Low cost, Low stress Customer focus-Here’s how

I know that some of my readers are from a technical audience and others are from business, so it is always a struggle to pitch the language right. I have decided to write a mixture of blogs in both styles so that we can talk about the same subjects from different viewpoints.
Last week, I spoke about agile. I wrote it in a non technical way, hopefully, but it was intended for IT directors, Programme managers and Developers.
Today I want to get right down to brass tacks.
20 years ago when I was running marketing campaigns for Encyclopaedia Britannica and my job depended on this months results, I learned very quickly that I needed to get right inside the customer’s head and stay there if I wanted my campaigns to work. A leaflet drop on the day of the FA cup would have been very amateur. I found we had too types of customer, book lovers and proud parents, so I wrote about the love of learning and about helping our children out achieve us.
I delivered the message when they were relaxed and receptive and through trusted media.
Why am I teaching my granny to suck eggs you are hopefully asking?
Well here’s why customer focus is at the root of agile methodology.
You may remember the parallel to lean and the spoon bending example
Just as the spoon factory relies on the bending of the metal to create value, so your business relies on the customer experience to create value.
When we create products, we are creating a perception of value in a consumers mind. Hold that thought. A Jag costs more to build than a Ferrari, but sells for a lot less. Why? Customer perception.
Amazon customers return regularly, most websites fail to get a second visit, why? That’s right, customer experience.
How agile delivers on customer experience
Agile should always begin with a customer journey. Remember, this is the spoon bending moment and agile gives you the hot 20% first, hence we begin by describing the customer experience and understanding the thought processes, fears, hopes, wishes and aspirations.
Now most agile practitioners talk about customer journeys. The words are fine as long as the understanding is clear and I suspect that it rarely is, experience seems to point that way. Customer journey is a whole lot better than programmer’s viewpoint, but it is still a process viewpoint.
While understanding the buying process is an advanced state for many marketing professionals, making an attempt to understand the customer experience is an enriching journey in more ways than one.
The agile process should begin with real live customers explaining their experiences in a focus group or other comfortable setting and then continuing to review and comment on the wireframes and prototypes as they emerge into a system ready for pilot with a larger group.
Release early and release often
The Dragon’s Den may be mostly high Farce, but they all agree on one piece of solid advice, The only true market research is to go out there and sell it to real customers. This is the second strongest argument for agile.
Start with customers, pander to their experience, produce something quickly and test it with more customers until your customers have built you a winning product that can be released with confidence and with a loyal and knowledgeable user base attached.

Ed Taaffe

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