At UserTribe, the idea of customer transformation is central to our mission. A lot of new clients ask us what we do: they’re curious about our methodology, our ability to work quickly, our use cases. And we have been very successful selling our services that way, via ad hoc projects and quick iterative bursts.
But if you asked us what business we’re in, you’d get a loftier answer. We are in the business of customer transformations. Our mission, what drives each of the projects we work on, is to create a world where organizations are empowered by their customers to create the best possible products and services for the benefit of both.
Most of the companies we work with have goals to become more customer-centric. Some of them are on a path towards full transformation, while some of them see only limited value in customer involvement. Perhaps to them, customer transformation is just the latest business jargon trending on social media but doomed to die next to six sigma managers and treadmill desks.
To us, customer transformation is the key to long-term, sustainable business growth. Think of it this way: the biggest risk in a new business is building the wrong thing. The biggest risk for an existing business is becoming obsolete. True customer transformation minimizes both of these risks by offering a mechanism by which organizations can validate and speed-up decision-making.
One of our customers sees ongoing customer involvement as a way to stay relevant in the market: “It’s important to do it as a process, more than a project. Because the world is changing all the time, and even if you don’t make any changes, it might be that the market or the customers’ expectations keep changing, and you never know when you are out of date.”
Relevancy, though significant, is hard to measure. But there are numerous other benefits of making customer transformation a priority. Organizations that have optimized customer involvement in their work processes enjoy faster time to market, lower production costs, increased customer loyalty and decreased customer churn. One study found that customer-centric companies earn up to 15% more in revenue than their non-customer centric competitors, while simultaneously reducing costs by more than 20%.
That’s the beauty of true customer transformation. It takes all the benefits of usability testing, of customer satisfaction surveys, of focus groups and questionnaires, of industry monitoring and benchmarking, and combines them into a unified reality.
When we envision customer transformation it is both a linear process, from idea generation to product launch and an iterative process, cyclically transforming each part of the process. Full organizational transformation means that each department, every work function, becomes customer empowered. This includes traditionally customer-focused areas like sales, product development, and marketing, as well as more operational areas like human resources and IT.
The first level, no customer involvement, speaks for itself. At this stage, organizations first get input from customers when their product or service hits the market. It is, of course, possible to succeed this way, but the road to success is often longer, costlier, and may leave valuable opportunities undiscovered.
The next level, ad hoc customer involvement, is where a lot of our clients are when they first meet with us. They have a certain idea, product, or campaign that they want to explore with customers before proceeding on to the next phase of development. This first round of customer involvement can be eye-opening. Getting qualitative feedback from real customers can validate or falsify their hypotheses, enabling them to quickly reach consensus about the best way forward.
Conducting ad hoc user research can yield very positive results. One of our manufacturing clients was able to get a new understanding of what their customers valued about one of their core product lines. By speaking directly with the customer, they not only got feedback on their existing product features but also gained new insights they hadn’t anticipated.
The next level up, procedural customer involvement, is where the shift towards full transformation really begins. At this level, organizations invite customers in to give their feedback throughout the development process, iterating after each round of feedback.
In one example, a payment services company conducted over 20 rounds of customer feedback within three months as they developed a new product. Ranging from concept fit, to feature development, to usability flows, this iterative research process helped them stay on track. They were able to improve the core functionality of their service while eliminating unnecessary features.
We believe that building toward a complete customer transformation has intrinsic, measurable value. The beauty of the transformation process is that you will begin to reap the rewards right away. The goal is lofty, but the process itself yields tangible results that can help your company succeed today. Our goal is to facilitate the process and use our key learnings to help your organization succeed.
In the end, we hope we can empower companies to develop with their customers, not to them. We want to challenge all organizations to transition from an inside-out to outside-in development protocol. If you have any questions regarding customer centricity, or need help implementing such an approach in your organization – feel free to contact us.