The CIO Adventure: Now, Next and… Beyond

This blog is a continuation of our MIT CIO Symposium wrap-up. Check-out Part 1 if you haven’t yet. In Part II we pick up with more take-aways from the round-table led by Story+Structure CEO/Founder Chokdee.

Story+Structure CEO/Founder Chokdee led a roundtable discussion covering a wide range of topics exploring the role of human centered design in the technology space. During this discussion we looked at current consumer experience design examples that helped to solidify our positioning on the takeaways, further exploring and identifying what we meant, both for clarification and action.

1. Identifying & managing key touchpoints is critical to establishing your value proposition 



One of the startups represented a new kind of cable company based overseas. Competition is stiff, so identifying a key differentiator was top of mind for the company’s CEO/Founder. They began by observing how people watch TV: on-demand programming, ability to record (DVR), and customer demand for low prices. But they also observed that one key touchpoint created either little-to-no engagement or worse, frustration—the remote control. When compared to smartphones, one has to ask, shouldn’t the TV remote offer a similar experience, central to the customer experience?

Peripherals are no longer supporting actors. They play a more critical role in the entire consumer experience.

Another example, raised by a large Silicon Valley computer company, was how to make a dent in an already oversaturated computer systems marketplace. Here, value and experience go a long way. This particular company could provide support services and systems that extended their value proposition beyond their product line by offering services that solved myriad customer issues. Not only could they solve the issues, but internally they could easily scale this service up.

Takeaway: Looking at the entire customer journey top to bottom, leaving no stone unturned, will always offer some insight into increasing, extending, and/or differentiating your value proposition. Note: sometimes that differentiator is staring you in the face (see remote control).

2. How you manage miscues and expectations is important but some mistakes are not forgivable 

One of the participants brought up his positive experience with a popular meal kit service. Everyone in our session appreciated this alternative to grocery shopping, cooking, and dining together. Everything you need shows up on your doorstep, cooking instructions are clear and simple, and the meals vary so you get to try new things all the time. There was broad consensus from the group that it was a promising market, but everyone agreed that consistency was essential. One bad meal or a low perception of a meal’s value could result in customers jumping ship and going to a competitor. The key was how the company would respond to critical feedback in terms of speed, changes, and follow up orders.

There are some mistakes, however, that are not so easily forgivable. One example was of a national floral service that not only delivered a poor-quality product on Mother’s Day, but followed up with an offer for replacement flowers on a different day. The service completely missed the context, timing, and emotions of that special day. There is only one Mother’s Day each year and if you blow it, that mistake may be unforgivable, regardless of the follow-up remedy. Incidentally, a full refund and apology would have gone further than an offer for replacement flowers on a non-holiday. Research from Forrester supports the importance of getting it right. Over the past 20 years Forrester notes that the number of bad experiences a customer is willing to have before considering an alternative has gone from 8 to a staggering 1.

Takeaway: Customers are forgiving to a certain degree especially if they understand that a company is new and ironing out kinks. However the key is how well does that company listen to feedback and act upon it given context, value, and timing. 

3. MVP only works if you respond to issues quickly—and don’t make perfect the enemy of good



Building on our last takeaway, many consumers who are willing to try out a new company, product, and/or service are likely to be much less understanding when issues arise. New adopters will find a way to work around bugs or design flaws to get to the value of the experience. For example, there are many IoT apps still in their infancy, but users consider the tradeoff worth the convenience of managing their home appliances and will be less demanding of the UI/UX. For a product to reach the wider market it must be mature and seamless.

Enter the MVP: Minimal Viable Product. Everyone in our session agreed that you can get a lot more value from an MVP if you respond to issues quickly and thoughtfully. This is a key insight into user experience development. Your response—and response time—will help you win over more customers who are willing to not only test your products, but offer you a development roadmap. 

Takeaway: Early adopters who are engaged with an MVP understand that there will be issues, and when those issues arise, consumers want to provide feedback and see the issue addressed. How you listen and respond to that feedback, as well as the actions you take, will help you grow your product/service in alignment with customer needs, thus reducing risk and increasing user adoption.

4. If you’re going to disrupt, make sure it’s a holistic disruption 



No matter what business you’re in, you’re in the service business. What customers are expecting is a complete experience, from the moment they become aware of your brand, through fulfillment and support across every single channel where a touchpoint can occur (online, in person, chat window, text message, social media, etc.). So, if service is end-to-end, naturally disruption should also follow an encompassing and holistic strategy, according to attendees in the breakout session.

One of the startups in our session is trying to disrupt the wealth management market. For them, the disruption comes in the form of delivering a “white glove” service to customers, in which that level of service is available to everyone, not just the super wealthy.

Any blog or write up about experience design and disruption would not be complete without an example. Amazon is the king of holistic disruption through its culture of continuous design, prototyping, and innovation. Whether its testing new drone delivery methods, launching the 21st century brick-and-mortar experience, or opening up its infrastructure to form the backbone of the web (AWS), Amazon understands its customers deeply. What’s most important isn’t the variety of products, the simple purchasing experience, or the two-day delivery guarantee for Prime members. Rather, it is time. Amazon values your time and maximizes the value of your time. Every executive I spoke to, when asked about how it all fits together, cites the desire to get you whatever you want in the shortest window possible.

Amazon not only maximizes your time, of course, but they reduce your stress. Whether you need diapers, a koi pond pump, or a part for your motorcycle, you can pretty much count on Amazon. And when your stress is reduced, you have more time to focus on your happiness. The Amazon experience is holistic, innovative, and customer-centric across every single touchpoint.

a final thought on A.I.



“Machines simplify. Humans engage.”

No MIT CIO Symposium would be complete without a discussion of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). This year, one panelist summed up A.I.’s role best in our experience-driven marketplace: Machines simplify. Humans engage. The four key takeaways above are about engaging deliberately in a customer-focused, human-centered way.

Thanks to all of those who attended our breakout session. It was a lively and engaging discussion. We are happy to announce that we will be back at the MIT CIO Symposium in 2018. We hope to see you there next year!