August 17, 2017

3 Key Tactics for Scrum Teams to Connect With Customers!

People don't always think of dev teams handling customer needs. But, for a Scrum team to have success understanding the customer is key.

What is a company without customers?

The answer is one word:  "Nothing."

Most companies and Scrum teams fail to understand what it takes to connect with their customers, what they need, and what matters most to them. Companies and Scrum teams who develop this understanding are innovative and are able to maximize their customer satisfaction and create a meaningful relationship for both company and the customers.

In this article, we'll explore how Scrum teams can tap into the understanding of what matters to their customers most and create awesome products which customers love.

Author Marty Cagan shares some great ways of creating successful products and connecting with customers in the book Inspired. One such technique that caught my attention is "Product Discovery."

1. Product Discovery: 

This technique helps Scrum teams validate whether the product is feasible, usable, and valuable by defining and testing using an MVP.

  1. Feasible: Development team must be capable of building it.

  2. Usable: customers must be able to use it.

  3. Valuable: the product itself must deliver value to customers, so they want to buy it.

Performing an MVP exercise is key to delivering successful products. This allows Scrum teams to explore the product feasibility and help them to decide which features to cut and which to leave in. Once a minimal product is chalked out, a prototype can be built and tested with actual users to validate if it is usable and valuable.

Practical Tip: I've found this story mapping exercise by Jeff Patton a great way to create MVP along with my Scrum team. This exercise requires great collaboration between all the roles in Scrum and it is fun too.

Author Bernadette Jiwa describes how to connect with customers by embracing empathy, relevance, and affinity. Below are two tactics that are inspired by her work mentioned in the book Meaningful.

2. Staying Relevant to Customers by Understanding What They Really Want

Does a great product guarantee great customer satisfaction?

Today's customers really want products or services that take care of their needs. So, it is key to understand customer behavior and gear the product or services towards this behavior.  In 2000, Google search results were limited to simple pages of text with links, but soon the developers realized that an image search was required to answer "the most popular search query" they had seen to date. As a result, Google image search came into existence on July 12, 2001. The success of "Google Images" reveals that it's about observing and understanding the customer's behavior and applying this knowledge to give a meaningful outcome that solves customer needs.

So, how can you deliver what customers want?

Putting yourself in the customer shoes and empathizing! With this information age and digital revolution, every company and Scrum team has a dozen opportunities to innovate and connect with their customers. However, innovation is often misunderstood as creating new, breakthrough products. It's really about designing stuff that matters to the people who use them.

Apple may seem like a company driven by design, but their true strength lies in its customer-driven business model. Most companies and Scrum teams assume that if they think their ideas sound great, their customer will, too. Apple provides a great example here. When the iPhone6 was launched, a release that prompted the automatic transfer of U2's album onto the iPhone and every iTunes user for free and there wasn't any option to delete it. Apple assumed that they were giving a generous gift to the users, but failed to empathize with the customers who mostly saw it as an intrusion. All great teams and companies have one common characteristic - they connect emotionally with their customers. Today's customers are no more passive; they want to engage with the Scrum teams as co-creators, partners, and community members.

Practical Tip: There are many tools that can be leveraged to explore what customers really want. One such tool that I recently used recently is "Value Proposition Canvas."

3. Understanding Customers' Perspectives and Creating a Story That Customers Can Connect WIth

Author Bernadette Jiwa describes in his book the "difference model" that focuses on six P's (Purpose, Principles, People, Personal, Perceptions, and Product) to create a story your customers can connect with. Understanding how customers actually use your products and services are key to tapping into their satisfaction. This means developing their perspective and how they see things based on their experiences, belief, and culture, by going beyond basic demographics, like gender, age, and income. You'll need to learn how they spend their time and what invisible problems they encounter day-in-and-day-out. But, thanks to the internet, and a few other technologies, it's a cinch to gather the data. Oe great way to do this is the creation of Personas. Roman Pichler says Personas are fictional characters that have a name and picture; relevant characteristics such as a role, activities, behaviors, and attitudes; and a goal, which is the problem that has to be addressed or the benefit that should be provided. Personas offer a great learning opportunity to capture the needs and wants of the users and customers.

Practical Tip: Create user personas to explore customers perspectives. An example persona template can be found here.

Summary:

I really like what Dave West said in his Keynote at Scrum Day Europe - Organizations need to move from where the customer was ancillary to the job that we do to where "the customer is central to the job that we do." We need to make a shift towards building teams that are more aligned with customers. Building great products is all about understanding the customers well - their perspectives and what they expect from the product by continuously engaging with them. Many companies put a lot of emphasis on collecting hard data and delivering features that customers want. However, what is also key is to collect soft data like feedback, stories, and even customer behavior.

What other ways have you explored to connect with your customers? I am sure you'll have many to share. I'd love to hear from you in comments.