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The Pitfalls of the Customer Journey



Context


Lean Startup, Agile Development, and Design Thinking share fundamental principles geared towards rapid innovation, adaptability, and customer focus. I applied these in the development of the project feexers (in Romania), where I was and still am a co-founder and CEO. And I experienced them... the hard way. I wondered why it didn’t work as we expected, even though we worked by the book, relying on our own solid experience and the principles from the three aforementioned frameworks. Let's detail these principles a bit:

Common Principles:

Ideea Centric: All three methodologies start from an idea or hypothesis about what value can be created for customers. This starting point serves as a basis for exploration, development, and iteration. In our case, the inspiration came from the 'Task Rabbit' project for US market.

Pivoting: The ability to change direction (pivot) based on feedback and lessons learned is essential. If a particular approach or product feature does not meet customer expectations or does not effectively solve the problem, adjusting the strategy or offering is considered. The version with which we launched feexers was 100% transparent, with one-click payment, with invoices issued instantly from the app, and 100% vetted service providers, only legal entities. However, along the way, we observed that our clients often don't practice what they preach when it comes to their expectations and actions.; more precisely, the regulated market of on demand-at home services represented, according to our estimates, 10% of the market, the remaining 90% being unregulated (not to say black;-). So... let's pivot, after we had drawn what we thought was a perfect Customer Journey...

Fail Fast: Encourage taking calculated risks and accepting rapid failure as part of the learning process. By quickly identifying what does not work, resources can be reallocated towards more promising solutions, thus minimizing the loss of time and capital. Consequently, we rapidly redirected and utilized the resources gathered from VCs and Angel Investors.


Based on these principles, we designed the Customer Journey as well as the corresponding Customer experiences (CX) and User Experiences (UX). But let's briefly examine what the roles of Customer Journey, CX, and UX are:

Customer Journey: All three of the above methodologies acknowledge the importance of understanding the journey a customer takes, from recognizing a need to interacting with the product or service and beyond. This journey provides valuable insights for optimizing the customer experience.

Customer Experience (CX): The overall experience of the customer with the brand, product, or service is central. The goal is to ensure that each point of contact positively contributes to the customer's perception and overall satisfaction. Interestingly, all our customers were very happy, with a record Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 73 and a nice 4.7 in the App Store... But the traction was becoming increasingly thin.

User Experience (UX): The design and specific functionality of the product or service are essential for meeting and exceeding user expectations. A well-conceived UX is crucial for the long-term success of any innovation. We worked with people who were well-versed in doing just that. But, again, the traction was increasingly thin. And we didn't understand why…


The Complication


In the context of the above principles and the below-expectation results of feexers, we identified a major complication: while pivoting and adopting the ‘fail fast’ approach were meant to optimize the innovation process, they became costly, consuming valuable resources. Furthermore, the focus on the initial idea often contributes to a low success rate of innovation, which is under 10% (HBR and PWC). This focus on the idea rather than on the actual needs of the customers can profoundly undermine the Customer Journey, CX or UX.

The current paradigm in Customer Journey is often centered on the actions that customers take at each step, which I believe can be a PITFALL.

Current methodologies, assuming the initial idea is solid, focus intensely on analyzing customer behavior, what they do at each step, and measuring their level of satisfaction, without first evaluating whether the core idea aligns with the actual needs of the customers. This approach can lead to a divergence between development efforts and what customers truly want or need, thus creating a gap between customer expectations and the offering.


The question


In the context of challenges brought by frequent pivoting and the 'fail fast' approach in innovation, how can we avoid potential pitfalls in the Customer Journey, defined by the paradigm: ‘What do customers do at each stage of their journey, whether it's the moments before, during, or after using our product or service’?


Possible Answer


Simple, I believe.

By making a fundamental shift from asking ‘What?’ to ‘Why?’.

More precisely, from ‘What is the customer doing at this step?’ to ‘What does the customer want to achieve at this step?’.

This reorientation would allow us to focus on the aspirations and desired outcomes of customers, not just on their actions. By understanding and prioritizing the outcomes that customers are trying to achieve, we could design experiences that truly fulfill their underlying needs, thereby creating significant added value in the Customer Journey. In short, we would change our way of thinking, from ‘Idea-Centric’ to ‘Need-Centric’:

Focus on Needs vs Solutions: Let's shift the focus from initial ideas and assumed solutions to a deep understanding of customer needs. This paradigm shift aims to understand the outcomes customers want to achieve at each stage, not just the actions they take.


Impact


What could we achieve?

Reducing Costly Pivots and ‘Fail Fast’:

Deep Understanding Before Development: Identifying and prioritizing the outcomes desired by customers before beginning the development process can reduce the need for frequent pivoting and ‘fail fast’, aligning the initial direction more closely with the actual needs of the customers.

Predictability and Efficiency:

• With a clear understanding of customer objectives, product development becomes predictable, leading to resource optimization and shorter development cycles.

Impact on Customer Journey, CX and UX:

Predictable Customer Journey: A clear understanding of customer needs makes the customer journey more predictable, allowing for the creation of experiences that proactively meet customer needs at each touchpoint.

More effective CX and UX development: Focusing on the desired outcomes of customers leads to a close alignment between UX design and CX experience with customer expectations and needs, resulting in products and services that often exceed their expectations.

Adopting such a 'need-centric' approach provides a clear path to innovation and product development, reducing uncertainty and maximizing relevance and value for customers. This shift in approach can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of CX and UX development, transforming how we respond to customer needs.

By simply changing the question from ‘What?’ to ‘Why?’, we could achieve significantly improved results for innovation processes such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, or Agile Development without costly pivots. And, last but not least, this could greatly increase the chances of success for our innovations.

What do you think?

If this challenge intrigues you, are you curious to find out how we could accomplish this?

Give a sign!



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