Continuous customer experience — service designing

Clayton M. Christensen, one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, in his book – Competing Against Luck elaborates on why some companies excel at satisfying customer needs while others fail. He calls it the “Jobs to be done theory” which essentially is a means to identify customer needs and build products and service around those needs, instead of pushing a product and expecting the customer to fall for the bait. Customers want a certain product or service to solve a void in their lives and if the product/service not only fills that gap but also resolves multiple other needs and adds value, then even better.

Enhancing the customer experience requires organisations to understand different service interactions that customers experience and the potential for value addition within the same. The product/service provider should not confine their design thinking to their immediate customer but also envision the needs of the extended customer, the consumer of the customer (B2B2C). A seamless customer experience entails identifying the gaps in the customer needs across the touch-points and connecting the dots. Most of the times customers perceive the gaps in the services when they are handed from one division to another, within an organisation, making the behind the scene silos obvious.

Customer journey landscape

Creating continuous or seamless customer experiences should begin with journey maps centered around the journey the customers indulge in while navigating through interactions and touch-points, across multiple devices. A customer journey is never a linear path as the way customers engage with a product or service can be manifold. Charting the fragments of the journey on a single map, makes it easier to design the entire landscape including the front and backstage bits of the customer journey. A well researched concept plotted as journey map leads to ideation which can be refined in iterations culminating in service blueprints. Every part of the journey map jointly contributes to the entire customer experience. Tech enabled business innovation can enhance each customer interaction to yield a holistic contented experience.

Tech enabled touch points — The use of blockchain in supply-chain not only prevents fraud but could aid the customer experience in terms of story telling or driving sustainability where customers can trace the fair trade ecological sourcing of products. Smart labels and smart tags on wine bottlesand clothes aid the B2B customers with supply-chain and logistics Analytics while making the end user’s experience smarter with IoT solutions. The consumer shopping for a piece of clothing can continue to remain engaged with the service provider by engaging with the smart wardrobe apps that allow refurbishing or recycling the garments, suggest new trends based on the consumer’s preferences, help in maintaining an inventory of the wardrobe. The challenge, however, for the service provider is to be able to gather product/service usage data and provide AI driven services within the realms of data privacy and compliance. The understanding of patterns or deviations in the patterns of the product usage leads to innovating new products or services or business models like a contractual business model or partnerships with other service providers, which jointly make a service appealing, cementing the discontinuities. The tech know-how enables the design execution but the prelude is visualizing stories as part of the customer journey map.

New business models that cater to both B2B and B2C customers using data driven approaches to enhance customer experience

It is important to consider loss aversion and recyclability while designing products/services. As more and more people embrace minimalism as a way of life, sales figures dwindle. Refurbishing, recycling or donating to charity, as mentioned in the circular economy should also be considered as part of the product/service design as the number of environment conscious consumers rises.

To serve the customers a non-fragmented customer experience fueled by design thinking at every interaction demands a robust ecosystem of business acumen, big data solutions, IoT, augmented reality and blockchain implementations, actionable insights and KPIs, abolishing organisational silos and an ambidextrous leadership. Designing the front and backstage touch points that support the journey by orchestrating connections across the different interaction points with a service design mindset delights the customer by hitting the spot!

How to make your MVP the talk of the town

strategySo you are launching your product or planning a launch but are you sure your product is going to make the waves? You don’t want to be spending your time, energy, $$ and efforts on a product, in vain. Maybe you are still working in a 9-5 job and are testing the waters in the startup community? Then it becomes, even more relevant to get your ideas validated by a targeted audience before you take the plunge, lock, stock and barrel!

Let’s get discussing how you can be sure that your MVP is sustainable and creates the necessary ripples in the market.

  • Get feedback early in the process. Feedback from friends and family, who can be brutally honest with you. Doing so will also make you think deeply and clearly about your value proposition. Use your family and circle of friends to spread the word about your product.

          “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein

  • Meetup.com – Gather a bunch of like minded people and brain storm your ideas. You will find out if someone has already treaded the path you are planning, learnings and consequences. You just might stumble upon your business partner or a seed investor.
  • Social Media Marketing – Get going on the social media bandwagon, post information and images relevant to your product and get some feedback. Target your tribe through social media, utilise influencer marketing to check how your MVP is percieved. Follow other similar product brands and do some competitive analysis.
  • Explainer video – Shoot an excellent graphical and easy to understand video while at the same time highlighting the features that define your MVP. Get this video out there on social media and analyze the popularity.
  • Crowdsource – your branding and advertising efforts. Make your targeted customers be a part of the product development journey. They will not only feel connected to your would be product but also contribute to the making by with useful feedback. If they like it they’ll love to be brand ambassadors.
  • Demand Vs Supply – Last but not the least check the demand of the product you are launching. If there already exist a dozen such products then it probably will be an upphill task fighting the competition. Thinking out of the box and finding an area where there is a demand supply gap is the wisest thing to do unlesss your product is so radical that it changes the way people have been experiencing other similar products.

The Start-up Lifecycle

The start-up industry may appear very glamorous from the surface, but it entails endless meticulous planning and back breaking hard work, it’s anything but a cake-walk. Most success stories that come into limelight have already gone through testing times and been bitten by failure at some stage or the other and have survived the winds of change.FullSizeRender

The typical stages in a start-up are more or less as below:

  • Ideate – An idea that has been incubating for a while gets more concrete and is at a stage where it can be implemented. It has to be beyond the pen and paper stage, on the path to a more concrete objective.
  • Feasibility study – validate your idea, think through all the possibilities, market demands, fall back plan and get an initial feedback from friends and family about the viability of the idea.
  • Conceptualize the idea into a business case, planning the inception, the initial capital required, the source of fund, the launch of beta version of the product and the marketing of the same to acquire a customer base.
  • While you’re at it, you’ll need to create an online presence in this age of digitalization, you will have to be visible. Brand building and audience buying begins even before the actual launch of the product. Send out teasers in the social media, engage your potential customers and get them interested in your product.
  • To allure the venture capital funding, your product has to be foolproof in this age of competition. The VC firms have to see a potential market for the product to be convinced to invest in it. Be prepared to be grilled.
  • Midway, if gets bumpy and you realize start-up life is just not your cuppa, you should return to your plan B, in case you give up. But if you have a heart made of steel, there’s no stopping you….
  • Then slog even harder. Learn from mistakes. Curate and analyze:
  1. consumer behavior both offline and online
  2. abandoned baskets
  3. competitive analysis
  4. social media analysis
  5. shopping history

Success is hard work and in order to acquire new customers and retain the existing, there’s no short cut but to get the above steps right, if it does not work at once – reiterate. When success does come by, in the form of reaching targeted number of customers or reaching the targeted revenue, all the hard work does pay off. The incredible feeling of having achieved something, which is your own, based on your accomplishments, is almost hedonistic. Handmade success!

You know you have a start-up itch when….

tablet-791051_640Just like one size does not fit all, not everyone is cut out for the start-up toil. It takes grit, determination and a tenacious can-do spirit apart from having a sustainable idea that could actually sell. So you want to find out if you have it in you what it takes?

Check if:

  • you’re too wild to be tamed and bound by 9-5 jobs, run of the mill work and bosses? A lot of us hate the above but that doesn’t make us the start-up kinda folk
  • Status quo is alien to you? To get your adrenaline pumping you need challenges? You’re always thinking out of the box and impatient and fearless about trying new stuff? You could be a person of that ilk!
  • You’re full of well thought through ideas? You’ve indoctrinated in you that “if life hands you lemons you’re going to make Caipirinha out of it”? You see solutions only, problems are a learning experience for you? Oh dear! You could very well be one of those!
  • You have a well thought through business plan with an adversity fund/plan, to keep you afloat while you’re testing the waters? If yes, you’re meticulous, man!
  • You know how to design great products, network, market and sell your products? You may not be a master of all but you certainly can be a jack of few. If you’re going to branch out on your own, you’ll not have a huge capital to get the jazziest of analytics products or hire expensive consultants from the inception of your company
  • In continuation with the above, you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and burning midnight oil to realize your dream?
  • Failure doesn’t deter you? What are you waiting for??

If you’ve gone through the above list and realized you embody most of the above traits, then jump on the band wagon… the world is your stage!

Growth Hacker’s Marketing

growth_hackingMarketing is being disrupted and no more run by only traditional non-technical marketeers. Marketing is supported by a wide range of – call it reporting, dashboarding, marketing analytics, marketing automation processes. Moreover, the startup scene is very exciting and a hot bed for innovation. Most startups spring into action sans a huge funding. The startups will have to grow exponentially, boasting a substantial customer base to be able to entice investors. Enter the growth hacker – with a single minded goal, growth!

Typically, the UX team designs the UX strategy, the product team develops the product, the coder codes in order to deliver the product and the marketeer tries selling the product. But with the new age disruptive marketing, the UX team, product team, code development team and the marketing team will have to work very closely, trying and testing every trick in the book to elevate growth. A growth hacker is a bit of all the above.

A growth hacker is more of a full stack employee armed with Swiss knife like multiple skill sets, analytical abilities being top rated. Growth hacking is primarily a focus within the startups, the budget being a constraint, lesser number of employees expected to contribute more. But with time, enterprise companies will adapt to growth hacking means of increasing revenue generation. Growth hacking is based on data, analyzing data to improve the business processes, to sell more, to convert more, to gain new customers and retain existing customers. Growth hacking does not entail data reporting only for the purpose of data visualization, it uses data to derive at hypotheses and reasoning to better understand and improve internet marketing.

So what’s growth hacking all about? Growth hacking is about

  • Improving user experince by A/B testing to reduce bounce rate
  • Content Marketing
  • Designing, implementing and analyzing sales funnel to reduce drop rates
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Channelizing all it takes to increase conversion rate
  • Using analytics to track click stream data about consumer’s online behavior
  • Analyzing past online or shopping behavior to be able to predict consumer’s probable behavior at the next visit
  • Social Media marketing – paramount for startups on shoe string budgets. Using Facebook, Twitter APIs to analyze the demographics of consumers sharing and liking the products, consumer opinion in social media and competitor analysis
  • Being able to analyze consumers that are likely to churn and the reasons behind, which can be addressed. Analyzing the response data from campaigns targeted at reducing churn, to measure campaign effectiveness.
  • Improving omnichannel advertising and using analytics to analyze data to conclude the channel that yields most and finding potential market opportunities

From the above list, growth, data and analytics are evidently the point of convergence for growth hacking. Growth hackers have to be inherently curious, tenacious, analytical and above all innovative. Growth hacking is an an art, not just number crunching or coding. It is the ability to see beyond code, to be able to analyze the implications of new features or every change in any part of the business processes that drive growth.

As Sean Ellis says, a “growth hacker’s true compass is north.