Customer experience and feedback are essential, but can we rely on them entirely to build the product? How do we develop new features while also being mindful of customer perceptions and experiences?
It was the year 2013. Among the exciting cheer at the Atlantic Zoo, twin panda sisters Mei Lun and Mei Huan saw the world for the first time and went on to become more famous than the Olsen twins. 3187 km to the east of the zoo, an exciting cheer at a different setting launched the Google Smart glasses with Augmented Reality technology (AR) for the first time.
It was a time like no other. Promise filled the air. There was a hop in everyone’s step, and the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement.
That’s why no one even slightly suspected in 2013 that two years down the line, the twin pandas would leave Atlanta zoo and have a culture shock in China or that Google would withdraw their smart glasses due to poor product-market fit.
These missteps can be a massive burden for the brand and the technology. A similar fate can also be tracked in software history as well.
People on the software side of things get excited about something big and fancy and are very proud to build the next flashy product they assume will solve the next big humanitarian crisis. They see a couple of Steve Jobs’ speeches and unveil the curtains on the product. The customer gasps and coos, which is also encouraging.
But here is when the problem comes knocking. As the potential customer understands the product and tries to find its place in the ecosystem, their mind rings with multiple alarms,
“This is really impressive, but my goodness, this is going to cost me a bundle to set this up!”
“How much administrative costs will I have to incur to set up this technology?”
“This seems fancy, so I might have to use my engineers to make API connections here, there, and everywhere, which is going to be a whole internal battle.”
“Oh, my goodness, I'm going to have to hire a person just to manage this technology.”
Technology comes at a tremendous cost both financially and organizationally and maybe even personally for the customer when they put their neck out on the line, making by certain investments and promising to deliver value to their organization. This causes fission between the value that the organization offers and the value the customer expects.
In the third part of the series, we try to understand the entirety of customer value and dig into the trenches with Colin Crowley, customer experience innovator and CX advisor at Freshworks, to know how customer experience can be used as a segue to make customer value better.
There is slight nuance when we dig into customer value and customer’s value. Colin explains this by saying,
“When you frame it as the customer's value, it makes it more personal to the customer as opposed to the other phrase, as something you can impose from your vantage point like some monolithic concept. Make sure that you understand the customer's voice because sometimes there can be a disconnect between what you think the customer should value and what they really value.”
A 2018 paper by Deloitte cracks the case of customer value through customer experience. They state that experiences create value in the moments that matter most for businesses and customers. They coin the term CXV to denote customer experience value that helps companies recognize customer value in their different interactions.
If customer value lies in each customer experience at every customer touchpoint, how does one optimize for customer value?
At this point, you’d already know that the big flashy thing doesn’t interest or increase the customer value in any way. Colin pulls an example from his time at the Refresh Conference in 2021.
Freshworks has a yearly hackathon where about hundreds of employees at Freshworks get together and innovate on crucial customer challenges. The result is a number of custom apps that address pressing, but “smaller”, problems that cause customers pain.
Colin recalls the moment when the winning apps were presented, and one could viscerally hear the positive reactions from the audience. What stood out was that these apps were addressing smaller operational challenges that customers customers expoerienced in their everyday lives, not grand strategic needs - and yet the reaction from the audience was so enthusiastic.
“it makes sense because these are all operational leaders, and sometimes, while the big, flashy innovations may seem important, it's hard for people to understand the value of things that are big and flashy, because understanding that value is more complex - or if were talking about something like AI, yu math not know where to begin.”
But something which is small, or “seems to be small” from a product or company perspective, can mean a lot to a customer because they can very viscerally understand the value that they're going to get out of it. They jknow how much time X changer will save their agents every day, which can then easily be monetized. These seemingly small innovations can provide more immediate, understandable value than more grandiose innovations. As a result, companies should make sure not to neglect the “small stuff.”
Solving everyday pressing problems always wins, but that is not to say that innovations don’t work. Customer love innovation, and they love to see new ideas in the form of features and products.
But Colin says its essential to make sure one has a minimum standard of value.
“You need to understand the minimum your customers expect because that's the threshold you need to meet before you start to beta test anything. It’s essential to be clear in defining your standards based again on that customer feedback. You have to look at what customers expect when it comes to minimum value and make sure, even for your beta testing and anything that you're delivering, that you're keeping that in mind when you're launching new products or features.”
This solves for taking in customer feedback and also developing a product within the limits of the organization. This also helps set the benchmark for beta testing new features.
The million dollar question has always been, “What does my customer want?”
Humans have wanted everything from flying cars to lighters with dragons. The complex question pushes one into multiple webs of chaos even with sufficient data. But an easier way to approach the dragon in the den is to understand that customer expectations exist in an ecosystem.
“Customers are heavily influenced by what they've seen with these other products here, there, and everywhere. So it's really important to do competitive research on all aspects of at least your key competitors.”
But this doesn’t refrain from having a couple of names listed on an excel or power point deep dive into who the competition is. It is delving deeper into aspects of their service experience for their audience. It’s about a customer’s wait time, on how fast they are getting an answer to their questions, and how their experience is with your competitor’s UI.
“I think it's really important to understand what are those experiences customers are getting when they're going to Company A and Company B. Because that's going to inform what they're going to expect from you at Company C, and also provides guidance on that minimum threshold of value or quality, so to speak, because that's the thing that you want to be able to exceed if you want to be competitive.”
When looking into customer value, often times the customers who are taken into the set are the decision makers and not the actual people who use/experience the product. The truth is, the Director of Marketing might be the last person to know that the content writers at the first line of defence are not happy with the GPT3 tool functioning along with them.
The fact is that there isn’t so much a customer experience, as customer experiences, with different types of people at a company having different experiences of your product based on how they interact with it. Above all, hands on experience is a really important thing, especially the experience of frontline users, which is oiften neglected.
“You want to make sure that when you're talking about product experience, you want to talk to the person who is directly using the product because the director has a different experience from the manager, who has a different experience from the agent. You need to understand all those experiences and add value across all those experiences because those different experiences matter and contribute to whether a company ultimately decides to stick with you because you have a great product.”
Product experience at different levels, and one can take it a step forward by broadening it to service experiences too. The primary check will be to understand if you are good stewards of the experiences across all these different layers of employees.
One of the critical challenges with many companies is that it takes work to go for the product trial. While some complex tools give the customers to use a Sandbox, others might directly expect the customer to get on a call.
At this point, the customers rely solely on theory and customer references. To tackle this, Colin says,
“Find ways that you can give customers direct experiences with your product. Giving people free rein to understand value by experiencing a product directly on their own terms is really attractive for people, especially as it fits in with the theme of customer empowerment. Most customers like to be independent wherever possible.”
Building value for the customer doesn’t end with launching a product that solves their problems. While it seems like an obvious fix, the customer needs to understand and utilize the product's value to benefit from it. It is about threading the line between understanding customer needs and expectations, understanding data, acknowledging product capabilities, accommodating budget constraints, and finding the right features to help the customer feel valued.
We thank Colin Crowley for helping us decode customer value and deep dive into the nuances of how everyone can understand customer value and how it can be used to make the world a better place.
You can check out the first part here and the second part here.