New data is available to show that the major carriers (UPS, FedEx and USPS) generally performed well compared to last year which is surprising given over 2 million packages still missed their Christmas delivery window. Perhaps as a response to all of the delays, a new crop of apps have appeared that “help” customers aggregate and track shipping status across their orders. My question is, why though?
These new apps violate the very first Customer Commandment – “You shall not make it hard for me to be a customer.” As a customer I want to make a purchase, and best-case-scenario, at the moment of the transaction, opt-in to email or text notifications of shipping status. I do NOT want to be prompted to download yet another app to get this information. Having experimented with some of these apps (Shop by Shopify; Route; AfterShip) I don’t yet see the benefit of a separate app that forces a customer to enter in orders or allow it to access emails in their Inbox only to see that nothing is actually getting delivered. Or, as in my case, the inability to even access delivery status and dates. What customer research warranted Product Owners to drive this crop of apps?
Which leads me to what still seems to be a big miss in software product design, development and management today; research-driven product innovation. In the case of these delivery status aggregator apps I imagine the impetus was something like “customers are freaking out over all these package delays and don’t like having to go through their emails and texts to find shipping info – let’s make it easier.” Well-intentioned, but how much research went into digging a bit deeper to determine customer motivations, intentions, needs; in short, jobs to be done?
The ‘job’ customers are trying to accomplish is NOT tracking their shipment, it’s getting their stuff!
“Research” has a connotation of being heavy, expensive, and time-consuming but it doesn’t have to be and is critical in uncovering target customer ‘jobs to be done‘ and driving real product value and innovation. So how can product teams better incorporate customer research and insights to drive backlog prioritization and uncover new value propositions? There are hard ways with diminishing returns, and there are easy ways.
- Design Sprints – adopting isn’t necessarily easy, but once established, target customer validation is inherent to the approach
- In-Market/Field Observations – observe target customers in their natural environments; no interaction
- Contextual Inquiry – observe AND question target customers in their natural environments
- Lab Studies – costly and time consuming to recruit and rent facilities; review and analyze study results. Takes target users out of their natural environments. Due to costs and time constraints you are typically limited on the number participants included so are you really getting a full view of ‘jobs’?
- 1:1 Interviews – similar issues to lab studies, but interviews moreover put the target customer ‘on the spot’ and introduces the likelihood of several biases that will not get you to the results you seek
- Focus Groups – even worse than 1:1 interviews because it is likely the entire narrative will be dominated by one or two people in the group
- Surveys – self-reported target customer data in this context is generally unreliable when used alone.
This is not to say the ‘hard’ approaches aren’t valuable research methods in other contexts, but in uncovering jobs to be done, they will not help product owners in developing a product that offers a compelling value proposition.
With all the promise of modern product management approaches and processes, no degree of DevOps will help a product team that has failed to root out and address what a customer is trying to accomplish.