Implementations of products, services and new technology can fail for many reasons - one of them being a lack of customer insight and testing against those uncovered customer needs. Moving from pure inside-out testing to testing an entire new set-up against customer behaviour and their need of getting specific jobs done ahead of launch may prove to be of high value to any organisation.
Testing doesn’t eliminate failure
I still remember the smile on the face of the IT test lead when, at the project’s weekly morning status meeting, he presented a green arrow on a piece of paper. The connection between two main systems was established and the information did now finally flow, as it should. This was a major IT step when rolling out a brand new pension product that should save his company from the Solvency II ghost approaching.
Before launch of this new product, rigorous testing took place, including the value proposition, processes from front to back end, IT systems from front via CRM to core systems. The customers were even involved in testing product features and UX usability.
With the product set up and most aspects ready to go, one question mark remained – the customer. Would they actually buy the product? How could we attract their attention to an unsexy product such as a pension? And how could we convince them to do what we had calculated en masse would be the right thing for them to do?
Multi-channel strategies focus on engaging customers across multiple touchpoints. Often, each channel has its own strategy and is managed separately. Cross-channel strategies, however, allow customers to navigate various channels to complete a transaction. Omni-channel strategies further improve customer satisfaction and build brands by offering a consistent and integrated experience for their customers across channels, sales platforms and media.
Inside-out testing treats customers as data
During the design, build, test and implement phases of new products, services and systems, a commonality seems to be a lack of the customer perspective. The understanding of customers is limited to how they interact with the company, rather than when the company is relevant in customers’ lives.
The inside-out approach tests product features against business requirements, legal aspects and operating models. As an example, process testing includes the customer at the points where they are actually engaged with the company. However, process testing does not take into account customer behaviour when they are not interacting with the company. In the IT domain the customer is, in most cases, reduced to the data – however, the customer is much more than this. None of these tests truly involve the customer and take into account their most important needs.
Most customer related activities – like looking for a product, or receiving product support – do not require complex transactions to back-end or enterprise systems. By clearly separating systems that – directly or indirectly – provide general information from the ones needed to interact with customers, organisation can significantly simplify their system landscape. Breaking the dependency on heavy and complex transaction gives the flexibility and cost effectiveness to respond better and faster to customer expectations.
Outside-in testing to meet customer needs
An outside-in approach to testing starts by understanding the customer and their needs. It focuses on understanding behaviour of customers, and not the product or customer characteristics. Customers constantly find themselves needing to get things done, what Clayton Christensen describe as “jobs-to-be-done”. When this happens, they usually “hire” products or services to do the job.
To meet customer expectations, it is important to understand at which level the customer is operating: consumer, customer or user level. For example, people get married at a consumer level. Registering a marriage to public organisations however happens at a user level. Testing from the outside in involves more than measuring if product features work – it seeks to understand if products really meet customers’ needs.
On average 2% of large IT projects, with a significant budget are successfully delivered, in comparison to the 71% success rate of smaller projects. Focusing on the minimum viable enables IT deliveries to be broken up into smaller pieces. Thinking small keeps leaders from chasing every problem with a technology solution. They start to recognise that even technology has limits, and to get the best from it requires customer feedback as early as possible. This creates a steady stream of value through smaller more frequent releases rather than bundling them into big solutions.
How to test with customers
The first step in testing from the outside in is breaking down customer needs into jobs-to-be-done. Returning to the pension product, the job-to-be-done for those interested in the new product may be to understand their total pension portfolio and the consequences for their future monthly retirement benefits. Being forced to choose between product features like “investment profiles” without this context makes little sense to most (un)informed retirement savers.
Having identified the critical jobs-to-be-done, it is possible to break them down into units with clear customer needs and outcomes. In a test phase this means testing the set up and operations of the new product or service against the hierarchy of customers’ needs to get jobs done. This includes testing the relevant features of the product that aids the customer in getting the job done, across possible channels. When each key step in the high-level getting-the-job-done is satisfactory, you can move on to the next job-to-be-done.
Ultimately, when all the “jobs” are aligned, they can be tested from proposition level to the final details of saying “OK” with a mouse-click. This holistic view can now tell us whether the product or service actually helps the customer get the job done without confusion or irritation.
A most affordable assurance
Customers tend to give you only one chance to meet their needs. Therefore, in preparing to launch a new product, service or system, applying an outside-in approach is crucial to provide real-life customer insights into whether or not the implementation will succeed. This approach also helps uncover issues that need to be solved before launch and prevent costly post-launch fixes. In other words, an outside-in approach to a roll out is a most affordable insurance.