First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Ben Harris: While I’m cognizant of the chaos and tragedy, some of it close to home, we’re fortunate to be healthy and are relishing the time together as a family. My 9-year-old son has become obsessed with cooking and baking, and my 12-year-old daughter has become equally obsessed with recreating incredibly realistic miniature versions of his food in polymer clay! Keeps them busy and me well fed. Personally, I’ve invested in Blazepods, which are super fun, especially after all that food!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Decibel?
Ben Harris: I used to work in global marketing agencies, and then started my digital agency in the early days of digital during the dot com boom. Running an agency was grueling, but a fantastic dress rehearsal for Decibel.
What became obvious as the web space developed was that companies found it difficult to know how to improve their websites using traditional web analytics. We saw our agency clients had lots of information about their websites, but struggled to establish how they could actually improve experiences for their users. So, working closely to solve for client pain points at the time, we developed software designed to reveal where and – most importantly – why parts of websites could and should be optimized, based on user behavior.
It quickly became apparent that there was a real appetite for these kinds of insights, not just for our agency clients but for any business with a website. And so, in 2014 we spun our software into a new company, and Decibel was born.
How does Decibel innovate?
Ben Harris: From the beginning, we’ve been obsessed with uncovering one thing: as much clarity into the user experience as possible. Traditional web analytics tools, with demographics and click data, just aren’t designed for this job. We’re interested in how users feel about a website, as well as what makes them feel that way.
Getting this new level of insight meant collecting a new level of data. We go beyond clicks and look what happens between them – user mouse movements, hesitations, device rotations, and much more. For each user session, we’re collecting about 100x more data about the experience than traditional analytics tools do.
Of course, such depth in the data quickly adds up to potentially overwhelming amounts of information, so to make it useful we knew from the beginning that leveraging data science would be crucial. Accordingly, we employed a sub-nuclear physicist data science team to develop AI that automatically interprets the data and actually scores the quality of each user experience out of 10.
We call this scoring innovation the Digital Experience Score (DXS), and it helps teams finally put a number to site-wide user experiences, as well as pinpoint where, why, and how they can be improved. It might be that a particular drop-down causes user frustration, or that an engagement-inducing element should be moved higher in the flow of a page – these are the kinds of hidden insights Decibel provides, and our AI continually innovates on hundreds of enterprise websites like Lego, Fidelity, and British Airways to establish more.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and how are you coping?
Ben Harris: In many ways, it’s been a revelation. The global situation has confirmed to us – as well as to our clients – the critical importance of digital customer experience. Currently, digital is for many businesses the only way they can have a relationship with their customers – and so it’s never been more important to ensure that experiences on websites and apps are of the highest possible quality. This is of course Decibel’s sweet spot – our mission of making the internet a better place for users has never felt so timely – and we’re excited by the increased focus and attention businesses are now paying to their online presence.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Ben Harris: Yes, from an operational perspective, there have certainly been some character-building moments over the last few months as our business and staff adjust to a new normal. Thankfully, since Decibel employs almost two hundred people across multiple countries, we’ve always been set up to be flexible in how we work together, and the pandemic has simply accelerated our path to becoming a truly remote business, and the added balance this brings is being relished across the organization. Overall, in a time of such global uncertainty, I couldn’t be prouder of the resilience and dedication shown by the Decibel team.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Decibel in the future?
Ben Harris: Exercise! I always start my day with it. Regular communication with a whole host of different people and perspectives, too, has been critical over the last few months. Being at home has allowed more time for quality one to one video conversations with friends and colleagues across all levels of the business, which has been brilliant for me as my time is usually so filled with travel. The future for us is to make the most of our flexible working conditions and, of course, to maintain our focus on improving digital experiences for all.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ben Harris: It depends how you look at what we do. From a base features perspective, such as offering the ability to watch user session replays and generate heat maps, there are several players in this emerging space.
But from an automation and prioritization engine perspective – developing AI that automatically analyzes user experiences and shows teams how to optimize them – there’s no one else doing what we’re doing. No one else quantifies user experiences at scale in this way, and so continuously innovating this side of our business is our core focus, as the feedback we’ve had from the market is it’s this kind of functionality that’s needed most.
Your final thoughts
Ben Harris: In this new world we’re living in, digital is now the only lever by which many businesses can engage their customers. It’s never been more important to ensure that digital channels are as aligned to customer expectations as it’s possible to be – and that can only happen with accurate insight into user experiences. We’re excited by the role our technology plays in fulfilling this growing business need – and for the better experiences on websites and apps everywhere that result.