Blog Post

A gulf tale: Navigating the potholes of customer experience in the digital era

Explore how service vendors in the GCC must prioritize Internet Resilience to meet the high standards of a tech-centric economy.

How should we define technological progress in the digital era? Is it merely the proliferation of gadgets and gizmos, or does it lie in the seamlessness of our digital encounters?  

Recently, I moved to Dubai, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) major trading hub and a city celebrated as the “City of the Future.” But does Dubai’s technological innovation extend to the resilience of its digital service vendors? How does the user experience of common apps stack up in comparison to the city’s impressive infrastructure and ambitious tech initiatives? As I marvel at the city’s advancements, I question whether its digital service vendors are truly keeping pace with the city’s futuristic reputation.  

My digital highs and lows in Dubai

Upon moving to Dubai, I was immediately captivated by its digital sophistication and how technology is integrated into every facet of life. Here, life is orchestrated by technology so advanced that even the towering Burj Khalifa comes alive with flashing displays, and shopping in a Carrefour store is a seamless blend of the physical and digital. Meanwhile, services like CAFU refuel our vehicles while we enjoy dinner at home.    

Reflecting on my digital encounters, I recall two distinct incidents that shed light on the importance of Internet Resilience in shaping user experiences. Both incidents were vendor-specific: one I could workaround, but the other left me with no option but to wait or move on to the next vendor. These experiences underscore that even in the most advanced of cities, user experience cannot be overlooked.

Incident One: Unresolved Challenges

I encountered unexpected roadblocks as I attempted to book driving classes through a well-known driving school app. I was met with sluggish performance not just on my phone but also when I tried the transaction via my laptop’s browser. Despite several refresh attempts, my concerns were confirmed: the site was completely unresponsive.  

For the average person, the story would end there. However, I have the advantage of working at Catchpoint, arguably the world’s first Internet Performance Monitoring platform. Naturally, I investigated the issue by conducting some internal tests. What I found was concerning.   

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The high number of ECN changes caught my attention, suggesting potential congestion within the network. ECN, or Explicit Congestion Notification, acts like a traffic signal on the Internet, monitoring data flow to prevent clogging. Consistent congestion can cause increased latency, slowness, or packet loss, leading to sluggish app or website performance. In extreme cases, such congestion could be symptomatic of a DoS attack, where the network is deliberately overloaded. Typically, websites employ CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) or WAFs (Web Application Firewalls) to manage these issues. In this instance, the lack of a CDN meant that content was being served directly from the UK, contributing to the network strain.  

Having trouble booking a driving class because the app wasn’t working and then finding the website down was more than a hassle—it was a clear signal of just how crucial it is for our online interactions to be reliable and easy, especially when we depend on them for everyday tasks. This experience was a real eye-opener to the critical need for seamless digital services in a world where everything is connected.  

Incident Two: Overcoming Obstacles

The Cricket World Cup 2023 was an event I was eagerly anticipating. As a fan, I secured a subscription to a streaming service, a UK-based startup. Excitement turned to frustration when, despite my high-speed internet connection, the match I watched was marred by constant buffering. Reaching out to the service provider, I was given a set of troubleshooting steps, such as altering the streaming resolution and manually selecting a CDN country within their app—though it defaulted to ‘Auto CDN,’ which, in theory, should have optimized the streaming quality automatically. However, that wasn't the case.   

To solve this, I delved into the manifest files for different regions, running tests from my network (I maintain an on-premises node at home to troubleshoot such network issues). The tests quickly revealed that the Singapore region offered the most reliable connection to Dubai, a detail not reflected in the app’s ‘Auto CDN’ feature. I manually switched to the Singapore Path, and the buffering was gone, allowing me to enjoy my cricket match, which was a small victory.  

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Yet, the solution was not foolproof. In the next match, the connection through Singapore deteriorated, and I switched to a European server. From then on, I had two reliable options: the Singapore and the European servers, which I alternated between as needed to counteract any streaming issues. Ideally, the touted “Auto CDN” feature would have seamlessly managed these switches in the background without me having to do so manually.  

Internet Resilience in the GCC: A new benchmark for success

The imperative for digital service reliability has never been more pronounced in the GCC. The challenge for businesses operating in this dynamic arena is clear: adapt or be overshadowed by those who do. The GCC’s push towards a diversified, tech-centric economy means that companies must engineer services and experiences that resonate with an increasingly discerning customer base.

In an era where consumers have myriad options, and user patience is thin, a single glitch can drive customers to competitors. By prioritizing IPM and leveraging tools like Catchpoint, companies can proactively address performance issues, enhance user satisfaction, and maintain a competitive edge in the digital landscape. Instead of hastily assembling war rooms after an issue has affected a large customer base, Catchpoint IPM proactively monitors the entire Internet Stack to ensure resilience.  

For digital service vendors in the GCC, it has become essential not merely to offer services but to create experiences that align with the sophisticated demands of digitally savvy consumers. Such commitment to user experience and resilience is no longer just a ‘nice to have’—it’s the very foundation of enduring success in the digital age.

Customer Experience
News & Trends
Internet Performance Monitoring
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