16 Aug

How Tearful Interviews Lead to Happy Customers

Love moment between mother and patient child in a hospital bed “I was terrified. I thought she was going to die in front of me.”

Those were the words out of a research participant’s mouth as she described her experience during a medical crisis with her daughter. Then she burst into tears. As we passed the tissues, we had to grab a few for ourselves.

Rewind a bit.

We were doing a customer journey project for a large Health Care Provider to determine how to improve the customer experience on their website. We had been following the usual protocol for journey mapping: prompting users to tell us about a specific healthcare experience they’d had recently, and then asking them at each step what they did and what they were thinking. But after our first day, we were finding that the interviews were falling a little flat.

To be fair, not every health care journey is dramatic. Some people’s stories were about mundane conditions. “I had this weird thing on my hand, and my wife was bugging me to get it checked out, so I did. The doctor gave me cream, and it went away”, was one story.

But mixed in with the mundane experiences were people who had chronic conditions, or were caregivers for children, spouses, or parents with debilitating diseases, or people who had been diagnosed with cancer. And these conversations had been fairly flat as well.

We thought that if we could just dig a little deeper underneath people’s individual stories, we could produce something truly meaningful for not only our client, but the people sitting with us in the interview rooms.

That’s when we made a simple change to our interview protocol and started asking at each step “And how did you feel at this point?”

Not just “what were you thinking?” or “what information were you looking for?” or “what were you expecting next?”

Just a simple “How did you feel?”

That simple change did two things:

First, it made people open up. It removed some of the artificiality of sitting across the table from each other in a mirrored market research room, and encouraged them to start talking about things they might not have otherwise brought up.

Second, it gave us powerful stories to bring back to the client, which gave them tools to better empathize with the people they were serving. As healthcare providers, these stories helped them deeply understand that their customers were often seeing them during the worst days of their life. Speaking with the client over a year after the project finished, they still remembered, with crystal clarity, the story of the mother whose child almost died. “We talked about the stories throughout the course of the project,” one of our client contacts told me. “There was so much raw humanity to them.” they said.

As part of improving the health care experience, we wanted to know what it felt like to receive a cancer diagnosis after a long journey to many doctors across a spectrum of specialties. We wanted to understand what we could do, in any small way, to help make these Worst Days minutely less horrible, less terrifying, and less out-of-control.

We also realized that not all customer journeys are equal. We still wanted to understand what people’s journeys with strep throat and weird hand rashes looked like, because those were important too. Those journeys told us about the routine issues that we all experience whenever we come into contact with the medical establishment—the frustration of waiting endlessly at urgent care, the annoyance of finding someone who can see you at a time when you can take off from work, the importance of a doctor who listens.

When we completed our interviews at the end of the week, we had an incredibly rich number of stories to draw from—so many, in fact, that we were able to craft a digital strategy that went far beyond what the hospital website would do. We realized that in many ways, we were limiting ourselves by thinking about a website strategy, or even a digital strategy. By connecting with the emotional content of the conversations, we started to think about a customer strategy—one that would be medium-agnostic.

The role of emotion may seem obvious in health care journeys, but we’ve seen that emotion can play into customer journeys in unexpected places. On a recent project for a client who sells enterprise software, we interviewed a customer who had recently gone through a system upgrade experience which affected tens of thousands of users. It did not go well and he was shaken by the experience. “The pressure on our team was incredible. I am never doing that ever again,” he said. Even for this highly technical product, fear, frustration, anger, and trust were significant elements of the customer journey. This is a journey where a customer has ten thousand people angry at him if the product he bought does not perform well, and he could even be out of a job if it gets bad enough. So while the enterprise software industry doesn’t exactly scream “worst day of my life” in the same way that hospitals do, emotion can run high there as well. Careers are at stake.

We need to remember that no matter what they are doing, your customers are human beings, and human beings are driven by emotion.
So try this: Next time you are talking to your customers about their experience, remember to ask them: “How did you feel?”

Photo Credit: Stocksy | Miquel Llonch

A version of this article originally appeared on A List Apart

04 Aug

3 Big Ideas for B2B Product People: Manoj Govindan – Wells Fargo (now with Levvel)

Manoj Govindan

Many of us in the B2B world wrestle with one big issue: How do we sell to big enterprise companies? A few select people, though, have the opposite dilemma: We’re a big company … from whom should we buy our technology?

Manoj Govindan is one of those select few.

As an innovation executive at Wells Fargo, his job was to help the company diversify it’s annual IT spend (in the low billions of dollars each year) on new/emerging technology.

Manoj’s role at Wells Fargo was to score a hat trick of value creation:
– Identify the most promising fintech companies (industry lingo for technology-in-the-financial-sector) and start pilot projects within the bank to ensure Wells Fargo remained on the cutting edge.
– Leverage Wells Fargo’s expertise and resources to foster a thriving ecosystem of innovative technology.
– Generate value for Wells Fargo (plus investors and shareholders) by helping these startups when they are ready to scale to the next level.

If he can’t shed some light on the key to innovation in large, conservative, and slow moving enterprises, I don’t know who can.

In the midst of a cross country move and a professional transition from Wells Fargo to Levvel (a new startup), Manoj was kind enough to take some time to tell me about how to make this magic happen.

1. It’s in the bank’s best interest to take risks on new tech.

Big companies like Wells Fargo like to get their new technology solutions from one place: established vendors. On the surface, this makes sense. It’s safe, dependable, and doesn’t require vetting out a new company.

Taking only this path, though, has downsides. First off, it’s likely that these larger organizations will take longer to develop and package a new technology than upstart companies. Second, you’ll be paying bloated enterprise rates, rather than getting early bird pricing.

As a bank, there’s one more benefit: Once we help these companies grow and mature into full-scale operations, many of them look to have a liquidity event (either they’re acquired or they go public). In either case, we’re now positioned to do the banking for that transaction. So it opens some great new business for us.

2. Follow the investors to find new tech.

Taking on any new technology is bound to rock the boat at a big company. The water really starts sloshing if the tech company in question is a brand new one. There’s a way to mitigate that risk, though: investors.

When sourcing new tech, I work almost exclusively with the lead investors in the startups rather than the startups themselves. This has two awesome benefits. First, investors are great at vetting new companies — it’s their job after all. If they’ve already been comfortable enough to throw millions behind a company, that says a lot to me.

Second, I can follow trends in the investment market as a whole. If lots of different companies in a particular space are being heavily invested in, I take that as a signal of a technology that’s soon to be commonplace and deserves our attention.

3. Build the right customer advisory board.

When we work with startup companies, we’re not just buying their services — we’re helping them scale and build the right products. Oftentimes, that involves putting together a customer advisory board.

Customer advisory boards are great, but not all members are created equal. If you’re building one for your company, be careful about who’s on it.
Rather than grabbing the highest title person you can at a company, aim for someone that actually will work with or buy your technology — a user, not a chooser. Then, make sure that individual will able to give consistent, constructive feedback that can really help you pinpoint what that customer needs to grow.

Thanks, Manoj! It’s fantastic to talk to someone on the buying, rather than building, side of things.

I asked Manoj one final question: “What keeps you up at night?”

“I worry sometimes that by following the money, I might be putting too much weight on the wrong signal. While investors can be a powerful indicator of a company’s potential, relying on that too much has its own pitfalls.

Knowing what to pay attention to is critical. If I’m not paying attention to the right signals, I risk missing the next big game changer.”