Introducing more powerful and often more complex systems in a business can stretch the internal resources and capabilities of the organisation. It is important to recognise the ability, readiness and willingness of an organisation to adopt and use new technologies.
Customers notice, or worse, suffer when an organisation is struggling to incorporate a new solution into its operations – often leading to a less than satisfactory experience. A good way of combating this is through pilots and small trials that can prepare a business to deal with a new solution ahead of a public launch.
Do customers use all the features they demand?
Customers want/demand a long list of features and capabilities when deciding on purchasing products or services. Remarkably, research suggests that customers are not willing to pay for all features they desire.
In reality, customers only use a fraction of the technical solutions they purchase. Understanding the core features of your offer – from a customer point-of-view – enables businesses to streamline their products. More importantly, it helps organisations to offer more relevant services to customers which betters a customer’s experience and encourages an affiliation with a brand. In most cases customers’ willingness to pay for (extra) individual features is much lower than the features that are mentioned as ‘required’.
Technology can simplify customers’ experiences
Businesses tend to make the technology and engineering departments responsible for technical solutions in a business or customer domain. By defaulting into technical solutions the business loses sight of the core features customers are after.
Positioning new technology as part of a broader set of tools, including processes and policies, enables organisations to respond better and faster to customer demand. Applied in the right way, technology can reduce complexity of products and services – that otherwise gets in the way of enjoying core features of a product or service.
Data is not knowledge
Organisations can often be blinded by systems that process staggering amounts of data, and expect them to generate fantastic customer insights. Big data holds real promise but to understand customers you still have to engage with them. Companies are slowly learning that knowing that “the answer is 42” is meaningless without knowing the question.
Organisations often analyse data rather than seeking real understanding of customers
Easy access to volumes of internal and external data, together with complex analytics and reporting capabilities, have helped organisations identify customer patterns and behaviours, a crucial part of understanding the real impact of the customer journey through a sales or aftercare process. Data analysis leads to propositions that should be validated in the real world with real customers. Unfortunately, organisations often simply analyse data and don’t seek real knowledge about their customers.
Meaningful data – can you handle it?
Many large organisations struggle to get meaningful data from their operational, financial and customer support systems. Advanced analytical and processing capabilities cannot fix organisational issues such as organisational fragmentation and misaligned processes – which produce inconsistent data outputs. Even when there is accurate reporting there is the gap between information and insights.
When opening the floodgates of external data (sources) – without first cleaning up internal structures – organisations can literally drown in data and forget the purpose of the exercise.
What you want to know about your customers
Businesses should always first ask themselves what do they want to know about their customers in areas such as sales, support, operations, promotions etc., before building reports. Any business can distinguish between strategic and operational reporting and analysis. Operational reports, such as sales numbers by region, give insight into what is happening. Strategic analysis provides indications as to why something is happening – for example, this type of analysis can explain why most billing complaints occur in December.
Data analysis enables organisations to understand specific behaviours of customers. However, before setting up complex analytics and tests – ask, “What do we want to know about our customers and how can this better their experience when interacting us with?”
How to use big data to design services
Time and again businesses launch services and then gather data on its performance. Access to data about customers or specific sectors can be a big help in designing and improving services, ultimately leading to a more tailored offering. This is especially relevant when an organisation is designing an innovative new service, related data from other sectors or businesses can help determine the key elements of a service and how customers might behave.
External data combined with data from customer trials is a good starting point for qualitative analysis. This type of analysis inspires the design of the service before launch and helps identify areas of improvements after.
Easy data can mean hard work
Simply analysing company or sector data on customer behaviour will miss the insights that come from actually engaging with customers. Organisations must subject their initial understanding of customer patterns and behaviours to real-life testing and pilots with customers. Big data, complemented with customer validation and insight generation, helps to formulate the right question to get meaningful insights.
Ben Reason is founding director of service design at niche consultancy Livework. Founded in 2001, with offices in London, Oslo, Rotterdam and Sao Paulo, Livework employs 35 people and is considered to be the worlds’ leading service design and innovation agency.
A graduate of Liverpool School of Art and Bath University School of Management, Ben founded Livework with Lavrans Løvlie and Chris Down in 2000. He ensures Livework creates breakthrough service concepts and experiences for their clients’ business and their customers.
Ben has 20 years experience in service design, consulting in numerous industries and public sector organisations across Europe, North America, and Asia. Ben’s clients with Livework include Johnson & Johnson, The BBC, The NHS, Vodafone and Transport for London.
He regularly guest lectures at the Royal College of Art. Ben has spoken at events around the world and is a co-author of Service Design: Designing Useful, Usable and Desirable Services (Rosenfeld Media, 2012).