systems and on-premise solutions for customer experience creates barriers in today’s real-time business environments and also requires additional time from developers. Implementing the right out-of-box solutions focused on developer experience for authentication and user management can reduce months of effort and avoids putting go live times at risk. Organizations can also securely increase their pace of innovation to meet growing customer demand by incorporating flexible, identity-driven cloud infrastructure that can easily scale. 

To learn more about the current customer landscape and what factors affect customer engagement, read the full Okta and HMG Strategy Enhancing Customer Engagement In a Time of Recovery report. To explore Okta’s advancements within customer identity, check out our recent CIAM announcements: