Bringing the Customer All the Way In: The Use of Customer Walls in Flow

A lot of companies speak about the principle of customer-centricity without ever really knowing how to do it. They want to but they can’t. They don’t have the tools. They rely on data insights rather than any real engagement with what customers either want or might aspire to given the chance.

Customers are the start point of everything we do in the Flow toolkit. That makes the Customer Wall or Customer Innovation Wall a key exercise for us.

Now, many of our clients eye-roll when we say it means taking a week or two to think about customers in new ways!

Honestly folks, a couple of weeks thinking about customers is time very well spent if you want to be customer centric.

To do lean startup or to do good value discovery

We use The Customer Innovation Wall as a start-point for value discovery. Value discovery is key to good flow. Plenty of organisations have gone down the lean start-up and lean innovation routes and wondered why their efficiency grinds to a halt. Answer - people have too much to do and are also context switching too often. Do good value discovery rather than fail fast and cheap.

Bearing in mind that we believe in doing detailed assessments of ideas and innovations before pushing them into the funnel, our value discovery processes or tools are also very long term. We constantly want to be finding out more about customers rather than rely on rolling the dice with an idea.

We will come on to value discovery exercises in a different post. Here we want to focus on the Wall.

There’s one more thing to say about this area. Traditionally companies have used personas as a kind of stand-in for customers. Personas tend to be few in number and it also tends to be the case that marketing will have its personas and IT will have a separate bunch!

All personas come back to some idea of market segmentation. The diagram below shows the four main types of segmentation. By and large, the segments are about the past, based on historical observations we want segments to serve the future.

The Customer Innovation Wall

In Flow we try to visualise everything. Why? Because it allows good conversations to take place via great social interactions. That is the definition of collaboration. It allows us to explore the collective intelligence of the group. Everybody gets to give an opinion and expand our knowledge of customer success factors.

In the example we are going to tackle at the Flow Workshop (Columbus, Ohio) we will look at the insurance and wealth industry. However, just to get the hang of the tools, take a look at this table:

In this table, you will see the results of two exercises. The first was an ongoing assessment via social media research that identified interests within the groups that follow car makers. The second exercise was a series of workshops where we explored how people think about the car industry.

This table could easily be expanded to cover product ranges and, for example driving types. Most car makers and insurers have a reasonable handle on those. But what about the fact that many women believe the car industry has a responsibility to ensure elerdly people remain mobile? The logic of that? Well those people have bought cars all their lives and deserve something back. Or that one of the big gaps in car maker provision is comfort in-car for women in the third trimester of pregnancy.

On eco-driving, customers seem to most want basic knowledge on the price and value-retention of low or zero emission cars. They worry that they do not know enough to make good decisions.

You might argue why should car makers care about these issues that have no obvious P&L relevance. Answer - 80% of decisions around car purchases are made by, or are strongly influenced, by women. And these are their concerns.

The purpose of the Wall is to bring these issues to everyone’s attention and then target innovation at real customer concerns.

The insurance and wealth markets

Our aim is to create customer segmentations that are alive and living within the office.

We aim to draw up customer segmentations that will give us new insights into market developments and unmet needs.

There are three techniques we use:

To begin our thinking around unmet needs in the insurance and wealth industries we did a small exercise. We did an analysis of 60,000 social media users who follow companies in this sector shows. To do that we used Michael Hussey’s Statsocial. Statsocial tracks hundreds of millions of social media users across 45 different sites. It’s a key tool for us.

Here are some outputs to get you thinking.

Those are the kinds of insights that can get us to start thinking about a segmentation. How do you go about using those insights?

We will come back to that tomorrow. Here’s a brief look at a template for a segmentation. Try to create categories at the top and segments below, The process takes time and we are going to help you. Just give it some thought for now.


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Flow helps large enterprises accelerate the pace & scope of innovation by integrating Agile & Lean with new principles of continuous innovation & continuous delivery. We also added a bit of secrete sauce. We do great upstream value anlayis to save waste getting into the flow of wokr. And we know how to get you designing a better operating model so you deliver!