Posts Taged customer-experience

A Sustainable Customer Experience

CX

What used to be a “nice-to-have” or an after-thought has now become a necessity. Yes, we are referring to ‘Omni-channel Customer Experience (CX)’. Small wonder that CX figures at the top of every organization’s list of things to achieve and deliver. CX has become all the more important now that the ‘power to contact’ has shifted to the consumers. And this ‘power to contact’ is through so many new and emerging channels that an omni-channel CX is the need of the hour to bridge all the silos and offer seamless transition across the customer journey. That’s why the event on “Shaping the future of Customer Experience – Vision 2020” by Zendesk and Trescon was so relevant and we were so glad to be a part of it.

So, what exactly is omni-channel?

A true Omni-channel Customer Experience is all about ensuring a consistent customer experience across any channel that the customer chooses to interact with a brand/company. In other words, it’s about providing a seamless, unified and a connected customer journey across channels without losing any context.

What are the driving forces that are enforcing organizations to plan for an omni-channel customer experience?

There’s a paradigm shift in the customer buying behavior today. The shift is from the traditional Offline mode to more of an Online/Offline mode with more focus on self-service as shown below:

As per a report published by Dell in a recent report, the key drivers for organizations are:

Needless to say, it’s important to embed the changing customer buying behavior into your omni-channel customer experience strategy to stay in the game and to keep your top-line intact.

Top 5 recommended strategies to implement an omni-channel customer experience

A true omni-channel customer experience touches all parts of the organization, from IT to marketing to customer services, and sometimes even external partners. Achieving the omni-channel promise requires an ongoing investment in people, processes, and technology, along with a long-term vision of how you want to treat your customers when they interact with your brand.

Here are our top 5 recommended strategies:

1. Analyze your customer personas, their channel preferences and how a typical customer journey looks like when they interact with your organization: Who are your target users? What are their demographics and channel preferences when they interact with your brand/product/service? Which platform do they use for performing the key transactions – do they call, email, request a chat, or take some other avenue?

Your first goal should be to understand your target customer’s preferred channel and a typical customer journey. Then work towards supporting context-sharing among those channels your customers frequently use to accomplish a single task.

2. Define channel-specific business strategy: The success of an omni-channel customer experience depends on the clarity about your customers’ needs and then aligning the business objectives.

  • Is there an opportunity to close more online sales with web chat? If yes, then can we leverage AI Chat bots so that we can provide sales support 24*7?
  • Are text-based communications more effective for technical help? If yes, then can we leverage AI Email Bots to smartly find the right answers and communicate back to customers?
  • Is your goal to automate routine inquiries through effective self-service?

Having such clarity and goals would allow you to adjust your organizational strategies to optimize omni-channel goals and align resources more effectively.

Here’s a Cost vs. Value Creation comparison across various channels:

3. Empower agents with 360 degree view of the customers prior to their interactions, and train them to handle priority callers more effectively: Customer adoption of digital channels doesn’t undermine the importance of the voice channel. Instead, the role of this channel changes and its importance increases to promote customer loyalty. It becomes a medium for handling complex interactions. So empower your agents with the right information in real-time through the right technology and systems. Evaluate if there’s an opportunity to leverage Chatbots/Artificial Intelligence to assist agents with Support Requests to provide faster and accurate response.

4. Evaluate agent performance across all touchpoints: Invest in a customer support solution that is capable of call or chat routing, recording and evaluating quality across channels. Also ensure that the customer support solution you choose has certified integrations across all commonly used applications in your organization. This ensures personalized and contextual interactions which is the prerequisite/foundation to enable a true omni-channel customer experience

5. Ensure that your customer support application vendor has the right experience and reputation: Do your research, opt for their trials and evaluate their value propositions vs. your requirement. Look for vendors who have SaaS offerings. Look for customer success and failure stories to objectively take an informed decision.

Final Thoughts

Given the fact that IoT is one of the emerging channels of customer engaging with products and services; it’s a no holds barred game that enterprises must win to stay relevant. Knocking off or slighting over existing multi-channel investments isn’t an option. Customers prefer dealing with enterprises that provide a memorable experience and all have some sort of game plan to handle it. So what’s your CX story?

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN:

Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook

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Are you listening?

Customer Feedback

When you hear a service provider request you for your feedback, they actually mean the following:

  “Your feedback is important to us. By the time it is aggregated with hundreds of others into our management report for any actionable insight, we would have forgotten who you are and what you asked for or suggested.”

Any business that is looking to make informed product/service decisions needs to efficiently gather and share customer feedback. But the dilemma lies in deciding if the feedback is actionable or not.

Customer Feedback helps an organization figure out what their customers think in the following ways:

  • You are doing things right – you would want to continue doing these in future
  • Your areas of opportunities – for these you need to figure out a plan of action to get better at
  • Things that you are doing but your customers don’t care about– you need to re-evaluate if you want to continue to offer these to all customers or maybe a specific segment

Data suggests that one customer taken well care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. As per a study conducted by Dimensional Research in 2013:

  • 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience
  • 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction

The writing on the wall is clear: Customer feedback is the first step towards finding out how your customers feel about your products & services. If they are happy then the financial numbers reflect the same.

Top 5 Rules of Collecting Customer Feedback:

1. Make the customer feel important and make it clear that you want to receive their feedback

Don’t assume they don’t have time to give feedback. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell (well, mostly)

An Interesting Example from Starbucks:

2. Make the process easy

Don’t complicate or lengthen the feedback collection mechanism. No one needs 5 pages of questions to find out the customer’s opinion.

3. Encourage your customers to be honest in their feedback

  • Make it anonymous
  • If your budget permits, hire a 3rd party agency to collect the feedback
  • Engage mystery shoppers to do the evaluation once in a while

4. Get innovative and think of ways to incentivizing customers to providing feedback.

  • Gift vouchers
  • Free delivery
  • Their picture on your website, on the ‘Wall of Fame’ page for 1 month

 Here’s again another example from Starbucks:

An example from Beechworth Bakery:

5. Create a feedback loop

  • Thank them for the good/bad/ugly feedback
  • Keep them updated with what you plan to do with the feedback
  • Whenever you implement their feedback (partially/fully) – inform them
  • Invite them next time to see if their pain-point or suggestion has been addressed/implemented

How to collect customer feedback – the easy and fast way 

Though there are different ways of collecting customer feedback, the business objective should drive the feedback mechanism selection. It is important to understand that not all feedback mechanisms have the same impact – it depends on lot of factors.

At a high level, the feedback generation mechanism ranges from Passive (on the left) to Active, as shown below:

  • Individual Feedback is the least costly & user targeted feedback. These are more often generic in nature and based on individual experience.
  • Targeted Feedback generally targets a specific set of audience and is often tactical in nature. For instance, a quick survey on the ‘inflight experience’ for the passengers who travelled on Malaysian Airlines for the month of April 2016.
  • Group Feedback is based on random sampling. It is used for long term decision making.

Customer feedback can always be collected using traditional methods like Online Surveys and Customer Community Forums but given the fact that immediacy is the key, organizations can engage in just-in-time feedback collection strategy, as described below:

  • If you are a B2B software company or a B2B on-line company, you may want to consider using Usabilla to collect feedback
  • If you are an offline company (brick and mortal retail store for instance you may want to just put an iPad on the entrance/exit with a simple feedback form

A common friend recently saw this Interactive Feedback System the wash-room of Singapore airport.

(good that they mention the touch screen is sanitized hourly!)

Wrap Up

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – Damon Richards

The way a company designs the feedback collection process, speaks a lot about their attitude towards customers, their products and services. In today’s competitive world – no business can succeed if your customers think you are indifferent towards them. It’s always prudent to choose the right feedback collection strategy as it is critical to understanding what your customers think about your products and services. This helps organization to not only improve quality, but can also insights into what new products and services your customers want.

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN:

Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook

M2M

 

 

 

Up Close and Persona(l)!

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Nothing can work better in creating a solution than understanding the entity it is created for or targeted at. The traditional way of finding “someone” that needs a solution is pivoted on categorizing customer segments based on demographics is passé.  All we do is end up solving the problem for some generic flora and flora. The discovery exercise should be undertaken with a purpose of achieving that higher level of knowledge about customer’s daily life. And that is what Persona is all about.

Persona goes a few levels deeper to the point wherein, the human behind the ‘user’ comes forth.  The idea of creating a persona is to create a credible and realistic representation of a customer segment – the segment formed by common characteristics of what they expect to accomplish through the product/service.  Personas are fictional representation of real life characters but they are created based on real data, real problem and real target segment.  These personas are based on intense research, both qualitative and quantitative.  And that’s why they are believable and relatable.  Persona creation is part of human-centric approach for creation of innovative solutions and draws deeply from Design Thinking.  It is imperative that a product or a service should have a minimum number of personas for breadth of focus on what the user needs, wants and the limitations.

The benefits of creating personas are immense. They are invaluable for design and user experience creation. They help the creator of a product or a service to have a human face in front of them while creating memorable experiences. 

We have come across innumerable ways in which personas can be depicted. Their layouts may be different, but the core elements bring out a common set of elements that give a human face to a persona. Here is an example of a persona for e-commerce portal user (as a buyer):

female-online-shopper-persona-image

(Click to Enlarge)

  1.  Profile: It represents the demographic, psychographic and geographic details of the user.
  2. Personality: Characterization of personality based on certain indicators (e.g.MBTI types).
  3. Aspirations: What are the users’ expectations and priorities when they interact with the product/service or about the goal pursued.
  4. Frustrations: This represents what a product or service should not do. This actionable area is what the user doesn’t expect or what frustrates him/her.
  5. Short Bio: This is a short description of the persona which sometimes refers to personality traits.
  6. Motivations: What turns on the user and what doesn’t is something that is captured and represented here. This is what a product or a service should strive to achieve.
  7. Brand Preferences: This represents brands and product that influence his/her relation with the ecosystem.
  8. Referents & Influences: This represents the persona’s relationship with a specific brand and the product and how he/she is influenced.

Once we have built the depth and breadth of knowledge around the persona, we are ready to embark on a journey of discovering (through iterations) what works and what wows.  This is the starting point of putting together an innovation story based on a real-life persona.

Are you doing A/B Testing for your Hypothesis Validation?

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As promised earlier, this post talks about how A/B can significantly help in increasing your app’s conversion/sign up rate.

Let’s see how we can leverage A/B testing for increasing Mobile App downloads:

What is A/B testing?

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“Take the guess work out of the equation” – Mahuya 

What is A/B Testing?

It’s a powerful technique that allows one to test and experiment with simple UI changes or complex flows and features.  The end goal of this exercise is to determine which version is best or ‘works’ with clear and actionable insights. In short, it is the thin line between “we think” to “we know”.

It is one of the user research technique that is applicable for late stage projects, where you have fair amount of knowledge on the problem but you need more objective & quantitative data to base your decision.  

Here’s a visual representation of the various User Research techniques & where A/B testing falls:

Overwhelmed? Well, the good news is you don’t necessarily have to use all of these techniques in one go.  Depending on the maturity of the product & the kind of insight(s) you are looking for, you would need to decide on the relevant technique(s).

Wondering, how can you benefit from A/B Testing?

  • If driven by analytics, it can accurately measure actual human behavior under real situations
  • If the sample size is good, it can measure very small performance differences with high statistical significance
  • It helps to resolve product capability trade-offs with factual data
  • And oh! Did we mention that it’s cheap? It is actually!

So, how do you do it?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

If we had to put it simply, A/B testing starts with 2 versions of a prototype. Then you find real users to take the test. This obviously results in sample split and the behavior is recorded. The real time findings are then used to proceed to the next step in the product funnel. Ideally, the process should have the following basic plan of action:

  • Form a testable hypothesis with clear goals which can be analytically measured
  • Identify the testable variables
  • Test by user segment
  • Test visitor flow with a goal of measuring which screen drives the greatest impact on retention (i.e., less drop off)
  • Look for patterns and quick wins

Here’s an A/B Variations for a non-software product to determine which variation of the jacket will be more relevant for dogs to use during winter:

If you are curious to know how A/B testing can significantly increase software product usage, sales with real world examples & tools that experts swear by, then stay tuned for the next edition!

Frictionless Buying Experience for B2B SaaS Products

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If you are still writing checks to buy software, then read on. This is just for you! Most companies would now cringe at the thought of putting a check into an envelope and posting it. It is not surprising that some companies still do it but thankfully B2B SaaS product companies are making it easier. To think of it, orthodox buying methods do not make sense for purchasing SaaS products. You would agree that buying B2B SaaS products should be as simple as using the product itself.

We all are so familiar with e-commerce platforms that we expect the “Buy” button to provide the same buying experience even for B2B applications. And why Not? Google and Twitter are now letting you buy indirectly from search or from a Tweet respectively. That’s the kind of seamlessness and simplicity organizations expect when buying B2B products.

New age businesses demand new-age sales methods. It is absolutely important to create a frictionless buying mechanism to allow prospects become customers.

One of the most important reasons for the sky-rocketing popularity of B2B SaaS products is their ease of buying compared to traditional on-premise software products. Organizations are not at all comfortable with on-premise applications that have long lock-in period, expensive upgrade process and the fear that it will sunset over a period of time. B2B SaaS products score highly on the following:

  • Inexpensive and flexible subscriptions plans
  • Ease of configuration and use
  • Use till needed (with no long-term commitment)

However, the Buyer’s Journey for some B2B SaaS companies is still dotted with ambiguity. If the journey needs to be simple and seamless, then it requires clear-cut strategy that entails simplifying the process from first contact till first billing cycle to subscription renewal. This is true not just for new customers but even for existing ones.

Frictionless Trial Conversions

Free trials are the most popular way of onboarding new customers or prospects. The mere fact that prospects are able to try out a version of the product to see if it fits their business need is enough to appeal to the buyers. And in some cases, the icing on the cake is that the trial is free, easy and quick to use with no commitment and marginal interaction with sales team.

Free trial is not a magic wand that works by itself. It can bring some traction but cannot guarantee conversion if the prospects are not nurtured till they become paying customers. Each of the phases of trial should be designed carefully to work their magic. The following figure illustrates one of the engaging ways to make the buying process as simple as possible.

Different trial strategies work for different products. For some, trial access to a full working version for a limited time works. While for others, a toned down version is enough to pique the interest of prospects. It takes some time to study and find out what works best for your product.

Seamless Payment Mechanism

Whatever be the trial strategy, at any point, the buyer should be able to upgrade without having to go through the lengthy negotiation process that includes, complex pricing plans and contracts. This step of the buyer’s journey is the most important one and keeping is as seamless and frictionless makes or breaks the entire experience. To keep interaction with sales as minimal as possible, the pricing model and structure should be simple and transparent. This is opposed to making it look like a labyrinth of hidden costs.

Selling (and buying) Never Stops

Existing customers are as important as acquiring new ones and that’s why the B2B SaaS companies should also give considerable focus on upsell as this plays a significant part in revenue growth. If the value provided by the product is huge, which warrants the needs for buying additional licenses, then the buying process should be as low touch as possible. This frees up the sales team’s time to focus on new wins.

When we say low touch, it should ideally not entail any calling or emailing but as simple as single-clicking on the “Buy More Value” button to get more licenses. This way, both the customer and you as a B2B SaaS company are happy.

All said and done, it is absolutely important to analyze the entire buying process to find and eliminate impediments that slow it down. Fine-tuning this step of the buyer’s journey will ultimately justify all the effort that went into creating the SaaS product.

Design Thinking + Customer Community = Social Innovation

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When competition tries to decimate companies, the only thing that stands between them and annihilation is customers. We mean loyal customers! It costs roughly 5X more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate recurring and new revenues from an existing happy and loyal customer. Not only do these happy customers give more business but they also are responsible for referring others. A recent survey corroborated the fact when 75% of the respondents admitted that 20% of their new business came from current customers (Source: Loyalty360.) Customers are important. Listening to them is very important. Making customers engage and talk is of utmost importance. Period!

When customers have the option of switching between any of the B2B SaaS product, it is important to engage them by opening channels of communication. And what better way to open up the dialogue than Customer Communities. Did you know that support costs can be significantly reduced by having a customer community? And that’s just a start.

It’s given that the more active your community members are, the more actively they would be using your products. B2B SaaS products companies can just build a customer community and forget about it. But would it work?

Nothing works by itself. Community engagement can be encouraged through regular blog posts, videos, webinars and sharing product tips and this will allow customers to engage and discuss how the application is being used differently but efficiently. It is this sense of being engaged that brings ownership and customers take pride to invest in the discussion. Needless to say, it leads to churn reduction & higher NPS score.

We are not going to lay down the guidelines on how to create a customer community, as it’s a tried and tested formula. But there’s more to these communities than brand building and customer service. What we shall be focusing on would be using design thinking to nurture a culture of innovation in a customer community.

With lightning fast product cycles, widening market and access to smart people, it doesn’t take much time to either jump into the B2B SaaS product foray or lose an existing competitive advantage. What really can stand the test of time are product innovations.

Accidental or strategic innovation may or may not come from inside and that’s why product companies should look beyond the traditional and tribal knowledge fountain head and make it an open and collaborative process. Customer communities are one of the ways to integrate customer insights and feedback into a continuous innovation loop. B2B SaaS products companies can de-risk their product value hypothesis by:

  • Exploration of the current situation and framing the challenge (the “What is)
  • Generating new possibilities for growth and innovation (the “What if)
  • Testing assumptions and refining and prototyping the concept (the “What wows)
  • Enrolling customers to shape it into something that can be executed (the “What works)

This approach makes product companies to shift from exploration mode (the “unknown unknowns”) to collaborative problem solving mode (the “known unknowns”). When a design thinking approach is applied strategically in a customer community, it can definitely foster a “way of life” of innovation. These phased approach of running with an idea; validating and prototyping it; failing and trying again can help product companies get demand insights, design insights and system insights and these insights are the ones that lead to the discovery and co-creation of a path breaking innovation. To give credence to this fact, there are myriad case studies on how Tableau and TriNet innovates together with its customer community or how Starbucks reinvented itself based on innovative ideas from its customer community.

Given the level of ambiguity and uncertainty associated with certain innovations, it requires utmost care to incorporate design-thinking approach to see patterns in creativity in the customer communities. Like in most cases, some of the innovations can be serendipitous and some may come through a managed innovation process. Nurturing a customer community facilitates interplay between external (i.e. customer) perspectives and the product company’s capabilities. We need to put in a caveat that not all ideas generated by a customer community can pass muster on the grinding wheels of strategic innovation.

Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Clayton Christensen would surely disagree with the above hypotheses but their polarizing statements cannot discount the importance of customer communities and how they can be used to break the four walls by solving problems with an emphasis on need identification (through ethnography for instance), visualization (through storytelling), prototyping, validation and iteration.

Mapping out a Buyer’s Journey in SaaS World

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When it comes to B2B SaaS products, optimizing the revenue growth is the most difficult job for sales and marketing. Set aside the pipelines, funnels and all sales related plumbing and what you have is an unpredictable buyer behavior. We should note that the Buyer’s Journey is often non-linear and that’s because there has been shift from selling to buying, proliferation of connected devices to allow social interaction and channel agnostic behavior.

Pipelines and funnels always existed in the sales cycle and organizations still rely on them for revenue growth predictability. But in reality, the concepts of pipeline and funnels should be relegated to plumber’s toolboxes (no offence to Plumbers). There are many variables at play that affect visibility to buyers and that’s why the entire buyer’s journey needs to be reimagined to get insights into sales predictability. Now you’d ask as to what changed? Quite a lot in fact! For instance, we cannot rely on past history of customers buying pattern and that the existing paradigm of buying experience is out of sync with the non-linear journeys taken by the buyers of today. These are few of the variables that impacts traditional or conventional sales or marketing channels (not an exhaustive list but you get the drift).

Transformation of buyer’s journey is the wake-up call that is making organizations sit up and go for B2B SaaS product buyer experience redesign. The broad categories of halts that a buyer takes in their journey from being a casual prospect to the time they are on-boarded are full of uncertainties. Design thinking approach is ideal to minimize these uncertainties and in some cases, eliminate them entirely.

At all stages of Awareness, Research, Try and Buy, a combination of information and nurturing is required to bring home the deal. One of the reasons for crisis in confidence in Awareness, Research and Try phases is that the content marketing success is measured by how much content is produced and distributed in the shortest amount of time instead of how effective it is at facilitating sales.

Even before marketers start drawing up a list of the various targeted content that is required for each phase, they should make sure that the content adheres to the tenets of “Experience Marketing” in the following sense:

  • Be Human: The tone of the content should be human, real; using conversational language over formal tone.
  • Go Visual: Making use of visual content like videos, visual notes and infographics over plain text to focus on value propositions being demonstrated over told.
  • Curate and Fine-Tune: Experiment and experiment regularly with the content. If needed, make A/B Testing part of your daily content marketing mantra.
  • Be Agile: Take feedback and constantly improve the content & landing page design.

The very first step starts with the buyer realizing that they want a change to fix an issue. This is where they recognize the pain points and come to terms with the fact that the existing impasse needs to be broken for proceeding to the next step.

The buyer now explores the options that exist to solve the issue and then shortlists potential solution providers. Design Thinking should kick into this phase by justifying the investment. This justification is not the feature-set but the quantified indicators of the value that the solution brings to impact bottom-line and ROI. Sellers bring out your crayons and start storytelling to drive home the value.

Design Thinking approach for the Try and Buy phase is extremely important for conversions and sustained revenue inflow. Some of the things (but not limited to) that we feel are important for these phases are the ones that may be seemingly small at the face of it but are real value-additions since they make the approach human-centric.

For instance, the website landing page of a B2B SaaS application is just like the reception area of a restaurant. If it clicks for the customer, then they will have an enjoyable evening and would even come back. If the landing page is a put off, then we have seen the last of that customer. Testimonials are like you are talking about your product but through the face of a credible customer. They are more important than stock marketing images or even whitepapers.

Entice your prospects with targeted value propositions and just when they are ready to be hooked, present the “Trial Registration” page. In B2B SaaS landscape, trust is a huge factor: Trust that you are delivering what your product promises so profusely in your marketing materials, trust that customer-support exists and trust that the actual product is as good as the trial looks. The focus should be on making the registration process as simple as it can get by asking very basic information.

Next dimension is on deciding how long should the trial be: 14 days, 30 days or 60 days. We would not go into details of what is the right duration of trial as it is a topic in itself that has no right answer or formula. Simply put, it depends on the nature and complexity of the product and the sales cycle.  Another variable to consider is whether you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool or a lead conversion tool.If you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool and believe that 14 days is what it would take for a prospect to evaluate your product – then that’s your answer!

Once the prospect logs into the trial, you should start the show. Based on the profile of the prospect, the trial should create a seamless and ‘wow’ first impression showcasing the value proposition of the application. Context sensitive help, Jeeves like application Butler and helpful but non-intrusive overlays are some of the things that create this ‘wow’ factor. All through the phases, it is absolutely important that communication is in a form that nurtures the relationship but then there is a thin line between the right level of communication and spamming.

Handling the Buyer’s Journey is an art that not many can master and that’s why there should always be a feedback loop to tweak and fine-tune the content delivery. For instance do you think that a SaaS product would benefit if they changed the call to action from a focus on payments to a focus on value and convenience? It’s actually a very good idea to constantly take feedback from customers so that the product messaging and the product itself can be bettered over time.

The idea is to reimagine your Buyer’s Journey by treating it as a set of personas, using visual storytelling and even ethnography approaches. There is no correct or single method to create the best journey but a framework should exist for understanding it so that a targeted strategy can be devised for the engagement touch-points. And that’s a tall order!

Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation

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Some would vouch that left is more important; others would swear by the right. But which one is more important? We are referring to our brain if you didn’t get the drift. When it comes to creating a product or an innovative solution, what should we be relying on? The left analytical side or the right creative side? There is no definitive answer. What is definitive is “Design Thinking!” Design thinking is a mindset and set of principles that engages both analytical and creative thinking for solving a customer problem. Till now Product Managers have been heavily relying on number crunching to find a solution to a customer problem. But in the current technology landscape, innovation and winning can only come from design thinking- but only if applied appropriately.

Before we delve intoBuyer’s Journey in SaaS Ecosystem’ in our next article, we would like to set the stage for design thinking. And “Why?” you ask?For the simple reason that it is going to push the frontiers of Product Management to deliver breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.

So what is Design Thinking?

In this age of innovation-hungry and competitive-advantage driven companies, design thinking is an approach to solve customer problems by combining right-brain creative thinking with left-brain analytical thinking. But more than that; it is all about the journey and not the destination.

The customer problem might manifest itself in multiple, unknown and non-linear ways. In the same way, the understanding of the solution would always fall in the realm of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ and that should be the starting point of innovation.

New age Product Managers should comprehend the core concept of starting with the unknown and learning as they go into the process by playing small but fast bets. The focus of Product Managers should be to start small but with genuine intent on focusing on meeting human needs. The idea is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and be willing to explore multiple options.

It has always been traditionally perceived that Product Management is supposed to be an analytical role. Product Managers were expected to rely on statistics and numbers to decide on the product they are creating. Product Managers love ‘big’ ideas but they always have been obsessed with analysis. That is the reason why they get trapped in ‘growth gridlock’. If the time to market is to be shortened and the process has to become lean, then just analytical thinking will never work. In this age of SaaS products where time to market is paramount, it’s not just numbers that you can rely on; there is need for empathy-based thinking as well. This is also known as human-centric or design thinking approach. This is true for both enhancing an existing product and creating entirely a new solution/product for customers.

Historically, designers have always focused on improving the look/feel and functionality of products but it was not enough and we know that it’s much more than that. Simply put, it’s non-linear and allows interactive and iterative understanding of a problem or a solution that is both analytical and experiential. The germ of design thinking starts with discovery of the customer’s problem. Since design thinking is option focused, the next step is about researching and understanding of the actual people or users involved. The next step is to ideate on how clearly we understand the problem itself and what are the options to solve it. Once the options are in place, we start experimenting with them and quickly discard any option that doesn’t work or ‘wows’. This takes us to synthesis. We should understand that when creating a product from scratch or adding new features, the option that we choose from experimentation has to be given time to grow, adapt and evolve before it becomes usable. It is an iterative process based on feedback and reflection, as the underlying concept of design thinking is that of being human-centric. Finally the solution needs to evolve and not be stagnant. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Competitive advantage doesn’t come overnight as it is a continuous process of adhering to principles ranging from mindset to process which can be aligned and applied to solve complex problems of customers. Competitive advantage through innovation most often occurs within a set of constraints, such as viability, profitability and desirability and that a traditional business-minded rational/analytic approach should be complemented with design thinking.

Customer Journey in B2B SaaS Economy

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In our previous article B2B SaaS Landscape- The Changing Story, we observed that the persona of the enterprise customer is changing and that they engage with products and solutions across multiple channels and devices in what has become a true omni-channel environment. Today customers have access to more than one channel through which they are able to interact with a brand in multiple ways. Be it using a website, through a mobile app or any social ecosystem, customers have access to various touch-points to discover, learn, evaluate and then take a decision. But it can’t be as simple as it sounds!

That brings us to customer journey and its impact on the B2B SaaS economy. Customer journey is not just about ensuring a positive experience and impression about your product or service. It’s more about the customer’s impression of your product or service rather than what you have built. Customer journey is more than a fancy term or a buzzword; it’s a mandatory requirement for organizations. In today’s über-connected and über-competitive marketplace, it is a critical differentiator for product companies to steal a march over others. Defining the customer journey cannot be done using a boilerplate; it is a combination of data driven analysis and customer empathy driven insights. 

Innovative products, price, design, usability are no more the differentiators in today’s marketplace. They all can be replicated and dramatically improved given the fact that competitors have access to technology and knowhow to leapfrog every one of them. What can’t be replicated is the customer journey as it is not in a snapshot in time but spans the entire trajectory of being a customer. In fact according to a CEI Survey research, 86 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a better customer journey and experience (Source: Forbes) 

We hope you remember we mentioned “It’s not simple as it sounds.It’s not simplebecause of the discrete disconnected journeys that the enterprise customer is made to go through. These journeys traverse and span multiple touch-points which make managing them very tricky. The complexity of this entire engagement is compounded by the fact that these journeys most often pause and resume when the customer is ready.

Since these journeys are disconnected, it brings about certain randomness in the way B2B SaaS product organizations manage it. In effect, the customer behavior is unpredictable and conversion is inefficient. The channels through which customers engage may be multiple but organizations should strive to make the end-to-end customer journey delightful. It is surely a challenge for most organizations to do a great job when it comes to customer experience management.  If we generalize these disconnected pieces of customer experiences for better management, the Customer Journey Map would look something like this:

There are 4 parts to Customer Journey Management:

  1. Understanding the various touch points & Customer Journey Map for your product
  2. Designing the right experience for each of phases in the Customer Journey
  3. Setting checks and balances to monitor customer experiences (through NPS survey, interviews, mystery shopping etc.)
  4. Efficiently managing and tweaking the journey that was designed to create that ‘wow’ experience

All of the above are equally important as they convert a prospect into customer and then retain them. The designing of the customer journey should be such that all touch-points are given different weightages when it comes to optimizing the interactions. The idea is to tweak the treatment given to each of the touch-points based on interaction volumes for instance. This Customer Journey Map can never be set in stone and needs to be constantly monitored and tuned to optimize it.

B2B SaaS product companies must design a new system of engagement or customer journey to complement their strengths in innovation and value proposition. The engagement must span touch-points to provide a consistent experience that is contextually relevant and based on user personas. In a nutshell:

  • Building a great product experience is no longer a good to have thing, it’s a necessity to survive
  • Customer Journey Management all is about engaging your product and employees with your customers
  • Treat your customers more than numbers – remember, every interaction counts!
  • All of your collective actions as an organization delight the customers
  • Most of the time, people make decisions based on the shared experiences of others 

If your organization’s customer experience management strategy is not working, then probably it’s time to rethink your current strategy around how to delight your customers. And that’s exactly what we are going to discuss in the next post. Stay tuned!

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