How customer centred is your organisation?

By Peter Ballard @Ballyfool

Each day, it seems more brands are trying to convince us that their services and interactions are designed around our needs as customers. But how many companies can demonstrate that they are truly customer-orientated?

It is more common now to find companies making User-Centred Design (UCD) a central part of their development approach, yet many brands are missing out on the benefits of collaborating with customers in the earliest stages of their innovation processes.

The enlightened brands that do are asking customers to help co-create new online experiences and innovative ways of interacting, to deliver a genuine competitive advantage online.

Similarly, the benefits of regularly reviewing existing online sales processes are often over looked. In the current economic climate, a few percentage points on the online conversion rate, can deliver a significant business benefit.

‘End-to-end’ experience design

Experience design, the process of developing full end-to-end customer ‘buying and owning’ experiences, requires a deep understanding of customers’ expectations and behaviours: How and where customers shop? What influences customer buying decisions? How can expectations about the purchase experience be met or exceeded?

At Foolproof we have an approach to experience design which we call the ‘3Ts’ – Think, Test and Tune:

Think: Customer Driven Innovation

We bring together customers, clients and their agency teams to co-create the ‘big ideas’ and new experiences. Our rapid innovation process turns these ideas into pragmatic concepts that can be validated with customers and proven commercially.

The beauty of this process is that traditional ‘blue sky’ thinking can be turned into practical applications in just a few short weeks, and all ideas that emerge from the process are firmly rooted in a real customer need.

Test: User-Centred Design

The benefits of UCD are well documented. The risks and costs of developing new tools, functions and content are minimised by validating the site architecture, customer journeys and main areas of interaction with real customers at regular points in the design and build process.

Nowadays, with online marketers being asked to deliver more online sales with static, or lower, marketing budgets, the return on investment argument for UCD is compelling.

Tune: Sales Process Optimisation

You’d be surprised just how many companies think that once a new part of their site is ‘live’ that their work is done. Such is the speed at which technology and competitors develop, customer ‘norms’ evolve quickly and it is easy to fall behind.

The more advanced companies adopt a programme of regular review on their most important sales processes. They employ user experience testing, multi-variate testing and customer experience competitor benchmarking to ensure that site processes are fine-tuned, and in doing so, ensure no sales opportunities are lost.

‘Always-on’ customer collaboration

Without doubt, the companies that will enjoy continued success will be those that fully involve customers throughout their design and development processes and continue to take this approach to fine-tuning their online sales journeys.

With the demand for low-cost and quick consumer insight increasing, we expect to see greater use of social media to deliver this. We already use Facebook to stage campaign tests and social media has allowed us to build, moderate and maintain a ‘co-creation platform’ giving us easy and immediate access to representative users throughout the lifespan of major projects.

Without reference to real customers, any attempts to convince us that products and services are built around our needs can quickly be revealed as hollow claims. In a world where it is easy to share the reality of our experiences with others, it seems sensible to make sure those experiences are genuinely customer centred.

Peter Ballard

I co-founded Foolproof with Tom Wood back in 2002. Today I work across a range of clients, particularly in the roles of Experience Planner and Client Partner. In my role as Experience Planner, I ensure that our design teams have access to the right insight to respond appropriately to the business and creative challenges faced by our clients.

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