Here at Iconic Offices we are surrounded by incredibly talented entrepreneurs and business troupers on a daily basis. And so it really is a no-brainer for us to seek their advice, share their experiences and provide us with any words of wisdom they can muster. Below Maximilian Thiel, as head of Customer Success at Travel Open Partnership, delves into his knowledge of customer experience and how to ensure your brand is providing the highest standard possible.
While our new project is still being built on the technology side and I haven’t had much input on designing the customer experience, I want to give some basic rules that I follow when improving anything. While it is easy for the product creator to assume that they know their customer, oftentimes I’ve found that this is not the case. Additionally, we will resist negative feedback and persist with a bad choice because we are protective of our baby. I’m a strong advocate of carefully choosing advice from different sources but I value advice more highly if it comes from a stakeholder. They need to have skin in the game, so to speak. This is especially true for your customer. Initially they don’t care about you, or your product. They care about the problem you’re solving for them, or the time/ money you’re saving them. However, once they overcome the friction of signing up for your service or product, they’ve shown a keen enough interest in the product to be taken somewhat seriously. Especially if multiple users tell you the same thing, it may be worth listening to.
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
1) Watch customers use your product first-hand
A quote, often attributed to Henry Ford, reflects the difference between showing people your product, and asking them in the abstract what they’d like: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is probably my favourite way to receive feedback, and will lead to great results, provided the suggestions come from future customers. Rather than speculate what your customers want, I find it better to observe a customer using your product first-hand, than to ask them what they like or dislike in the abstract. When we were developing our web-app based networking solution for events, we would ask customers to sign up using the product. For most, this was a small price to pay for access to the event, and gave us amazing feedback from real users. Within 5 weeks of using it at actual events, we learned more to improve the signup, login and onboarding process, than we likely could have learned in a year of internal testing. Your customers see your product differently than you do. One of our initial users, Ingrid, left an especially long-lasting impression, since she found a massive amount of really bad bugs in the app, all by herself. This later led us to create a small internal meme of “What would Ingrid do?”, whenever we found a new bug, or someone reported one to us. This would become our guiding principle for the app’s user experience.
2) Use what works and make it simple to use
Your solution needs to be simple enough to use so your users intuitively understand what the product does, without compromising on its purpose or requiring a detailed and lengthy tutorial or manual to be used. A good example is Whatsapp. The app is easy to understand, since it mirrors text messaging functions, a staple of mobile phones for many decades now. But you were not taught how to use it. Its strong adoption rate came from the mix of familiar interface and functionality, while providing a desperately needed service to users. It also revolutionised an old industry, telecommunications. Use whatever functionality is the status quo as long as it doesn’t compromise on your purpose. Tinder revolutionised the card-based left and right swiping mechanics, so we used them for our professional networking application, a form of matchmaking. People know how it works and it will help improve your ease of use. Facebook popularised the “Like” function, and ever since many applications have used it. It was successful enough that Twitter had to change away from their “Star”-shaped Favourite button, and decided to create a heart-shaped “Like” button. This was borne from a focus on usability, and while it may seem minor, small details can make a huge difference for users. There are also some great studies/ papers and articles out there, that can help with improving the stickiness of your product, and improving its user-friendliness. Here’s one of my favourites.
3) Leverage any unfair advantage you may have
It is often difficult to nail down what advantages you may have, but it can have a disproportionally high positive impact on your product and your business. As an organiser for Entrepreneurs Anonymous in Dublin, developing an event networking application was very top of mind. As a team we had organised over 100 events, and had a strong community of potential early testers (basically, guinea pigs) to help us test the product early and to get feedback as soon as possible. This made it very easy to observe users first-hand, make changes quickly and fix issues at record speed. Perhaps your unfair advantage is your industry knowledge or that you have many good contacts in your target industry. Even if it’s not obvious, identifying your advantage can be a game-changer!
Written by Maximilian Thiel
Head of Customer Success at Travel Open Partnership
Suited and stylish, always smiling and engaging with anyone willing to challenge and pull ideas apart. When he’s not on straight business mode, this non anonymous entrepreneur can also be found head down, earphones in, stuck to audiobooks, always upskilling. In his spare time, you’ll find him hanging with fellow colleagues and members, enjoying a cold beer (he is German after all!).