Interviewing Customers

We all know how to interview but how well do we know how to ingest the information. My mom is in her late 80s and when she tells me on the phone that she had a fall yesterday it is different from when she fell 5,10 or fifteen years ago. When we are five or fifteen a fall is a scraped knee. When we fall at 70 it is a recorded event, when we fall at 85 it is a flight of stairs and a potential symptom, broken hip or bad day. Interviewing for customer problem is not that different. One operations user observation is not an enterprise problem. On the other hand an executive perception may not be aware of a user work around. Context, it is all about Context! It is critical to keep your ideas out and not lead clients as we all know, recently I had a new one hit me directly. Using known clients and friends seems like a great way to reach product market fit until. So for years I have worked with boards in non-profit and for profit boards helping them build processes that allow them to be agile in their response and leadership. I focus on a derivative of the Carver methods that begin with a problem statement that describes the issue first then moves directly to an end statement allowing the team to determine the means or build a compelling case to alter the ends statement. I began to build a tool that would help them do this on line as well as keep the process in place after I left them. All went well until the experience of using the tool captured all comments in a permeate record! Wow, now thing got real! Their comments were in a compliant record and it scared them. It seems the concept and tests were fun, the real discussion on issues was not! Context extends to the real issues. So learning, testing and doing can be different. Who and what is affected? Is your MVP real to the tester or user, is there a training period to learn and perhaps long term what seems like a cycle saver has a productivity cap. We try to see everything but life always reserves the right to shock, this makes it fun!

Platforms, Usability & Reality = Innovation

Platforms for innovation over the last years in tech include the iPhone, Broadband, Virtualization and a few more. Think about what you do as a core and where can you apply it?

Years ago I led a large turn around and one of the first things I did was put out a platform of who they were and what they do. At first the team was “yea we do that but our products are….” Products change but core domain skills don’t’. We were an engineering company with excellence in control. This led to robotics and automation in home and commercial applications.

We innovated a control platform thinking about all the places we could use it? This led to a great protocol internally that was later adopted by many as a standard. We imagined plugging it into an array of ideas from internal and external sources, anything that ever came across any desk.

Today the ability to interact your service with another is the key to survival. A year ago I stopped wearing a watch after reading some demographic data about the teen generations view of tech. They saw the watch as a single function device and if they wanted to know the time and date they would look at their Phone. Today I where a watch that controls my iPod, tracks my run times, and yes does tell time and date, my compromise.

The message is clear the home page most likely is not the first place your customers find you and the ecosystem rules. A partner may direct customers to your service, or you to them. Playing well with others is more valuable now that ever. Partnerships and relationships move from competitor to ally to enemy over a single transaction.

Usability for your service and interaction with others wins the day. This may ask you to alter your service workflow or look and feel. Customer loyalty depends as much on ease of use as brand in many cases. Having brand awareness may come in new ways, perhaps in customer marketing after the fact or as part of the hard goods experience. Screen real-estate and bandwidth prohibit some brand opportunities, so think where else you can capture the user attention. Once cool thing was when the tickets for an event came across they grabbed my attention in the confirmation e-mail and the envelope weeks after the sale.

Customer marketing has been somewhat ignored in many multi-service transactions through white label programs. This is a big opportunity for innovation in the marketing arena. Those who have heard me lately know that I am pushing for the marketing teams to stop their focus on technology to do their jobs and think about the experience both online and offline. The integration of these two worlds in marketing  is the next big thing!