There’s only one place for the end user – and that’s centre stage

July 15, 2019

This article was first published in the Professional Services Marketing Group’s (PSMG) Centrum Magazine.

Driven by the desire to have every brand at our fingertips online, client and customer expectations of businesses’ digital offerings are increasing at an exponential rate.

To ensure they keep up with growing competition, businesses need to constantly evolve digital products and ecosystems with the customer or client at the forefront of their mind. However, many falter when it comes to executing successful digital change programmes designed to put customers at the centre of everything they do.

Undoubtedly, implementing complex digital change is challenging and requires a holistic end-to-end strategy. From ensuring customers’ experience of the brand meets their expectations to establishing a complete view of both customer and business needs, there is often not enough resource or in-house technical expertise required to get change over the line.

Ultimately, this results in costly delays and failed attempts to change complicated digital ecosystem. This, in turn, not only affects the business’ bottom line but also results in digital products that don’t meet needs or expectations.

Too often though businesses evolve products they already have rather than implement something completely new to meet customers’ demands. While this may have worked as a plaster for many legacy companies historically, with new challenger brands entering the scene at a rapid pace this cannot remain the status quo.

To solve genuine user issues, brands need to start revolutions within their businesses; creating new products that solve genuine client/customer pain points. Here we look at the three-point strategy that can help businesses bring together user needs and business objectives to realise the value of user-led change.

Stage one: talking to the customer

One of the most overlooked stages when it comes to executing change is talking to the user or client. In fact, it’s the most fundamental. Without understanding and listening to what customers want and expect from a brand, it’s almost impossible to produce products that will meet their needs. This is the key ingredient for a successful experience strategy.

There is always the pressure for business leaders to make decisions early on, to jump to conclusions before they’ve really had a chance to gather and understand the underlying pain points for customers. However, there has to be a purpose behind every change, and this must be grounded in genuine feedback from customers. There are times this can be difficult to hear for executives who may be close to the original product.

The major benefit of taking this extended time to gather insight is that it opens up the possibility that the presumed issue might not be the root cause of customer issues. Delving into real and current experiences with products or services and how people engage with them on a day-to-day basis leads to a more divergent method of working. This ultimately opens up the thinking and critiquing processes while simultaneously helping business leaders to narrow in on the actual problems that need solving.

Building the vision

Once these insights have been gathered they can be fed directly into building the vision. Synthesising the information into actionable findings enables businesses to summarise and prioritise what needs to be done first when it comes to execution.

This also enables teams to explore new opportunities for products and features that, without the understanding stage, would not have come to the fore. These can be used to inspire progress and journey mapping, while ensuring design solutions reflect the needs and behaviours of clients and customers.

During this part of the process, all key stakeholders are able to prioritise backlog and risks while creating a minimum viable product that can be fully tested. Not only does this provide a framework, this development operations method also enables all security and content to be robustly tested and any bugs or security concerns rectified quickly.

Developing design principles

The final stage of implementing complex digital change should be the development of design principles and prototypes that are based firmly on customer insights and business needs.

Not only does this ensure the customer remains firmly at the heart of every decision, it also enables leaders to visualise every possible concept and opportunity. meaning the best possible products can be developed.

Often what’s lacking at this stage is the necessary expertise in-house to execute the resulting design in a way that benefits both end users and the business. However, this can be overcome by working closely with external experts who can often highlight opportunities or insights that have been previously overlooked.

Importantly, the results from each step of the process can be put into a roadmap of wider recommendations which can be used to not only leverage internal stakeholder buy-in to the digital transformation process but also inform next steps.

Ultimately, it pays to put people first – focusing on what people want is essential to staying relevant.

Keeping in touch with your clients/customers at all times – before, during and after the programme – will ensure you have user-led not technology-led change. Experience design in this way enables businesses to understand the real issues that users face and establish a deep understanding of their needs and values while avoiding the pitfalls often associated with digital transformation.

A holistic approach to the ecosystem will create truly impactful experiences, ensuring businesses can successfully transform in a fast-changing world where customers demand instantaneous digital connections.

Gavin Edmonds
Director, Experience Design