Do you really care about your customers?

You know what our customers are buying, where they go on holiday, and how much they spend on groceries each week … but do you really care?

Being able to empathise with others is all about connecting with other people on an emotional level. From a customer experience perspective this is something of a holy grail, and is supposed to lead us into deep insight about what motivates people to do the things they do. If we are lucky, we might even develop previously unrecognised insight leading us to create solutions to problems no-one else knows about.

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Service Innovation Examples

Yesterday I wrote about Customer Experience Innovation, an approach to service design in which specific consideration is given to customer ‘jobs to be done’ and the constraints of service delivery within the design context. I thought I would add a few examples to illustrate these points.

A Delightful Customer Experience

This example is taken from Frog Design, one of the most well known service design agencies in the world.

Frog’s brief was to re-imagine the now antiquated pay phone. Taking a design view based around a communication hub built within and for the local community Frog have designed a truly delightful take on the humble phone. Apart from the snappy voice and gesture control (so you don;t have to take your hands out of your pockets presumably) and the directional microphone (so it actually works), we now have geolocated  advertising down to the city block. Expected in 2014, these devices look set to fit right in amongst the New York streets.

Insight Re-focuses Service on Customer Jobs

This case study is taken from Frontier Service Design. During their brief, Frontier were advised that designer customers bought into the Veroproof service because it was cheaper than competing offerings. How wrong they were. On further analysis it turns out the speed of service was the true deciding factor. Know this and you have a completely different direction for any service enhancement.

Service Blueprints in Action

I couldn’t really find an example of services redesigned with and without consideration for the implementation capability of the organisation. But, this example of a service blueprint for a self service DVD kiosk shows some of the key elements. Whilst there is a lot of customer experience design in the top layers, the service blueprint goes on to map the end to end service interactions all the way into he back end systems and processes required to make it all happen. Without consideration of these backstage elements, we risk designing services with no substance.

Customer Experience Innovation

service blueprint

Customer Journey Mapping

I started looking at customer journey mapping late last year. Whilst a great deal has been written on the topic my favourite so far has been by the UK’s HM Government, now sadly archived and somewhat difficult to find*.  Consensus seems to be that customer experience mapping starts by mapping out the sequence of touch points between a service provider and a customer, and goes on to form a level of insight into what happens at each touch point and how the customer feels about this interaction. Solid insight can help to identify the highs and lows of a customer’s experience of our service, and therefore the opportunities for service improvement. Follow this up with some good design and the service provider should be well on their way to re-inventing a more delightful experience.

Solving customer ‘jobs to be done’

In lean terms, all services are underpinned by a central value proposition of helping a customer to ‘get jobs done’. The more essential the customer jobs to be done, the more essential the service. I wrote briefly about understanding the value proposition  some time last year. Applied to customer journey mapping, we should be able to use this level of insight to design services which are not only delightful, but essential as well.

Service Blueprinting

At this point I thought I was on to a pretty compelling service design concept. But something was still missing. It turns out that whilst design agencies are very good at providing advice on how to re-invent the customer journey, they are not so good at actually implementing the customer journey. Worse, the re-invented customer journey may not actually be implementable at all if the service providers internal operations cannot cope with the change. Enter service blueprinting.

The basic idea is to start with a customer journey, and map it to the underlying service delivery infrastructure (systems and processes mostly). When considered during the design phase of the ‘to be’ customer experience, we now have a ‘reality filter’ to apply to our prototype services.

Customer Experience Innovation

Combine all three, and we have (i) delightful customer experiences, (ii) focused on essential customer jobs, (iii) which an organisation believe they can actually implement within an acceptable timeframe.

Declaration of interest

I am currently developing this as a service offering on behalf of my employer, a Brisbane based management consulting group. I am posting here for feedback, as a sounding board, and because I am the author of this and other innovation services. Please contact me through my linkedin profile if you want to discuss further.

A note on HM Government

* Luckily, I managed to download the complete series of PDF’s previously made available by HM Government, which I have reposted here. They are excellent resources and well worth a read.






Feel the Pain

dysonI’ve talked a bit about value proposition design recently, and the need to get out of the building and find out what your customers really want. But what if this isn’t enough? And why is it that so many stories of inventors getting out of the building have  customers do the exact opposite of what was expected?

In this December interview with business review weekly, James Dyson (of cyclonic vacuum cleaner fame) said that:

To design well, one must have experienced the pain and frustration of an existing product not working well

To me, this means more than simply observing your customers in the field. This is about actually trying the product for yourself and living the customer journey. When you can bond with your customers over shared pain, and find a better way forward … that is where true insight comes from. Tim Brown of IDEO encourages us not to ask ‘what’, but to ask ‘why’. Understanding why your customers are behaving in the way they are, and being able to get inside of their heads through having shared their pain and frustration is essential if you want your customer discovery observations to provide real insight.

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Lateral Thinking meets Business Model Innovation

random wordsLateral thinking can be thought of as logical thinking but form a different starting point. If you are able to shift your starting point enough before your logical mind gets to work, you can find yourself with surprising results. Hopefully, novel ideas with some value that you just wouldn’t have thought of using regular logical thinking.

The use of random words is one of many techniques designed to disrupt your regular, left brain thinking and enable you to start thinking creatively. In this post, I’ll continue my theme of putting the innovation back into business model innovation by applying the random word technique to business model innovation.

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Using Five Whys to find Customer Jobs

EinsteinIf I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it (Albert Einstein)

Making sure you are solving the right problem is THE most important part of business model innovation. In terms of developing your value proposition, this means spending time discovering which jobs matter most to your customers, before you go looking for solutions that will offer effective pain relief and gain generation. This post is part 3 of my series on using creative thinking techniques to put the innovation back into business model innovation. In today’s post, I’ll be looking at how the Five Whys technique can be used to get to the heart of the problem your business model is trying to solve.

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Creativity and Business Model Innovation (part 2)

flickrThis week I am looking at different ways we can put the innovation back into business model innovation. Taking the approach that creativity in thinking can be done deliberately, I’m applying various deliberate creative thinking techniques to what is now becoming the familiar area of business model generation, lean startups and customer development. Last week I looked at using the TERMS Star for putting your value innovation into hyper drive, today I’ll take a look at using SCAMPER to power up your disruption when pivoting from one business model to another.

What happened to Game Neverending?

Game Neverending (GNE) was a web based massively multiplayer online game launched in late 2002 and shutdown in 2004. Designed to be user extensible, the game encouraged real time browser chat with players leaving messages and game objects for each other at various locations. With poorly defined gameplay (there wasn’t even really a concept of winning), players quickly developed strong social connections with lots of humour and quite a few pictures being exchanged along with the intended gaming objects. By 2004, the site had relaunched as Flickr.

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Creativity and Business Model Innovation (part 1)

Business model innovation and the search for a scalable business model has been a hot topic over the last couple of years with the explosion of lean startups, customer discovery, and business model generation. But where is the actual innovation in all of this? I am seeing a lot of trial and error but not so much thoughtful creativity as entrepreneurs continuously pivot and validate until they strike business model gold. It might be agile but is it innovative?

Over the next week I’ll be looking at how structured creativity can help put the innovation back into business model innovation. If you want to know how Six Thinking Hats, the five whys, SCAMPER, random word generation or the hall of fame can help to uncover more innovative business models, then this series is for you. Let’s start by looking at how the TERMS Star can help develop more creative value propositions.

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Business Happiness Index

HappinessThey say money can’t buy you happiness. So what does make you happy, and is it worth measuring?

Since 1971 Bhutan has been measuring the prosperity of its people based on how happy they are, rather than on their gross domestic product. The Guardian have a nice piece on it here. For the last 40 years, this tiny Buddhist state has been measuring its citizen’s Gross National Happiness based on a range of 33 measures across 9 different domains. These measures range from health and education through to use of time, cultural diversity and community vitality.  Read the complete explanation here.

In addition to the actual measures, there are some important aspects of the way those measures are taken, summarised below:

  • Sufficiency: there is not ‘poverty line’ below which people are unhappy. Instead, each domain has its own achievement target. Achieve that level and you have a score which is deemed ‘sufficient’ for being happy. Here is the important part … Over achievement is not captured! Here is what they have to say on this.

The Gross National Happiness Index takes the position that beyond a certain point, we don’t need to keep adding in higher achievements to the quality of life mechanically; we confine our attention somewhat to a middle band of achievements that contribute significantly to human wellbeing for most people.

  • Diversity: The happiness measure is shown as a single number based on the target for each household to achieve 66% happiness, i.e. 6 out of 9 domains. It doesn’t matter which ones. This allows for diversity, and for the concept that not all measures will apply to the entire population.
  • Aggregation: By aggregating results, the overall incentive is to bring as many people as possible into achieving happiness. This is very different from the western approach of rewarding the overachievement of a very few (the super rich) to the detriment of the whole.
  • Trends: Looking at trends over time, the nation can focus on key domains in need of attention.

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