Don't fear customers' reality
Article

Don't fear customers' reality

Melvin Brand Flu
  • Melvin Brand Flu
  • Partner
Take aways
  • Real-life customer pilots give you realistic confidence in the new services.
  • Real-life pilots enable businesses to fix glitches before it is too late and costly.
  • Early engagement and trials with stakeholders breed a culture of innovation.

Businesses benefit a lot from early trials of new ideas in the real-world settings with senior managers, customers and staff. These trials enable you to identify and fix potential glitches before it is too late and costly, to garner support from the management and delivery staff, and to give you more confidence that the idea will likely work in practice. Early engagement and trials with stakeholders significantly improve the chances of success, and breed a culture of innovation.

Many great ideas have failed. However, their demise could have been anticipated or even avoided by “live testing” during the development phase. It is of paramount importance to get the development teams out of the controlled environment of labs or meeting rooms, and test new ideas in the messy and unpredictable world.

Test before implementation

From simple experience prototypes to full-scale service simulations, there are many different ways to try out ideas with customers. By involving staff in testing, you also minimise the chances of missing opportunities or post-launch issues. That saves you time and money.

Fear of the reality

The greatest enemy of a good product or  service design  is the reality. The world in a lab and a meeting room or on a spreadsheet is controllable. However, the real world is brutal, messy and unpredictable.

To find out whether an idea should be brought to life, it must be tested in the real world.  Testing concepts in the context where they will eventually be used often generates a lot of learning and inspiration.

Don’t fear the managers

It pays off to test ideas early with senior managers as well. Generally, senior managers are good at identifying solutions that are achievable and impactful. Making your idea visual and tangible helps managers understand and be more engaged. Strong support from the management is crucial for your idea to proceed further.

For example, an idea of re-designing an invoice makes great sense for customers but may require an overhaul of the IT system. The development team may not realise this broader impact on the organisation. This idea should be reworked, or even killed off, before too much investment is made; otherwise even more resources will be spent on fixing the issues.

The real world is brutal, messy and unpredictable.

Don’t fear the staff

Engaging the staff in early trials dramatically reduces rework costs close to or even after the launch. It also makes your staff more eager to adopt and deliver the changes to the market.

For instance, letting salespeople test a new product idea with a handful of customers is likely to result in valuable feedback – and it only takes a few hours! Testing a new routine with call center staff for a day helps clarify directions on how well a routine will work when it is scaled up.

Don’t fear the customers

The best tests with customers must be conducted in a real-life context, not labs or focus groups.

Before massive investments are made, real-life testing allows businesses to realise the problems, however minute they could be, that only appear in the messy reality of everyday life. These tests also give you realistic confidence that customers will value the product or service from the day it is launched!

Test new concepts with senior managers, customers and staff. Their response tells you whether the concepts will likely work in practice.

Learn, validate and prove

Rough prototypes enable development teams to learn and improve concepts quickly in collaboration with the senior management, staff and customers. High-fidelity prototypes, with a limited number of participants, can validate the assumptions of the concepts. Pilots involving customers and staff can prove that a concept will likely succeed in the real world.

Although no one knows for sure an idea is successful until it is actually launched, real-life tests save cost and time and significantly improve the chances of success.

Build a culture of innovation

Don’t be afraid to test your ideas with the top management, customers and colleagues. Real-life testing provides insights and feedback that drastically improve your chances of success. Engaging customers and the whole organisation in testing new concepts breeds an organisational culture of innovation.