Every Team has a Customer
Where do we start when our goal is to awaken our organisations to the importance of The Customer?
Great products and services need customers to buy and use them, they need a purpose and reason to exist in the world. Why then is it so hard to create great products and services?
The world is now a digital playground awash with signups and subscriptions to this or that service or platform, promising to enrich your life in some way. Great digital teams are at the forefront of understanding this and you’ve probably experienced some of their products. Those where every interaction from the sign up experience, to payment, to interactions with their product is easy and sometimes enjoyable. They make your life better and help you solve your problems.
What factors contribute to this joy and what’s important for us all to keep in mind when building products and services in our teams?
Make us feel like we can get our thing done easily. I want to sign up and buy in one step, I want to stay on my mobile phone or my desktop not jump around to different devices or different sites. If you make customers move sites, its got to be smooth and for a reason. When I validate my email via a link make sure I know it’s because you value my security not because I’m being added to your spammy mailing list.
A feeling of confidence and accomplishment
Anticipate I might have some nervousness and take that away. I’ll feel important and confident if the experience I’m using is straightforward and simple.
If I achieve my goal, If I get it done and dusted, I’m happy.
If I feel valued
A Thank-you never hurts, but don’t bombard me with things that are good for you, instead try and give your customers what’s good for them. If you’re sending me a newsletter give me something valuable, some info and some insights - not links to sites that are riddled with ads.
There’s nothing that has me reaching for the unsubscribe button faster than when I get the same auto-generated email to 2 or 3 different email addresses. If you can’t clean up your CRM and know me as one person, you’re going to loose my eyeballs on your newsletter. Isn’t it better to have fewer real customers, than a longer list of people slowly planning on leaving you? Invest in features that help you to get your customer data straight.
Customer fails I have had
Thanks to Telstra for this LOL
But not THAT well
If I like your product I will come back and buy more, but I don’t want any over-eager ness. Just be cool, please.
Email me once a month or once a fortnight, tops. I regularly go back to one website to buy clothes and they put a hand-written note in my deliveries. I can accept a personal touch in a hand-written note, it makes me feel valued but it doesn’t ask me for anything more, like to join a women’s meet-up group or sponsor your charity. I sincerely hope they don’t start doing that and stick to enjoying my repeated orders over time. Twice a year they can survey me - but that’s enough. Instead of incessantly answering if I would recommend them to a friend, I DO actually recommend them to friends.
Customer Empathy is free with Diversity
Companies with products and services, look at your teams. Do they look like your customers? Do you have a balance of ages, genders, ethnicities, tastes, perspectives and socioeconomic backgrounds represented in your teams? If so then you have broadened your abilities to empathise with your customer for free! If not - time to look at your hiring strategies. Teams that can empathise with customers will do everything better, they have more diverse ideas, understand what customers value more and more importantly know what will be off-putting to some.
Make Technology Safe and Positive
Are your products uplifting and helpful or do they prey on the vulnerable? Populations of digital consumers are wising up to the products and services that feed on negative stereotypes. No one believes that tummy fat can be shifted by this one weird thing, and influencers are beginning to lose their influence.
We see rapid skepticism build around big digital platforms and find that relatively new digital giants are starting to fail.
Many services that started out under the banner of ‘Collaborative Consumption’ are showing up as exploiting the very customers they tried to serve. Ride share drivers, internet sourced job-hunters, home stay hosts & delivery people are among those exploited as giant platforms achieve their number-of-subscribers growth goals.
Make your products safe and positive, declare your hand. What do I get by joining and what’s it going to cost me? Give customers a choice and make them feel in control. If they feel duped you’ve lost them forever.
Exacerbating the Customer problems caused by a thirst for consumer dollars from the growth goals of digital platforms with dubious ethics, is the phenomena of the teams building the products, being very distant from the Customer.
How do we get better at getting our teams thinking about the Customer first?
First it’s useful to understand how and why development teams that build software can become so distant.
Structure and Permission to get close
We need to examine the structures inside our companies with a gimlet eye. Small agile adaptive teams are wonderful, (we believe) but can only go so far if product strategy and ideas are made by brains-in-jars that are inaccessible to the workers.
If you keep your development teams hidden away in feature factories that are building from backlogs conjured up by think-tanks and handed down in scripture, you’ve effectively throttled your innovation engine. You could have invested in the most diverse range of teamies around and yet you’ll never harness the insights they can bring if you’re constantly telling them what to do next.
Whole team closeness to the customer is required. Invest in building the teams LONG TERM knowledge of customer and product. This is a journey you’re going on, quarterly revenue goals and short-term thinking will be your enemy. Product experts are gold if they can work closely with teams OVER being directive task masters.
Culture Culture Culture
Hero, rockstar and genius worshipping in your teams will also lay you asunder as those quieter diverse voices cannot be heard amongst the glittering bravado of the very smart and revered developer. How is the culture you are demonstrating creating space to learn and demonstrate empathy?
New people joining a company are processing massive amounts of new information about everything, so be patient and invest in proper induction for them about the customer and about your business.
Lucky enough to be a leader? Role model the behaviour of stepping back, creating safety for team members to go on the learning journey with you.
Everyone has bias
175 classified biases
find your blindspots here!
According to the human bias codex there are 175 biases in humans. Open curious teams that are eager and to learn, will win.
Leveraging Human Centred Design (HCD) and Design Thinking approaches and tools, are enormously powerful in opening our eyes to What problems we are solving, for Who, and How the products we are building are going to be used. Make sharing of ideas and eliciting feedback part of your team’s daily habits.
Get out of the room
Another powerful technique for confronting your own preconceived ideas is to physically change the dynamic of how and where your team is working. “Have we asked anyone outside this building or even this team what they think?” could be a useful question to start with. Go to the source, buy your own product, ask your family, post a question on social media. If the responses are surprising to you, go and dig into why.
Let 1000’s flowers bloom
Getting teams involved in ideation yields dividends. A brainstorm of ideas is a great place to start and understand that everyone is creative and can contribute. It’s also a great way to understand that you can’t possibly implement every idea, so you better have some neat ways to prioritise and ‘Kill your Darlings’.
Test and Learn Incessantly
Using very small bets, test your ideas and be quick to discard the ones of least value. Stop the talking and analysis and start the doing. Without doing the doing, you’re making decisions in the absence of real data, gazing into a crystal ball.
“Will I achieve my hyper-growth goals this year?”
Ask yourself “what’s the quickest way, we can find out the highest value thing?” and design small experiments to do just that.
The goal should be to find the right track to follow OVER believing you will stumble onto the next multi-million dollar idea. Remember, customers are fickle, you’re finding what they want and how to serve them over time. Get into their groove and then build out products and services they’ll use and value.
What will the spread of HCD and Design Thinking approaches have as they become more widely integrated with Agile and Lean ways of working?
What about the future?
Some companies will be on board and some won’t. Those that can broaden their innovation ideas and their ability to adapt to feedback will have the edge against those that stick to current models, refuse to invest into long term customer value and don’t invest in the teams that are building their products.
Teams that are allowed to be close to the customer will solve their problems better, be more confident and also enjoy their experience of working more as their sense of purpose will be closely linked to their companies outcomes. They will also build products and services more pragmatically, saving their best efforts in solving core customer problems well.
Treating customers well will pay dividends to all business. Using adaptive planning and building approaches (which are free with Agile ways of working) and leveraging Human Centred Design and Design thinking techniques, will be the engines of the surviving and thriving businesses of the future.
Customer centricity is completely central to achieving outcomes with high performing teams, which is why we started our Poster series with this topic.
Stay tuned to more posts and podcasts on our Poster as we continue to provide context and insights into how to Re-Launch your delivery for great outcomes.
We initially created The Poster in response to the many frustrations we hear from our community and clients about how difficult it is to embed agility, adaptiveness and all the crucial elements that are needed to empower teams to deliver amazing outcomes for their businesses. It contains what we think is everything important in terms of principles, values, practices, culture, and mindset for a great delivery transformation that acheives customer outcomes.
If you’re interested in getting your teams closer to the customer, get in touch with ReBoot Co. to find out more about how we bring agility and customer centric approaches to your teams.