In today’s digital world, we have become constant consumers. Whether we are visiting a restaurant, using our tablets or smartphones, booking a holiday online or simply doing our jobs, we use and interact with apps and software almost constantly. As a result, we have little, if any, tolerance for delays or failure. This not only applies to performance, but also to consistency in our experiences and security.
Although high consumer expectations and the demand for a good service aren’t new challenges or concepts, digital technologies now enable people to interact with brands, products and companies more directly and continuously than ever before. Banking, for example, has gone from regular trips to the bank and meetings with your bank manager, to apps that allow you to control almost every aspect of your finances directly, wherever you are and whenever you like.
As expectations for immediate gratification across all aspects of our lives continues to soar, customers now increasingly judge products and services on the quality of the experience through interaction to purchase as much as on price.
With the world quite literally at our fingertips, it’s all too easy to switch between products and brands if our expectations aren’t met, this trend features firmly on the agenda of most boardrooms today. With customer loyalty being paramount, validating that customer expectations will be met by the software, systems and platforms is characterised as testing.
The evolution of testing
Before 2000, testing was largely reactive in responding to problems or issues after they arose. This posed obvious problems in that consumers would inevitably reach a point of dissatisfaction with a product or service before it was changed. Although it was a much slower process almost two decades ago.
The technological wave that has defined the 21st Century has moved testing to become proactive. Companies now look to solve issues and produce the highest quality product or service before consumers even realise there is a problem. Benefit has also been seen in testing for high-peaks of interactions, such as the Christmas shopping period and ensuring systems are geared towards coping with high demand to avoid risk of downtime and loss of revenues.
Today, we are focused on the next phase, the optimisation of testing to produce further efficiencies and help to overcome the barriers that have caused companies to pause for thought in the past.
The first of these barriers is time. In an increasingly competitive market, companies have often been wary of withholding their product or service from market to test it, lest they get beaten to the punch by a rival. Although this overlooks the fact that a rushed launch can sink a flawed product quicker than a rival would ever be able to, it is a legitimate concern, particularly for companies who have yet to build a bulwark of brand loyalty.
Optimised testing reduces this concern by introducing new methods such as intelligent automation to reduce the time taken without compromising on testing quality.
The second barrier is effort. Testing has traditionally taken significant amounts of manpower and money, and the return on investment can often be opaque, particularly if the process does not show any major weaknesses. New techniques such as crowd testing and efficiencies from automation reduce this risk, and encourage businesses to enter into the process of testing and quality assurance.
The third barrier is a lack of understanding amongst some senior business leaders who overlook or disregard the importance of adequate testing. The obvious power of consumer expectations is helping to alleviate this hurdle, with case studies around brands that have suffered as a result of launches which have let down their customers abounding.
Follow the leader
No industry is immune to the impact of digital technology, I would argue that today every business is a digital business and ensuring digital security is an essential aspect to servicing customers. So everyone should be considering adequately testing the applications and platforms that drive their business.
When thinking about how to best approach testing, it pays to look to those sectors that are at the cutting edge of the practice. These are often those who interact directly with customers, and so are best at experiencing and responding to increasing or changing expectations. These include banking, communications, and retail sectors, although there are plenty of others who rely on immediate customer satisfaction to be successful, and are embracing testing as a key tool to do so.
Just as it has for the past 16 years, testing will continue to evolve. New technology points to a future where testing is predictive and intelligent, allowing companies to predict faults and avoid them. Companies need to get on board now, not only to survive among their competition, but also to continue to meet—or even exceed—soaring customer expectations.