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Nov 6, 2014 9:41:00 AM

Book Review: Outside In by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning

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You need your customers more than they need you. This simple fact is often overlooked in the day to day of most businesses, yet in the increasingly customer-centric age we are heading in, the weight of this statement is arguably more important now than ever. With rising customer expectations, game-changing competition, and accessibility of social media to share the experience of dealing with your company, it’s hard to hide behind old methodologies of doing business, regardless of the industry. Understanding and optimizing the customer experience now has tangible results to your bottom line, which is the core message of the book Outside In, by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning.

While reading this book, the fundamentals behind the customer experience - not to be confused with customer service - were made clear in a series of business use cases. The journey your customer takes and the needs that they have frequently differ from what you think they are, and that self-awareness can be a powerful differentiating tool. We thought that this journey is comparable to user experiences for mobile apps, and we saw that there are many lessons covered in the book that you can apply to your users’ path through your app:


1. Build a business case.

Bodine points out that customer service programs that cannot prove ROI will always be a lower priority than revenue-making programs elsewhere in your organization. Similarly, mobile app companies will need to understand the end value of improving UX. And with such fierce competition in the app marketplace, a poor user experience frustrates users and can reflect in your KPIs, like average session length and number of downloads.

2. Customer touch points are not siloed channels, they are a journey.

Bodine highlights a customer-centric best practice of visualizing the entire customer journey from decision making to renewal. She recommends creating a physical map of every customer touchpoint: that is, every email they receive, service calls they make and bills they may receive. This practice is extremely valuable for helping brands understand how mobile fits into their customer journey. For companies like OpenTable, ZipCar, and JetBlue, mobile apps are core to their experience. If the major decision makers at each of those brands don't look at mobile as part of the customer experience as important if not more important than the web, email and hotline, they will fail their users.

3. What gets measured gets managed.

True customer-centric experiences have a system of attaining and basing decisions on a descriptive metrics, perception metrics, and outcome metrics. Mobile apps need to look and measure the same combination of qualitative and quantitative data on their UX. This means going beyond building the app, and getting into what your users actually think - which you can then measure and prioritize on how to make your app better.

4. Take small wins where you can get them.

Many of the examples in Bodine's book are large Fortune 500 companies. She recognizes that changing the way organizations of that size think about their customers is a major undertaking. For mobile apps, especially startups, small wins play a different role. It's easier to be quick and nimble with changes if you are a mobile app. They fit more into a lean development mentality. In any case, small, incremental improvements are the right way to develop customer centric experiences.

5. Employ human-centered design practices.

Whether you are designing a new billing system for customers of a utility company or a new interface for a mobile app, your process should start and end with the user. This means you dig into their problems, analyze your findings, look for insights about root causes rather than surface level data points...and then you design. Good UX is more than good UI. It's a solution that fits seamlessly into the users' life.

(SOURCE: Book review of “Outside In”, by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning)

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