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In today's connected economy, consumers are in the driver's seat. They are digitally empowered, thriving on instant gratification and frequent rewards. Whether it's banking, shopping, eating or traveling, they want to interact across channels on their own terms.

And they don't like roadblocks.

The expectation of an always-on, omnipresent business model is now a given. Analyst Daniel Newman explains why customer experience matters: "More than half of customers today say they've switched companies solely because of poor user experiences. Companies who fail to embrace CX as strategic path to growth won't just be lagging, they'll get left behind."

However, a key challenge to customer experience is that you can't deliver 24/7 availability without regard to cost. Likewise, devices at the edge of the enterprise — like kiosks and ATMs — are valuable revenue generators and need to be working (available) to produce.

From a business perspective, producing optimal customer experience, at an acceptable cost and while maximizing revenue, requires a three-pronged approach. The three tenets of availability in the connected economy go right to the bottom line:

  1. Customer experience. Does the machine work properly? Does it have the functionality that consumers want? Is it easy to use or to get help, if needed?
  2. Efficiency. What does it cost to deliver the best experience to the customer? Are you able to schedule maintenance and repairs for off-peak use?
  3. Revenue. Are you generating additional revenue by servicing more customers? Are you able to engage employees in higher value transactions? Do the devices help cross-sell and upsell?

In the wake of the next era of the omnichannel consumer, these and other questions are moving "availability" from an operational KPI to a strategic initiative. It's clear that to keep consumers loyal and to remain competitive, companies must understand how availability plays a role in creating a reliable, differentiated, and satisfying consumer experience in the omnichannel era.

The role of big data in availability

An ATM or POS terminal that is not in service is easily recognized and fixed. Yet there is a fallacy in the idea that "working" translates to a satisfied customer and a successful consumer interaction: Research shows a 98 percent availability rate for ATMs does not necessarily mirror the rate of customer transactions completed.

So what other "availability" factors can affect customer experience?

During high traffic times, the speed of the transaction could be an important aspect of availability, for example. Or in areas without easy access to a branch, deposit capabilities or video chat with a teller are ways consumers might measure availability.

The scenario in not just for ATMs, but for any of the converged online, mobile and in-store channels where consumers are interacting with businesses and on any device. Yes, the Internet of Things.

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