More and more brands are putting the customer in the loop for making decisions

The outlook for building better experiences and products together with real users and customers is looking bright. The 32 ‘must know CX’ stats paint a rosy future for companies investing in customer centricity. They are able to stand out in the competition, develop faster products and services that people want and drive higher customer retention and share of wallet.  

For us, as CX and UX practitioners, it means we can spend less time arguing the value of research and focus on the value add and roll up our sleeves and get on with it. We can now move from firefighting and fixing potholes to play a more strategic role in future-proofing companies and weave human-centric thinking into our company processes and culture. 

Top 3 Challenges in involving customers in the development process and how to overcome them

So, investing in customer-centricity has become the way to succeed, but sometimes it feels that it’s easier said than done. The more customer-centric you want to be the more you obviously need to know about your customers. And not just know about them, but really understand where they come from on a deeper level and involve them in the development process. But how do you accomplish that?

Let's take a look at two Nordic companies and how they started working more closely with their customers 

  • MTV, a Finnish Media company with over 4 million weekly audiences across their digital, on-demand, and linear TV platforms.
  • Nordea Life, part of the largest financial group in the Nordics.

With these two companies, we discussed what their take is on involving customers and what the challenges are.

1. The gap between developers and customers is too wide

Often the only ones having direct customer contact are the ones working in customer service. They talk to customers all the time every day and they are probably the ones that know the customers best. On the opposite, UX teams, CX teams, and product development teams actually don’t have any direct customer contacts, and it may be that many of them have never even spoken with a customer. So how are you supposed to drive a customer-centric development agenda without having a dialogue with your customers? 

True customer centricity requires you to gain a deep understanding of your customers and build empathy toward them. Both MTV and Nordea have found their own online customer lab on theLeanlab platform to be the solution for bringing the customers closer. Through an online customer lab, the teams have been able to build a community of their own customers with whom the development teams can connect and have a continuous dialogue to test and develop ideas and concepts. This way non-customer-facing departments can connect with real customers, stories, problems, and challenges. This helps to relate to customers and drive the customer-centric development agenda and culture forward in the organisation. 

2. From faster horses to new online agile research methods 

It’s not a secret that development processes are accelerating and to stay at the top of your game, you need to constantly improve your products and services. But how can you involve your customers in that fast development and get their immediate input? This is something that both Nordea and MTV have been struggling with. Traditional ways to gather customer insight by buying panels or trying to reach current customers with ‘cold’ contacting are expensive, laborious and take a lot of time. 

  • Sourcing the participant list is probably not a top priority for the database team
  • Sales might feel it is not the right time to talk to any customer
  • GDPR/Compliance team further slows you down
  • You realize that to talk to a customer you need to put 4-5 weeks aside of internal legwork. 

The result? Too often you abandon the research as you cannot wait and make a gut decision at the end on your customers' behalf. This increases your stress and risk profile of your project going south. 

Both MTV and Nordea Life set up their own private customer labs to eliminate this issue and have immediate and always-on access to their key customer segments. This has helped both companies to lower the threshold and there-by 3-4x the frequency they learn from their customers. Both labs are used for tactical every-day design questions as well as down to more strategic development projects - your customers are always there to help.

3. Connect your NPS (one-way feedback, backwards-looking) with two-way and forward-looking research methods

NPS and other techniques to measure CX are great metrics but looking at them only doesn’t take you far as the feedback is given to you as a score and a short verbatim - that doesn’t really help to take immediate action without further understanding the problem, the context, and the customer first. 

This is what MTV has started addressing with their customer lab - where the more traditional CX tracking provides information on what is working and what is not, Leanlab allows the MTV UX team to figure out how to fix these issues as they test hypothesis and iterate design solutions with their pool of 1000 customers. With this style of working more closely with their customers, they have been for example able to improve their content stickiness by developing a more user-friendly advertising experience that in turn has had a positive impact on ad revenues. 

Put your customers in the loop 

To wrap up the key takeaways from Nordea Life and MTV and the way they run their own customer labs are:

  • Remove red tape from frustrating recruitment 
  • Have an always-on connection to ideate, test and iterate with real customers
  • Move from ad-hoc research to a continuous customer learning model 
  • Reduce development risks of unwanted features and stress associated with not knowing

Sound like a fun way to work with your customers? You can dig deeper by watching MTV/Nordea life recording or UX360 Webinar for more real-life war stories on customer collaboration!


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