Expanding the SRE horizon

Historically, Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) have been laser-focused on performance metrics and ensuring systems are always up and running. While uptime remains critical, the scope of SRE responsibilities is expanding. Modern users demand more than just accessibility and speed; they want a seamless and delightful experience. This shift underscores the need for SREs to think holistically about customer experience.

Prioritizing customer experience: expanding the SRE mission

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Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Philip Oroni

In the world of SREs, the core mission has always been clear: ensure systems are reliable, scalable, and available. SREs have relentlessly pursued the challenge of "five nines" (99.999% uptime), and their dedication to system resilience is unwavering. However, as the digital landscape evolves, there's a growing realization that reliability alone isn't enough.

Per a Deloitte podcast, site reliability engineering should not just focus narrowly on metrics and percentages. More importantly, it involves defining reliability from the customer's point of view and letting their experience guide data-informed decisions. During the podcast, Google’s Nathen Harvey indicated, “We have to take a customer–or user-centric point of view of our systems.”

Today’s SREs are “Guardians of Production,” and must advocate for the customer or end-user. Enter a new imperative beyond the four golden signals: customer experience.

Customer experience impacts every SRE should know

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Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images.

When you consider the four golden signals - latency, traffic, errors, and saturation - they can all have an impact on the user experience. Traditionally, SREs are not hesitant about questioning the why and understanding natural correlations. So while running things efficiently has a direct correlation to revenue, another key factor is the customer experience. Let’s run through key components of the customer experience and SREs’ role.

Impact on Reputation: Customer experience directly influences a company's reputation. When digital services not only perform reliably but also provide a smooth and user-friendly experience, users are more likely to view the company favorably. By the same token, when these services are not reliable, customers are extremely displeased, which can be seen  when customers tried to buy Taylor Swift concert tickets. Even large eCommerce giants or popular streaming platforms can experience downtime. SREs are monitoring issues, traffic, and latency to ensure this positive experience.

Customer Loyalty: Exceptional customer experiences foster loyalty. Users who enjoy a seamless experience are more likely to remain loyal, contributing to long-term business success. A customer experience study revealed that nearly one-third of consumers will take their business elsewhere following a negative interaction. This means if the site crashes or responses are slow, customers will take their business elsewhere. SREs can continually monitor metrics and tweak the infrastructure with prerendering and other tools to deliver a better experience.

Revenue Generation: Customer satisfaction translates to business success. Users who have a positive experience are more likely to engage with a platform, leading to higher revenue generation. SREs can prepare for busy periods and understand the customer journey to help ensure satisfaction.

Proactive Issue Resolution: SREs can play a proactive role in identifying potential customer experience issues. By monitoring not only uptime but also performance metrics, they can spot degradations in service quality before users are significantly affected.

Journey into the customer's world

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Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images.

SREs have to understand the customer journey (like what are they clicking on the most or getting caught up in) and when promotions or other events will make the traffic peak.

One other important factor for eCommerce SREs is how fast and operational checkout is - because that is how the business makes revenue. Checkout is an important phase in the customer journey. No one likes it when items disappear from their cart or the wheel of wait time spins continuously after you hit purchase.

To prioritize customer experience effectively, SREs must embark on a journey into the world of the end-users. This journey encompasses every facet of a user's interaction with a service. Each touchpoint, from the first interaction to ongoing usage and support, shapes the user's perception of the service.

The need for speed

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Photo by Andy Hermawan on Unsplash.

Performance stands tall among the pillars of customer experience. Users today expect lightning-fast responses from websites and apps. Slow-loading pages or apps with glitches can quickly drive users away. Let’s explore ways SREs can improve customer experiences in their day-to-day tasks.

Strategies for SREs to enhance customer experience

To consider customer experience as an SRE, here are some strategies to implement:

Performance Optimization: Continuously monitor and optimize system performance. Pay attention to response times, error rates, and the overall user interface. Since SREs are concerned and measured on latency, this becomes a way to deliver faster speeds.

User-Centric Monitoring: Implement user-centric monitoring to gain insights into how real users experience your services. This includes tracking user interactions, load times, and user satisfaction rather than a whole focus on internal performance metrics.

Incident Management: When incidents occur, assess their impact on users' experiences. Prioritize incident resolution based on potential customer impact.

Collaborate with UX/UI Teams: Foster collaboration between SREs and User Experience (UX) or User Interface (UI) teams. Aligning technical performance with user-centered design is essential to creating an experience fabricated around customer delight.

User Feedback Integration: Incorporate user feedback into your monitoring and improvement processes. Users often provide valuable insights into pain points.

Manage Traffic Peaks: Plan infrastructure capacity and test load handling to manage usage spikes and prevent outages especially during peak events.

Know Your Visitors: Analyze site visitors to differentiate human customers from bots and prioritize optimization for real user experiences and stop wasting resources on bad bot traffic and prevent them from creating havoc.

Collaboration: the key to success

Exceptional customer experience is a collaborative effort. SREs, developers, designers, and other teams must work hand in hand. Building and maintaining systems that not only function but also provide an enjoyable and efficient experience is a shared responsibility.

The final verdict

In closing, the role of Site Reliability Engineers is evolving. While unwavering reliability and availability remain paramount, the contemporary digital landscape demands more. By actively monitoring and optimizing performance, empathizing with the user journey, and fostering collaboration across teams, SREs can make a substantial difference.

Their contribution goes beyond keeping systems running; it's about ensuring that users have a remarkable experience. Balancing reliability and performance is the path to thriving in a competitive digital realm. So, to all SREs out there, remember: your mission is not just to keep the lights on; it's to ensure those lights shine brilliantly.

AI-powered services go beyond typical SRE tools

Backend and application improvements can take months or even years to accomplish and may require significant resources - human, time, space, or budgets - that are not readily available. At the same time, customer expectations continue to increase and some changes may be necessary to stay ahead of the competition. With Macrometa, you can implement PhotonIQ services in 60 days or less without changing your existing systems.

  • PhotonIQ Performance Proxy (P3): This intelligent caching proxy dramatically accelerates website speed - boosting HTML, CSS, and JS delivery by up to 300% - without any loss in quality.
  • PhotonIQ Edge Side Tagging (EST): This innovative solution optimizes JavaScript by consolidating all tags into simplified edge-side code, significantly speeding up script loading and execution.
  • PhotonIQ Virtual Waiting Rooms: This capability effectively manages sudden traffic spikes by queuing incoming requests, ensuring fast, reliable performance even when sites see dramatic surges in visitors.
  • PhotonIQ Prerendering: This service prerenders and serves full web pages at the edge to users and crawlers alike, slashing latency and boosting SEO.
  • PhotonIQ Fingerprint: This privacy-first system enables more contextual site experiences by recognizing visitors across devices without requiring invasive tracking across sites or sign-ins.

To learn more about PhotonIQ services and how they can meet SREs’ unique goals, be sure to chat with an Enterprise Solutions Architect.

First photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images.