Putting the user at the centre of your business

Clients and users are the cornerstones of your organisation, that’s what we preach. But even though we might preach this, it doesn’t mean that it’s a globally rooted approach. We strongly believe that this needs to change if these companies want to continue to grow and survive in the long-term.

Customer centricity was an unusual concept back in the days when customers were still loyal to their local supermarket and Amazon was just an online bookstore. 

But times change and the reality nowadays is that clients are not married to a company or brand, nor to their products. They switch quickly from one brand to another to get a better offer elsewhere.

The hardest lesson we all learned these past years is: You do not own the client.

Venkat Ramaswamy (keynote speaker at our Human-Centred Design Summit of 2017) and founder of the co-creation principle stated it like this: 

“A fundamental shift is underway that will change how we conceive value. In an era of increasing interconnectedness, individuals, as opposed to institutions, stand at the centre of value creation.. To adapt to this tectonic shift, organisations can no longer unilaterally devise products and services. ”

Peter Drucker already stated earlier: “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.”

Ethnographic research

I can already hear you thinking: but we already put our customer first, we have call centres to deal with our customers’ queries, we do market research, we organise focus groups, we do surveys, we create customer journeys, we even do some usability tests on digital applications! And that’s a great way to start. But we need to see the broader picture.

Creating products and services that are relevant, meaningful and successful requires a specific and more in-depth approach. This approach takes you into the world of your user. Ethnographic research is educational and very inspiring. It helps you discover latent needs by mapping the whole environment of the user, not only focusing on attributes and functional features. Based on experience, we all too often see that companies still focus too hard on checking their hypotheses and are only interested in finding out the answer to their questions which is rather a blinkered approach. People are however a lot more complex than what a simple marketing question implies. A user has more needs than just functional ones. If you match their values, your product will gain such an emotional advantage that it will lead to a greater impact on a positive customer experience. That is the power of ethnographic research.

Different cases prove how powerful innovations are when they are based on real user input. Think about Gillette when they created the Gillette Guard for the Indian market. There are many other examples like this: P&G, Porsche, Disney, …

Why ethnographic research? According to John le Carr: “Because a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Behind your desk you cannot gain empathy for your user.

When you perform ethnographic research there where your user is living and using your products, you will gain valuable insights about their conscious and unconscious behaviour, their rational and irrational emotions and about their past and present. By doing so, you’ll develop empathy for them, you will learn to understand them and perceive and feel things as they do.

Centralising the user, always and everywhere

But you don’t only need to include your user at the beginning of an innovation project. To benefit maximally from their input, they need to be included throughout the whole process. Co-creating solutions and testing concepts, prototypes, putting the user around the table with designers, developers and marketeers, that is the core of a customer-centred business.

If a company states that they are customer-centred, they need to know that this is not a one-off exercise. You do not gain muscles from going to the gym once, neither do you change a habit because you tried something else once.

Being customer-centric needs to be stimulated top down and rooted in the mission and KPI’s of the organization. It needs to trickle into every cell of the organization. Centralising the customer breaks silos, it needs to become the mantra of the organization which connects employees across departments, it gives them one goal: offering the user the best possible solution.

Make the difference

The value of user research is more than the input for new or improved products and services. It gives deep insights into the ecosystem of your user: which stakeholder is important to get your products to the market? It’s a great source for marketing, communication, distribution and even new business models.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple says: “Most business models have been focused on self-interest instead of user experience.”

And who are we to doubt that?

Apple doesn’t ask its users what they want. They observe, analyse and then put all these learnings into a blender to gain ideas out of alternate worlds, create prototypes and test and test until they are satisfied, they launch them with a great touch of marketing which plays on the emotions of users.

But we don’t need to go to the Silicon Valley to learn all of this. We also know that if you can live up to expectations, and even beyond, you get happy customers. Happy customers equals happy employees and happy employees, built on a financially healthy organization.

Ethnographic research gives you insights which inspire and trigger creativity, it offers many opportunities and new ideas to your company.

Banking is necessary, Banks are not.

Banking is necessary, Banks are not.

When Bill Gates proclaimed in 1990 that “banking was necessary, but banks were not” he might have been ahead of his time. Now, almost 30 years later, his proclamation holds true in Europe more than ever. 2018 will be the game-changing year for traditional banks due to PSD2, the revised Payment Service Directive. “The new EU directive opens the door to any company interested in eating a bank’s lunch” (Viola Hellström, Evry). This article will briefly explain what P2D2 is and what it will mean for traditional banks. But this is not just a bad news show for the traditional European banks as we know them. If they choose to embrace Customer Centricity they will not only stay in the game, but ahead of it.

The Rise of the disruptive Patient-to-Network business model in Healthcare

The Rise of the disruptive Patient-to-Network business model in Healthcare

In the future healthcare services will be radically different than they are now. Developments in DNA sequencing, testing, analysis and therapy are slowly becoming a very real threat to healthcare as we know it. As patients (will) have more options than ever before the need for a new business model arises where the patient can’t and shouldn’t have to manage every single interaction. And while having a ‘single point of access’ might be utopic thinking, for the patient it would be the best solution. This is where we see the creation of a patient-to-network business model providing patients information, care and even treatment in the comfort of their home.

The unspoken truth behind quantitative data: what they tell and don’t tell.

The unspoken truth behind quantitative data: what they tell and don’t tell.

Companies want to know that what they are doing is right, that the service they offer caters for the needs of their clients and that the product they market is user-friendly. But most importantly, that want to be sure they offer the customer an effortless customer journey and an experience that will turn them into loyal customers. To prove to our CEO that we are doing the right thing, we need statistics and hard evidence. Nowadays you can’t buy anything without receiving an e-mail about how likely you are to recommend the service to a peer, or how satisfied you are with it. Companies are eager to know what a customer thinks of them.

User Research is NOT overrated

User Research is NOT overrated

Last week I stumbled across this article on Medium — User Research is Overrated — that caught my attention. As a consultant in user research, the title alone is enough to make one defensive. But I was intrigued because I wanted to know why the author was claiming this, especially since I have mostly very positive experiences with the results of user research.