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Customer experience research: why it’s not a ‘cow and scale’ story

Christophe Vergult and Matthew Jorgenson reveal what cows have to do with Volkswagen.

When it comes to customer experience practices, many companies have a mature process in place to measure touchpoints on an ongoing basis, and to manage and improve their touchpoint satisfaction. Yet therein lies the conundrum: ‘You can’t fatten a cow by weighing it.’

By tracking your current touchpoint performance, you can only improve what you’re doing already; but there may very well be needs or touchpoints you haven’t yet considered. These practices address the touchpoint performance rather than improve understanding of the touchpoint’s relevance at key moments in the customer journey. At best they will spark some incremental improvement, yet they often fail to entail the development of new experiences. In the end, it makes for a conservative view, not at all in touch with your number one stakeholder: the customer. Or to stick with the cow analogy: even if you measure a cow every hour, its weight will not increase. On the contrary, trotting a cow on and off a scale every hour might even make it lose weight. To fatten the cow, one must act and develop insights on the needs and behaviours that will make a cow gain weight.

When defining a customer experience program, one will eventually need a tracking practice. Yet there’s more to CX research than tracking. To avoid this ‘weighting cow syndrome’, it’s important to also install a process for detecting, innovating and implementing relevant experiences using an iterative approach.

Before measuring and tracking one’s touchpoint performance, one must understand and map out the full journey. This starts with developing a ‘Customer Experience Strategy’, where the existing (business) knowledge is harvested and the journey is mapped from a truly customer-first perspective (beyond one’s own products or touchpoints). Here it is essential to look at which consumer needs arise where. The ‘CX Development’ phase focuses on exploring and testing new solutions to address the identified needs. Yet ideation means nothing without implementation, therefore it is important to move on to the prototype phase as quickly as possible. The ideation and prototype phases ought to be fast, iterative processes with short and quick feedback loops, alternating between the consumer’s and the business’s perspective.

InSites Consulting recently collaborated with Volkswagen’s Innovation Lab, undertaking a program in their test market in Poland. The car manufacturer understood that, in a growing homogenic market, customer experience is a core differentiator. The objective of the research was to come up with consumer-centric CX solutions.

The first phase of the program consisted of knowledge harvesting: connecting insights from previous research, and trend and desk research with a competitor analysis. To fuel the program with consumer insights in an Agile (iterative) way, we installed an online community with 200 carefully screened consumers for participating in quantitative and qualitative challenges. Subsequent extensive interviews with Volkswagen personnel, their various dealerships, and most importantly, the consumer, allowed us to identify and map 10 core needs experienced by virtually any buyer.

These needs were translated in 26 jobs to be done (JTBD), where every JTBD represents a specific moment in the journey when a specific need arises, with a specific task connected to it. A typical JTBD in the pre-sales journey is that most consumers would like to test a vehicle before purchasing it. From an internal perspective this JTBD would simply be translated in ’consumers wish to test drive’. However, looking at this from a consumer-need perspective – ‘I wish to test the car before buying it’ – opens the potential solution space beyond ‘optimising’ existing touchpoints. For instance, VW could introduce a virtual-reality solution where potential purchasers can experience the vehicle in the comfort of their own home.

The next step was to evaluate each job in terms of relevance, current performance and business impact.

The ‘CX Development’ phase for Volkswagen used a multi-disciplinary approach involving employees, consumers and creatives, each bringing a different perspective to the table. The ideation exercises with VW stakeholders in collaboration with eÿeka (pronounced ‘Eye – Kah’, it is a crowdsourcing and co-creation platform for talented creatives) resulted in 11 concepts. These concepts were tested with consumers in the online community. The winning concepts have been prototyped and are currently in a live test environment in the ‘Volkswagen Home’ concept store. Together with real consumers in a real sales environment, they are being tested and optimised, to help roll out these features in the wider VW network.

As the framework shows, customer experience tracking is not the end game, yet solely a means to an end and part of a bigger picture and program. The ‘CX Tracking’ phase closes the loop, highlighting performance of the difference (new) touchpoint dimensions and flagging areas of improvement.

To fatten the cow, ultimately you will have to change its diet, and only then will it make sense to start weighing it.

Authors: Christophe Vergult, Managing Partner at InSites Consulting and Matthew Jorgenson, Business Director, InSites Consulting

This article also appears in the February – April 2020 edition of AMSRS publication, Research News – CX, UX & Research Design. Check out the rest of the articles in this edition.

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