Customer Experience through Continuous Improvement
Customer Experience needs a process. A way to make sure we empower teams operating according to customer experience principles, employing its practices, methods and tools. Continuous Improvement lends from both design thinking, lean and kaizen, and is fit to a listening, learning and responsive environment.
A team needs to know why they are doing what they are doing. Simply installing new tools and processes without changing the ground under their feet, the measurements they use to assess their efforts or the purpose they identify with will only be felt as unnecessary and inconvenient
[Example: Without the why an MVP can quickly be seen as just a stick man version of something the team already knows to capture learnings they already have.]
No [team member] in their right mind would create a crappy product with no margins for a customer base that doesn’t exist — Clayton Christensen
If we met on a town square in the middle of Prague and I asked you to put on a pair of climbing boots, you would look at me as if I were nuts. Tools, methods and capabilities don’t make any sense if they don’t match the why we are doing what we are doing.
Customer Experience teams aren’t doing the same thing as before only faster and smarter, they are looking at the customer through the lens of their customers’ needs, they are experimenting to learn at high speed and they are seeing the direct impact of their work creating value for the customer and the business.
So we are not on the plaza in Prague anymore, we are traveling into the Alps, and as the team gets off the train and journeys into the mountains they are all asking for the climbing boots because it’s the right tool to fit this job.
We enable the ‘why we are doing what we are doing’ through Continuous Improvement. Which always starts with a question: What do we want to learn? This can be about anything, from e.g. what increases a customers valuable outcomes, what biases they have against our products, how could we remove a barrier in their decision making journey or what color the button should be to increase conversion on a mobile webpage?
I don’t want to go through a detailed explanation of the process in this article, but here is a quick summary and some highlights:
After identifying the question the process then goes on to build and deploy a probe (this can be an assumptions test, experiment or pure data collection). The probe gets monitored and if necessary improved to qualify its data input before it runs to produce the necessary population. The data is then captured and given back to the team by an analyst turning information into knowledge.
So far this would be very familiar to most people, but crucially in the next step there are a few components to secure the success of the process:
A. The knowledge goes through two steps in sequence: First the knowledge is used to update the understanding of the customer (empathy, motivation, behavior) and then, after the new customer is established the team goes on to ideate a solution given their updated understanding of the customer’s world view.
B. The knowledge about the customer is not given to a designer nor is it the responsibility one person — it is given to the whole team, who collaborates and cocreates both the understanding of the customer and the solutions.
This is a crucial part of the process: To create a shared language and understanding within the team. If the process does not create a shared space for this emergence then we have come no further than the design-by-a-designer-processes from back in the 1900’s.
‘design is less a step-by-step march through a set of stages and more of a space where people can come together and interpret the ways that changing conditions challenge the meanings, patterns, and relationships that they had long taken for granted.‘ — Natasha Iskander
The Continuous Improvement process is flexible, its main value is not building assets. Its first and foremost about giving the company unbiased access to the customer.
It’s fit to how you capture information, turn it into insights — as a team, and develop actions from it that deliver wanted outcomes.
Customer experience’s main contribution to the company is a change in mindset to: how do we — together with the customer — achieve our outcomes? And then Customer Experience also offers the tools to build the vehicles to get there. But without the ability to link the business to the customer, there would just be channels and content.
‘Marketing includes targeting and channels, but the purpose of marketing is not targeting and channels. The purpose of marketing is motivation and influence’ — Me
Continuous Improvement is the/a process of Customer Experience. It’s what the team does, in a structure way, but flexible and scalable to fit almost any question, opportunity, market, customer-type, outcome or even output.
It guides the team in their operations. Running fast, starting small, identifying and killing bad ideas quickly before they run a cost, scaling confirmed successes and learning, learning, learning all the time.