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How can digital services keep up with customer expectations in this new “always on” world?


Our expectations of digital services have evolved as we shift to an “always-on” world. From the moment we wake up, we rely on technology to navigate our lives. We all use some type of service daily, such as taking an Uber, watching Netflix on demand, or catching up with colleagues via Slack. Oftentimes this all happens before we even leave for work. 

The rapid growth of mobile apps and web platforms have redefined the way we interact with our surroundings and irrevocably changed our relationship with businesses and people. The digital revolution is also disrupting every industry, including retail, publishing, healthcare, airlines, travel, technology, gaming, logistics, finance and telecommunications.

So, it is little surprise with our dependency on digital services that our lives can be turned upside down when an online service — such as email, purchasing online goods or services or even something as simple as consuming content — is disrupted.

It’s not uncommon for most online consumers to abandon a website after less than 3 seconds if it doesn’t load quickly. The cost to business and the economy is staggering in terms of lost revenue, customer loyalty, company share price and reputational damage.

The customer is king… an impatient one at that

With customer expectations intrinsically tied to instant gratification, moments like experiencing the infamous “spinning wheel of death” on a computer screen has far-reaching consequences. Customer experience can be regarded as the new competitive battleground for business, where service uptime and reliability are now some of the most important measures of success. 

In my role as VP Global Solutions at PagerDuty, I see firsthand how critical service reliability is for our customers, which includes a third of the Fortune 500.  We’ve seen some of the largest global retailers lose up to half a million dollars per minute in revenue when digital services have been degraded or disrupted.

As a result, even minor service degradations and short outages can cost millions. Reputationally, it can also be tomorrow’s front-page news and lead conversation across social media — which, in our instantaneous world, can be a matter of minutes and have very tangible effects on the business’ bottom line.  

Over the last 12 months in Australia, we have seen a rise in public and prolific service disruptions being broadcast across the daily news that highlight consumer frustration around a site or service faltering in real time. These anecdotes are increasing in frequency as businesses continue to pivot to digital interactions and engagements even while the underpinning tech infrastructure becomes increasingly complex.

So, what’s the solution? 

As real-time experiences become the norm for consumers, it’s important to remember that those consumers rely on business services being “always on”. Similarly, these business services rely on technical services and rely on both people and teams to be always on. That means getting serious about adopting a DevOps mindset and orchestrating resolutions in real time, which can be achieved by quickly identifying issues, bringing together the right team and ensuring they have the right information to rectify incidents when it matters most.

To help minimise the risk of outages, companies need to have visibility into their entire tech stack and the interdependencies within it while also being able to act on the machine and human response data collected. Visibility is about broadening observability so developers and responders can better understand the context of the issue they are working on and getting to a resolution more effectively.

Distributed teams across the organisation like DevOps, ITOps, NOCs, the C-suite and customer support staff must be aligned to close the gap between technical services and customer outcomes. By capturing these analytics and insights via a common dashboard across teams and departments, people can use the disparate tools of their choice but still ensure multiple lines of business are armed with the information they need to best respond to customers. The analytics and insights can also be used to develop a post-mortem so teams can learn from their experiences and reduce time spent on the same issue in the future.

In summary, the three critical areas of real-time operations lie in orchestration, observability and continuous improvement. Companies need to be able to identify issues quickly, coordinate a rapid response and resolution and learn from the incident or disruption.

A cloud-based platform for real-time operations can act as a hub to orchestrate response across teams. It provides operational health insights that keep digital businesses running smoothly and enable them to quickly orchestrate a response so they can spend more time innovating and enhancing the customer experience. The next time you hail a taxi via an app or purchase a new pair of jeans online and notice that your experience is questionable, know that there is a team in the background working to ensure your experience improves, in addition to protecting the success of the business. 

Kyle Duffy is the VP Global Solutions at PagerDuty. Kyle is a technical and operations executive with 20 years’ experience in the technology industry. He has advised hundreds of digital businesses on how to optimise their operations for improved service reliability in his role at PagerDuty leading solution architecture and operations. Prior to PagerDuty Kyle held leadership positions at several high-growth technology solution providers including Business Objects & AppDynamics.  Kyle is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (BBA, Engineering Route to Business) and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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