Interaction with Customers: The Approach

Understanding the users’ and the customers’ needs is crucial for delivering SAP products successfully. Customer feedback is most valuable when development can still be influenced. This is the case in early stages of the product lifecycle and there are several schemes available at SAP to support these kinds of feedback or input activities, e. g. by the Customer Engagement Initiative (CEI) or in Customer Validation (CuV) schemes.

One means to ensure the continuous dialog with customers are Design Councils (DC) as introduced by the Customer Experience Group (CEG) last year. They provide an umbrella for a number of activities that guide the Design Council customers seamlessly from the ideation to the productive usage of a solution.

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All parties benefit from being involved in a Design Council: The experts on customer side get an exclusive insight in upcoming products and become an active part in the production process. SAP on the other hand learns more about the needs and requirements and receives feedback on the products before they are broadly launched.

From a Design Thinking point of view, the DC approach covers the three quality aspects of products, namely:

  • Desirability: understand and address the customer use cases and focus on usability of usage and consumption
  • Feasibility: understand and consider technical needs and conditions on customer side.
  • Viability: ensure easy and stable installation, implementation and use of the product, taking the customers’ actual business needs into account.

This blog is supposed to share some potential methods and agenda items, focusing on the feedback and interaction aspect of a Design Council activity.

Design Council Activities: The Elements

The Design Council (DC) approach provides a framework for continuous interaction with a group of customers on a certain topic over a certain period of time. The activities and events within this framework may include one or more of a variety of building blocks. The selection and combination of these building blocks depends on the conditions given by the product and the objectives the team sets for a particular DC activity.

Some Examples for Building Blocks:

Ice Breaking and Warming up

  • We want the best ideas, the most constructive input and really honest feedback. We will create an open and creative atmosphere so that everybody feels comfortable to contribute as lively as possible.

Customer Input: Share expectations and experience

  • Getting an idea where the participants come from and what they expect – from the product as well as from the particular DC event – makes it easier to  understand and utilize the results of a DC activity.

SAP Input: Learn and Try

  • For many DC activities it will be useful and beneficial to have a training module integrated. This part will usually consist of a presentation or lecture part, describing the scope, functions and features of the new product or product version complemented with exercises and hands-on sessions. This procedure allows the participants to get an actual feeling for the handling of the product.

Hands-on: Exemplary Project

  • We will find a task in order to practice and get deeper insights in the solution, customers together with SAP experts. Not only will the participants learn more about the solution but also the SAP experts can immediately collect feedback by observing and interacting with the participants handling the solution.

Design Thinking

  • Design Thinking provides a very useful framework for any kind of product development or problem solving activity. One important point of Design Thinking is the claim that a solution has to be feasible (technological aspect), viable (business aspect) and desirable (people aspect). The Design Council approach takes these aspects expressly into account to ensure a holistic product quality.
    From a methods point of view, Design Thinking provide valuable tools and methodological approaches to structure and facilitate any kind of problem solving which will also be of use in the context of a DC activity.

Usability Testing

  • users work on a specific task and the SAP experts observe. This approach provides immediate feedback that comprehends the verbal input the customers provide in other DC building blocks.

Customer Feedback Session

  • Asking the participants for direct feedback is crucial. Customers benefit because they know they are heard and they feel that they are taken serious. And SAP gets some first hand feedback that helps enhancing the customer experience as well as the user experience of its products. Some example questions for eliciting feedback: Do you like what you see? Are your issues addressed? Are your expectations met? What inspires you? Did SAP find a solution for an issue you weren’t even aware of?

Customer Feedback: The Challenges

Whenever someone wants to learn and to improve feedback from the outside world is key. From a method point of view there are two sides of the feedback:

  1. How do we get it?
  2. How do we take advantage of it?

On 1.: During the DC activity there are numerous opportunities to observe, to ask, to listen, to learn. Main challenges are to

  • get answers for every question that you had
  • react on input and feedback that you didn’t expect
  • make sure you capture every important point
  • understand the priorities from the participants’ point of view.

On 2.: The idea is of course that the product team benefits from the insight SAP gets in the Design Council. So it is important to understand the questions and ideas of the product team when preparing a DC activity and to involve them also during the execution. The results of a DC activity have to be
documented and communicated in a fashion that

  • describes and illustrates the issues clearly and vividly
  • takes customers’ prioritization into account
  • allows follow-up activities with the respective customers

So, the feedback part seems to be quite tricky when taken seriously. But it can be done effectively and efficiently, with no magic involved, just some useful tools, methodological tricks and of course advancing with experience.

Interested in tools, tricks, and examples? Stay tuned!

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