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Experiment before investing in customer experience

Leveraging prototypes, pilots, and proofs of concept to test new experiences before charging into the unknown.

Welcome to the 4th edition of the Building Great Experiences newsletter!

In the last edition, I shared my approach to aligning stakeholders on a shared vision to elevate your customer’s experiences (see From Chaos to Clarity: Orchestrating seamless experiences with proven techniques.). This week, let's explore how to quickly test ideas with customers and iterate.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a million meetings.”

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Over-investing in ideas without proof.

Many organizations often invest in ideas without any data or evidence. They move from ideation straight to execution, only to find out later that their new product, service, or feature doesn't resonate with customers. The key is to pilot ideas and test them with a small group before full-scale rollout.

Leveraging prototypes, pilots, & proofs of concept.

A prototype or proof of concept (PoC) brings an idea to life and allows for real-world testing. Often leaders think this can only be a digital prototype, but it can take a lot of forms. For example, organizations can prototype a service experience in a physical space using boxes, projectors, and printed materials. Or create a digital twin of their physical space and allow customers to walk around and interact in AR or VR. Another example of prototype or PoC could be pre-selling a product before it’s been made to validate if there is product-market fit (i.e. prove that customers will buy a product at a particular price point). Whatever the idea, there’s likely a path to experimenting first before jumping into a full-blown roll out.

Here’s a quick example. Several years ago, a large beverage company wanted to implement cameras in all their drink machines to gather data and better understand consumer behavior. They weren’t sure if consumers would be comfortable with a camera watching how they interacted with the machine and wanted to run an experiment to understand how they responded. An innovation team came up with the bright idea to print stickers that looked like a real camera lens and placed them on a couple dozen machines, then observed consumer behavior. The takeaway? Consumers hardly noticed or cared. This was an incredibly cheap yet valuable exercise to rapidly prototype the idea before a costly investment to retrofit their existing fleet of machines, which could have backfired.

Collaborating with former teammates to rapidly test a mobile prototype with brokers.

Test, gather feedback, and iterate quickly.

No idea is perfect. There’s almost always something you’re missing or a way to improve or refine it. To do this, you need to test and learn based on insights from your customers.

One of the most important parts of testing ideas with customers is to create a tight feedback loop so you can iterate quickly. This is often where organizations stumble. They’ll launch a pilot but don’t have a structured way to gather feedback and get it to the team(s) responsible for improving the experience.

Before putting ideas in front of customers consider there are some questions to consider:

  • Which segment(s) or persona(s) are we testing this with? What do we already know about them? What don’t we know about them?

  • What’s our hypothesis for this test? What do we expect the results will be?

  • How will we know if this test is successful or unsuccessful? What metrics will we be monitoring? What is our target?

  • How will we track feedback? Will it be from multiple sources? Where will it be aggregated?

  • How can add checks and balances throughout to bring a balanced and unbiased view to the feedback and avoid assumptions?

  • Have any tests been run with this segment/persona before? Are there other parts of your organization that may be running tests or surveys with them? Is there a possibility of testing fatigue?

  • What might cause this test to fail? What must be true for us to pull the plug on a test? What’s the minimum amount of feedback and data needed to warrant a pivot?

  • Which team(s) or individual(s) will be responsible for running the test? For synthesizing feedback and results? For iterating based on insights?

Once you’ve gathered both quantitative and qualitative data – look for insights, themes, and patterns. What’s unexpected? What’s causing friction or pain in the experience? Where are customers getting stuck? What’s being said? What’s unsaid? Iterate quickly and show customers a revised prototype to address their feedback and earn trust. Take advantage of the direct line with your customers to further engage and bolster your brand. Make the testing process a great experience itself.

Taking this iterative approach fosters a culture of organizational learning and adaptation. It enables teams to refine solutions based on actual feedback rather than assumptions.

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Wrapping up

Testing ideas with prototypes, pilots, and PoCs is essential. It prevents premature investments and leverages real-world feedback to refine ideas and avoid costly mistakes. Creating a structured feedback loop ensures rapid and effective iteration, turning the testing phase into a positive experience for customers. This iterative approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

In the next edition, I'll share thoughts on launching new experiences and driving adoption and engagement. As always, feel free to reach out if you have feedback or want to discuss these ideas further.

Each week I’m going to share a few things I’ve found, been pondering, or using.

  • thunkable.com – Interesting no-code platform that allows you to build custom mobile apps.

  • median.co – Has a simple 3-step process to convert websites into an app by entering a link. I quickly tried it out and it did a decent job. It will be interesting to watch what people make with tools like Median and Play as app development becomes more democratized.

  • lingolette.com – A tool that helps you learn new languages by speaking with AI. I wonder how AI will disrupt the translation and language industries with tools like this?

  • veed.io – An AI-powered platform that allows users to “Create pro-level videos without pro-level skills.” My glass half full take. Tools like this will make video creation more accessible to those lacking the budget to invest in the equipment needed to create pro-quality video. Glass half empty? As tools like this continue to become more accessible, there will be a sea of sameness and “meh” everywhere.

Onward & upward!

Drew

P.s. In case we haven’t met – hello! I’m Drew Burdick, a strategy, innovation & design leader with over 15 years of experience and a track record of delivering impactful, human-centered experiences. If you’re interested in connecting, feel free to book some time with me. I’d love to chat 😊