What we can learn from the start up community to improve our customer experience management

August 18, 2017

This blog offers ideas gleaned from start-ups that any organisation can apply internally and externally. Irrespective of whether you are a government agency, private sector firm, not for profit, large or small, you can apply these tips both to your internal and external customers.

Who would have thought that some of the answers to how we can improve the experience for our customers lies in the start-up community? 

I have been spending time lately listening to founders both new and experienced across the start-up community in an effort to see what might translate back into more mature organisations and established Government departments to help kick-start or enhance their CX management capability.

In the last few months I’ve spent time listening to founders sharing their journey to successful scaling and developing services customers will love:

  • The design community (Design Crowd - Alec Lynch, Khemistry - Andy Fyffe, Shea Hatch - landscape design),
  • Social Enterprise (ThankYou water - Daniel Flynn)
  • Property (Different -Mina Radhakrishnan),
  • Gaming (Kabam (USA) - Holly Liu),
  • Fitness  (Class Pass - Payal Kadakia) and
  • Productivity tools (Writally – Caroline McCullough)

What I’ve discovered is we don’t need to know it all.  When designing for customers we just need to start, embrace design thinking, apply lean canvas techniques, collaborate and iterate.   Don’t try to solve the most complex problems early or spend copious amounts of time perfecting your product or service before release.

Start small and scale later.

Innovative start-ups often start with minimal (or no) cash flow. They have lots of boundaries (such as no established market or know how and limited skill sets) but are hungry to solve a problem they have seen for consumers trying to do something. They can see a better way.

The limitations founders encounter have served to catapult them into hustling, being creative, networking, sharing, collaborating, being resourceful and most of all being eternally authentic in order to get people on board with their idea and to fund it.   These skills help carry the founder and their team through the hurdles that lay ahead.

None of the above founders gave up even after earlier failures; they just dusted off and started another until it worked for them. They constantly see there are problems to be solved.

It’s just knowing which problem needs solving and when to solve it.

Their insatiable appetite to focus on solving a customer problem, validating it for product market fit and delivering it with resources built over time is key.

Bringing this mindset into mature organisations is the opportunity.

Take Design Crowd for example. Alec saw that it was hard to access designers at a reasonable price so he decided to create a market place which enabled designers to be matched to the organisations or individuals (clients) who needed them.  Clients can advertise their needs and designers could quote a price and delivery time and a deal can be done.

It sounds simple but in reality, it takes a long time to iron out and get it to where it is today. However, the focus on making it easy for clients has made the world of difference for both designer and client. In the meantime, he has created a sizeable $20m revenue p.a global business.   He has taken on the established design organisations “head on” and opened up the opportunity for faster, accessible design resources. It’s no longer a start-up, but still operates as if it is; pivoting, learning, hustling for services, and collaborating to grow and improve its services to its clients.

I wonder how many marketplaces we can create like Alec if we take the same point of view inside our mature organisations?  Will it be the key to reinvigorate our thinking and design improved experiences?

The key takeaways to encourage an entrepreneurial approach I see include:

  1. Articulate your one page strategy– articulate your vision, mission, goals, objective, product and growth strategy, and “go to market” strategy
  2. Timing - Time your entrance for when the customer need exists.
  3. Strategic Pivoting – Have a strategy.  Flex and pivot as needed. Be comfortable with pivoting and know when to do it. Explain to the Executive it’s “normal” and not a lack of direction.
  4. Focus your impact - Focus on what it is you are actually trying to impact. Be clear, articulate it, and stay true to it.  Make sure your purpose aligns as you will need to put your heart and soul into delivering the outcome.
  5. Have customer clarity - Customers will be customers. Capture the essence of who they are and what they are trying to achieve.  Be clear as to who you are targeting, who the early adopters are, and who can validate your idea.
  6. Create “execution advantage” - How you execute solving customers’ problems is where your advantage lies. We all have ideas and ways to solve problems but where we differ is in our speed, our networks, our resources and our know-how.  Make this your advantage and surround yourself with the best of the best in each of these areas.
  7. Lead with gusto - Don’t lead unless you are passionate about it. Ride the down times as well as the highs.  Likewise, choose the team for the same level of passion.
  8. Show some grit - Be in it for the long haul. Doing this takes grit, dedication and the ability to be rejected many times. Don’t take offence.
  9. Know your customer – Know who are you targeting and why. Are you actually solving customers’ problems or ones you think they have? Keep validating with customers in their environment (not in your office) to ensure there is product market fit; no matter how “sexy” your solution is. Unless there is a market for it and it fits with your customers, it will be hard to scale
  10. Scale later – Hold off and get the solution right with your early adopters first, then scale later. It’s better to get it right early at lower cost than to try and scale with a product with no hope and lots of sunk costs and time.
  11. Be “in the market” – Understand that the market will change and there will always be new entrants. You need to keep reinventing but stay true to the problem you are solving
  12. Aim for simplicity – Be able to explain your product or service in a sentence or two.  If you had to pitch it, you would do so with no more than seven slides. Assume you were getting investment support and it depended on your message.  How convincing are you?  Would you get backing?
  13. Back yourself – If you can’t, then why would anyone else?
  14. Be authentic – The leader, the story teller, the maker all need to be true to themselves and the customers.

So if you need to start designing better services or bringing more energy to solving customers’ problems, have a look at the makeup of your team and the processes you have in play to enable this.

Start thinking like you are an entrepreneur and bring some start up thinking to the table. Get close to what problem you are solving and get going whether you have all the information or not.

Let the boundaries motivate you and start collaborating.

Interested in applying some of these tips within your organisation? Centium has helped private and public-sector organisations embed design thinking and customer experience approaches for both internal and external customers. We have run workshops for in-house project teams, internal audit departments, IT teams and others to help them understand customer journeys, touch points, moments of truth and (internal) customer experience improvement strategies. We have also helped organisations with their (external) customer experience strategies. Centium also has an extensive offering of training courses and workshops that we run for clients internally across various teams, including how to integrate design thinking, how to embed creativity, how to really understand customer needs, and more.

To find out more, contact our Practice Lead (Kimberley Reynolds) or any of our Directors: www.centium.com.au

Author: Kimberley Reynolds. Centium Practice Lead: Customer & Employee Experience Management

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