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Identity cues that tell customers ‘this brand has a great digital experience’

A security executive at a large company recently framed the risk conundrum in many customer-facing industries.

“I have millions of customers,” the executive said. “They can’t all be good or well-meaning. “How do we stay vigilant while not treating all customers like criminals?”

It’s a balance that every retailer, bank, telco, utility or similar organisation must strike if they’re to serve a large base of digital-first customers, keeping them secure and limiting fraud, but without adding too much “friction” to the purchase journey or relationship.

The prize for getting it right is extended loyalty and customer lifetime value, and associated revenue uplift. Those that get it wrong often pay a heavy price, marked by escalating fraud losses, which drive the need to implement protections that ultimately annoy customers and drive them to rival offerings that promise an easier and frictionless experience.

Many consumers have found themselves in that scenario. Research shows 59% of people have abandoned an online experience when the login process was too frustrating, and 61% would switch to a competitor if the login experience was easier. In other words, consumers want convenience without sacrificing security. Organisations want to strike that balance to keep their consumers happy and engaged. 

So, if all sides want the same thing, why is it that so many organisations end up with a customer experience that is unbalanced, weighted too heavily to either security or to convenience, but not both?

Barriers to achieving balance

Achieving balance can be difficult and complex. 

Fraud and threat detection is hard. Organisations need an array of data collection points or ‘sensors’ that instrument the end-to-end customer journey, enabling recognition of suspicious behaviour or transactional activity. This level of visibility can be used to predict the possibility of a negative outcome, but it can be hard to set these detection systems up to produce accurate and consistent alerts. Inconsistent alerts may see an organisation lean too heavily on security measures or controls as a backup, at the risk of consumer satisfaction.

On top of that, organisations are often held back by monolithic or legacy systems that make it hard to keep up with bad actors. These systems are also complex and costly to change, and therefore hold the organisation back from innovating in the customer experience space in a way that would better balance convenience with security.

Finally, organisations often have inconsistent CX across channels – web, mobile, bricks-and-mortar and more. As consumers, we’ve all interacted with organisations that don’t seem to know who you are or anything of your history from one channel to the next. Consumers find this inconvenient, or worse.

Meanwhile on the consumer side, their needs and expectations are also constantly evolving. They likely do business with multiple organisations, and see the good, bad and ugly of customer experience. They may be wooed by organisations that are first to offer an improved customer experience. When a better experience comes along, they naturally want to see it used by all organisations they interact with. Staying competitive in the race to produce the best customer experience is challenging for organisations.

Identity provides the cues and clues to a great customer experience

There are organisations that clearly do better than others at striking and maintaining a balance between security and convenience with respect to their customer experience.

For those that get it right, there are two technology centrepieces. The first is an identity and access management (IAM) system. Knowing who customers are allows an organisation to enhance their experience, tailor their digital interactions, improve security and to be comfortable with who they’re engaging with. 

The second is a low-code or no-code platform that makes it easy for the organisation to design a secure and convenient end-to-end customer experience, that then stitches together all the technical pieces needed in the backend to deliver that experience. These act like a drag-and-drop ‘canvas’ for customer experience designers. The right mix of vendors, capabilities, and security controls can be assembled and tested on consumers, making it clear which path forward is the right one to take.

Taking their cues

Consumers will quickly be able to recognise an organisation that has the balance right because they’ll be provided with cues at all stages of interaction (“touchpoints”) across the end-to-end customer journey.

If consumers reflect on what led them to the point of pressing the ‘buy now’ button, they’re likely to take their cues on simplicity and security from a frictionless registration experience initially, followed by the onboarding process and login. 

They may review their account management options next: whether there is simple and easy account recovery and reset, for example, as well as self-service options to manage their data and relationship. 

The consumer may then review the site’s or organisation’s privacy policy, which demonstrates how seriously their personal privacy and regulatory compliance is taken.

Finally, they may get a sense for security and convenience by engaging a support channel, through which they can see if they’re greeted by name, or if their problems are prioritised and solved quickly. 

Doing all of these things well is required to deliver a smooth and frictionless customer journey. A cohesive, secure, consistent multi-channel experience, backed by IAM, is the competitive differentiator that organisations and their customers require.

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Ashley Diffey

Ashley Diffey

Ashley Diffey is a technology leader and business executive with extensive experience in the field of cybersecurity and identity management. He is currently serving as the Vice President of Asia Pacific and Japan at Ping Identity.

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