Around the world, chief executives feel an urgent need for speed. Without faster responses to new opportunities and emerging customer preferences, many of them fear their businesses will increasingly fall behind, becoming laggards and also-rans.
Take, for example, the 1,300 business leaders worldwide whose views are captured in the 2019 KPMG CEO Outlook survey: 67% of them say that acting with agility is the new currency of business and that being too slow risks bankruptcy. That’s up from 59% in the 2018 survey.
The race is on – and nowhere in business is the need for speed felt more keenly than in the area of customer experience. In recent years, we’ve seen how markets can be utterly disrupted by companies that spot an opportunity to serve customers better, faster and more conveniently, and then act quickly to deliver that experience. First-mover advantage can be a powerful thing – just ask executives at Airbnb, Uber or Netflix.
It’s no surprise, then, that increasing speed of product and service launches is one of the top three CX project priorities that companies have for 2019, along with improving analytics and getting more customer feedback, according to a recent survey by IT market research firm Gartner.
But, as any athlete will tell you, there’s a subtle difference between speed and agility. Speed is defined as the ability to move in one direction as fast as possible. Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, stabilise and quickly change direction entirely when needed. Both are essential to winning races and both are needed to turn good ideas into great customer experiences.
At Zuhlke, a key focus of our Digital Services Innovation (DSI) solution is helping clients achieve greater speed and agility. In particular, we’re big fans of the ‘lean start-up’ approach, which aims to shorten time-to-market in the development of new products and services.
Relying heavily on agile development, with cross-functional teams working in short bursts, or ‘sprints’ to deliver incremental improvements, the lean start-up approach favours experimentation over planning; customer feedback over gut feeling; and iterative design over sticking rigidly to a fixed blueprint, laid out at the start.
One of its core components, meanwhile, is the build-measure-learn feedback loop, which can be extremely useful in getting new and improved customer experiences to market as quickly as possible. There are three stages to this technique:
The goal here is to create a minimal viable product (MVP) to test ideas for a new product or service for customers. In this context, the MVP offers sufficient features to give early adopters a good feel for the product or service, but still leaves plenty of scope for new features and functions to be added once feedback from initial users has been considered.
This stage involves gathering metrics and direct feedback on how customers navigate a new journey and their responses to it. Where did they encounter hurdles or struggle to identify the next step to take? Conversely, what did they appreciate about the experience? How does their response compare with what the product team expected?
The information gathered in the ‘measure’ stage is then put into effect. Maybe the product team will find that their idea is broadly valid and persevere with it, using the feedback loop to refine it further; or maybe the feedback will suggest that the idea doesn’t work – but at least the team can rule it out, correct course and try again. Either way, it’s back to the build stage and so the cycle continues.
In this way, the risk of lengthy and expensive projects, ending in ‘big-bang’ launches and the possibility of outright failure is avoided. What clients get instead is reduced time to market, certainly – but also digital products that evolve over time, continually becoming richer and more functional and constantly adapting to changing customer needs and expectations.