Deploying technology that creates a delightful customer experience
Digital Transformation is perpetually popular in business vernacular. The phrase aims to describe the aspiration of business modernization through novel technology to lead the organization into a brighter future. Success should be measured by more than a successful technological deployment. The user of the new solution should feel delighted, that friction has in some way been alleviated, that the solution is intuitive and as a result their lives are enriched.
At times, this approach can feel challenging. It requires investing time in understanding the problem we are trying to solve, incremental experimenting with proof of concepts (POC) and most importantly a human centered solution.
Defining the problem
In fast paced environments, there can be a tendency to rush to solution once a problem has been identified. If significant time is not spent identifying the root cause, we can spend time answering symptomatic surface level issues, without getting to the core challenge. In the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article Why Design Thinking Works, author Jeanne Liedtka discusses how applying the structure of the design process allows us to frame the true problem. Liedtka notes that “incorporating user-driven criteria”, can alleviate analysis paralysis or the impatience of action-oriented designers. Rather than rushing to conventional conclusions, through empathy, the design process creates a framework to define the problem from multiple perspectives.
How does one empathize with a customer? There are a variety of methods that can be utilized to understand and share feelings with another. Ken Anderson, an anthropologist at Intel,hails ethnographical research as a key fundamental to understanding customers. Anderson’s article in HBR discusses the strategic power of ethnographical research and how it allows the company to observe the customer in the moment, living their lives. Ethnographical research provides insight into trends that the customer may be challenging to articulate or identify in traditional research methods.
Transformations can feel daunting especially if we directly consider the quantifiable capital expenditure,the risk of failure and the unknown business impact. Incremental experimentation can provide the reassurance through small wins and POC’s. Thomke and Manzi discuss this in their article The Discipline of Business Experimentation. They note how existing data cannot provide insight into how customers will react to innovation and that for a novel idea to succeed a business must be open to rigorous experimentation. This notion is also supported by Adam Grant who, in his latest book – Think Again, discusses the four models of thinking and how the Scientist archetype is one we should adopt more frequently. Grant notes how intellectual humility, combined with scientific curiosity allows one to "look for reasons why you might be wrong, not just reasons why you must be right."
In A Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Business Experiments Eric T. Anderson and Duncan Simester provide a clear and executable framework for incremental experimentation. Firstly, focusing on short term impacts for individuals rather than segments or geographies over a lifetime provides. This provides immediate feedback on customer purchasing behavior, rather than perception, over a lifetime. Next, simple experiments that are low cost, create freedom to explore end-user behavior independent of the risk of material R&D costs. A POC provides the opportunity to understand how the end-user will respond in real life, building a business case for larger scale deployments.
Once your results are in, segment then end-users into subgroups to identify any trends lost at the aggregate level. Certain actions impact specific customers over another, and this analysis can highlight such. The fifth step is out of the boxing “what if” thinking. If we’re looking for breakthrough, asking more interesting questions can provide unconventional, novel results. Anderson and Simester call out Tesco, the UK supermarket, who “discovered that it was profitable to send coupons for organic food to customers who bought wild birdseed” noting how “Tesco allows relatively junior analysts at its corporate headquarters to conduct experiments on small numbers of customers”. The authors remind us to measure what matters and look for natural experiments which allows the organisation to learn about the customer at little or no additional expense.
Human centered solution
Understanding the customer and designing solutions that are purpose built is the core to human centered design. “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success” explains, Tim Brown Executive Chair of IDEO, the leading design and consulting firm.
“Ethnographical research provides insight into trends that the customer may be challenging to articulate or identify in traditional research methods”
Brown notes that design is “not linear or standardized” but instead requires ideas that are divergent(the exploration and creation of multiple ideas or choices)and convergent(the analysis and selection of alternatives) during an interview with Huffington Post. The iterative process involves understanding customer needs from various perspectives and developing concepts, but most critically, studying customer reactions to find the best solution. Brown also discusses how customers are an integral part of the design process and the criticality of their involvement, a notion applied in the healthcare industry in the HBR article Putting Humans at the Center of Health Care Innovation.
In summary, while we cannot predict the perfect outcome of a technological deployment, we are able to increase the likelihood of its occurrence. Creating the time and space to capture the true essence of the problem we are solving, testing our solutions in an agile and iterative manner as well as designing with the customer at the corecreates the framework to design a delightful customer experience.