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Data Visualization: The Key to Unlocking a Better Customer Experience

In this special guest feature, Rajesh Kamath, Head of Financial Services Solutions and Incubation at Incedo, discusses the rising importance of data visualization in improving the customer experience. Rajesh heads Incubation and Solutions for the Financial Services business unit at Incedo Inc., a California-based technology services firm specializing in data management, product engineering and emerging technologies. With nearly 17 years of experience in technology, mainly in financial services, Rajesh and his team help clients innovate in emerging technologies like big data, data automation, machine learning, chat bots and predictive modeling. He has also previously worked in similar roles with LiquidHub and Mphasis.

Today’s customer experience expectations are built on the principle that every interaction with an organization should be seamless, intuitive and instantly add value for the user. To win and retain customers in 2017, many companies are focused on collecting and analyzing customer data to better target users. But a few leading companies are looking to do more with data – providing users with data and the tools to discover and interact with data on their own.

With a growing focus on providing a quality customer experience, high quality data visualization may be the key to meeting growing customer demands. There are two important trends that have made the availability of visualization tools crucial:

  1. On the demand side, customers are increasingly demanding better user experiences. They have been spoiled by the exceptional experiences that modern devices can offer, and have come to expect more from their engagement with brands. Great data visualization is one way in which enterprises can deliver these improved experiences.
  2. On the supply side, the age of unstructured data / big data almost mandates visualization. Critical (and actionable) messages in large volumes of complex data can only be effectively delivered with the use of visualization techniques. Think brand sentiment analysis from a million plus tweets!

Much of today’s data delivery is data-centric – showing data in the form of a chart is seen as an end-goal in itself, with no particular attention paid to how it will be consumed by users. The realization that data visualization needs the same “user-centric design” that has become de-facto for most portal and mobile apps, has come late to the game. Organizations are now beginning to understand that they need to go beyond sub-optimal experiences delivered by these “but-they-work” charts and traditional spreadsheets.

A well-designed data consumption experience can add genuine value to customers when they interact with a company. In the last few years, some companies have striven to provide these improved experiences. In consumer financial services, data visualization has provided customers the ability to track spending habits or visually understand how much they can spend on a house. Energy firms are now able to visually represent how much customers can save in a month with specific behavior. As customers get used to deriving such value from their digital interactions, the companies that don’t deliver to this paradigm will quickly see themselves losing out.

A large number of companies have been investing in digital transformation initiatives in recent years. Ultimately, the success of these initiatives will largely be driven by how well they are able to digitally engage their customers – giving them that great experience that has them coming back for more. This is especially true for companies that focus on the millennial and Gen X segments – the ‘mobile’ generations who are looking to access information in easy to consume bites.

Companies considered leaders in the digital space think – Moven, Fitbit, CreditKarma etc. – use data visualization at the core of their offerings to improve customer engagement on an ongoing basis. Their offerings can actually be thought of as apps built around data visualization requirements, rather than the other way around.

Learning from these leaders, organizations should seriously consider offering interactive data visualization in creative ways as a part of their overall user engagement strategy. There are a few things that they should consider in this context:

  1. Understand data consumption objectives: What data does a user need to access? When and why? What is the minimum data that will help fully answer the user’s question? End users’ needs should help define requirements for the use of visualization. These are critical to guard against the dreaded information overload which is a concern in all visualization projects.
  2. Focus on the user experience: User experience should be the primary consideration when designing customer-facing data visualization – a fact this is often overlooked. The technology used for visualization is a secondary consideration. Engaging a competent user experience design firm during the ideation and design processes can help significantly.
  3. Implement a mobile-first experience: 84 percent of companies, who claim themselves to be customer-centric, focus on the mobile customer experience. More than half of customers report that they are less likely to engage with a company after a bad mobile experience. It has become obvious that the mobile channel is the most critical channel today. Data visualization design, functionality and technology have to be ready for mobile primetime from the get-go.
  4. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new approaches: Play around with intuitive, user-friendly approaches to visualization. For example, an interesting new trend is search-based BI – providing users a “search bar” to ask questions in business lingo and get responses in the form of data.
  5. Take inspiration from various industries: Look to leading companies who have strong visualization practices – regardless of their industry – to find design and functional inspiration. Find out what the best of the best are doing, and the look for ways to apply those principles in your own design. For example, we designed a well-received clinical trials data dashboard for a pharma client that was inspired by how a popular personal fitness wearable presented its data.

These simple guidelines can go a long way in helping organizations differentiate themselves in the overcrowded and insanely competitive market today, using data visualization as a prime driver. After all, a good chart can say more than a thousand data points.

 

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