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We hosted a Digital Transformation roundtable on rethinking your customer here at Econsultancy's London offices yesterday and I wanted to share some of the themes that were discussed, and in particular the focus on the customer. 

Our roundtables are free to attend for Enterprise subscribers. The format is simple. We invite 20 people to come in and chat about an issue under Chatham House Rules (the conversation cannot be attributed).

Attendees set the agenda at the start of the session by naming the topics they'd like to discuss. Yesterdays topics included:

  • Creating consistency across channel.
  • Building things the customer actually needs.
  • Culture - how to create a culture that fosters agility and innovation.
  • Skills and capabilities - the right structure, training, recruitment.

I titled this post "It's the customer, stupid" because that was a theme (though not in those words exactly) that carried through the conversation.

Attendees talked about how much they struggle to keep the customer as the central focus. Attendees lamented projects being squeezed to meet launch deadlines and all too often user experience is what gives. 

A great piece of advice shared around the table was to build user research into each step. It is much easier to push back against changes by pointing to the customer need.

Marketers strengthen their positions and create ownership by being the customer advocate. One attendee advised "co-create with customers - it will give you a stronger voice". 

And user testing need not be complicated. Attendees talked about offering a free pint or a bit of food at the local pub in return for having people try out a new app or website.

How humbling it can be to create something beautiful only to watch an obviously capable person struggle with a basic task!

Another participant printed off wireframes of a new site and tapped them to the wall in the office. Focus group attendees were offered nothing more than cake to come in and give an opinion. 

Attendees also talked mentioned apps and new tools that are available to allow for low cost user testing. It's no longer necessary to go to expensive focus group centres. Test and learn - don't spend and test. 

A final key takeaway: one attendee said that his company's research indicates that a multichannel customer is worth twice as much as a customer that shops in one channel. We all know this, right? But can we measure it? Most attendees could not. 

For those of you grappling with these issues in your businesses, you may be interested in some further reading:

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Published 22 May, 2014 by Heather Hopkins @ Econsultancy

Heather Hopkins is Senior Analyst on the research team at Econsultancy. You can follow Heather on Twitter.

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