Saturday, December 18, 2010

Your App, Your Brand

This past week, I attended OpenWorld in Beijing, China. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with customers and partners in Greater China and throughout Asia Pacific to discuss the challenges that they face in managing their applications, and the solutions that Oracle provides to solve their problems.

I have been to Beijing several times, so I have gotten to know the airport quite well. Still, I had not visited the Star Alliance lounge hosted by Air China in the newer T3 terminal, so I decided to check it out on my way back. This caused me to get to my boarding gate a bit late. When I got there, I noticed that the plane looked different. It looked like a Continental plane.

Several thoughts came to my mind at that moment:

  • Did I get to the right gate?

  • Maybe this is actually a United codeshare flight operated by Continental

  • Will the seat and the amenities be better or worst since Continental 777s are configured differently from those of United?

After I got on the plane, I found out that it was actually just another United 777 but it was one of the first 3 planes in the fleet to be repainted to the combined United Continental livery, so there was no need to be concerned. Nevertheless, it was interesting to note the effect that the brand identity change had on my expectations of the flight. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and the flight experience was consistent with what I expected to get from the airline.

This brand identity change generated a bit of debate in the past several months, as some United customers and employees lobbied to keep the old United logo. As the above example shows, the brand identity change may cause some minor confusion. However, the brand is more than just the logo. It is the total promise that a company delivers to its customers, and increasingly, this promise is about the experience that is delivered at every touchpoint with the customer. I think this old video from United says it rather nicely. Everything in the video defines the United brand.

You may wonder – what does this topic have to do with application management?

A lot, as it turns out. These days, the United experience is defined not only by the flight services that it provides, or the people that carry them out, but also by the self services applications that are used to provide better services to customers at lower costs. I think the importance of these self service applications in maintaining United's brand is not lost to United's leadership, as it has steadily improved its applications. United's competitors are not standing still either. American, Delta and Southwest have all rolled out improved websites.

One of the key factors in delivering great customer self service experience is good user experience management. It starts with a business-driven definition of user experience, and proactive monitoring in order to understand how end users interact with self services applications and the experience that they receive. At OpenWorld Beijing, one of our customers co-presented with us some really good work that it did to manage its online presence. I will talk about it more in the next article after returning from Christmas vacation.