The Importance of Customer Experience in Product Strategy

December 4, 2010


Customer Experience is a vital element of product development strategy that is often over-looked or under-appreciated. Traditionally, product strategy begins with capturing customer requirements usually in terms of product features or attributes. This is then translated into functional requirements or capabilities that the product must deliver. Customer experience is only captured as an after-thought, and when a product is put through the customer journey, it reveals many deficiencies that call for a product re-design and, consequently, a delay in time-to-market.

A product development strategy must be designed to deliver a compelling set of customer/user experiences rather than a collection of product features and attributes. Customer experience must therefore be factored in at the very outset of product design.

Customer experiences do not occur in product or functional silos. An end-to-end approach comprehending machine and human interactions is key to understanding customer experience.

Delivering a “superior experience” begins with

  • Designing the right offers and experiences for the right customers
  • Developing, measuring, and delivering a total customer experience that enhances customer satisfaction
  • Understanding the needs that drive customers to create interactions

It’s the journey, not the destination! A customer journey maps the experience through the lens of the customer. It helps us identify:

  • Customer lifecycle stages
  • Customer needs within each lifecycle stage
  • Key touch points where a company brand/product ‘touches’ and serves its customers
  • Usecases which determine how the customer will use the product
  • Challenges and hurdles for creating a satisfying customer experience
  • Opportunities to ‘engage’ with the customer, and innovate & improve the customer experience

A customer journey must be addressed as a process map that examines concatenated processes. In the early stages, a product strategy must be designed to deliver a set of target customer experiences. The product design must be iterated and validated by examining how the processes that constitute the customer journey actually work at each step. We must walk through the journey and understand what’s working and not working from a customer perspective.

Continuous improvement in customer experience can be enabled via

  • a disciplined & pragmatic approach that correlates user experience to customer needs, usecases, product functionality, and brand strategy
  • a systematic framework leveraging value realization methodology (e.g. Infosys’s VRM) in conjunction with lean six-sigma principles to improve and optimize speed & efficiency, remove root causes of customer experience ‘defects’,  and minimize variability in processes
  • designing for target customer experiences and monitoring via quantifiable metrics to manage the customer journey and continuously improve the total customer experience across multiple channels and touch-points throughout the customer lifecycle.

It is thus important to weave a clear customer experience strategy into the fabric of the organization’s product development strategy, especially in the B2C domain. This can be a significant enabler to improving a product’s competitive positioning and lifecycle, the company brand, and customer loyalty.

Note: This article was originally published by the author at the Infosys Global Engineering Blog where you can find exciting new ideas on how you can improve your business via product innovation and engineering.


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Renesas promises a renaissance in the mobile space

July 25, 2010

 
With its $200M purchase of Nokia’s wireless modem business, Renesas has made a chess move that is clearly challenging market leader Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) in the 3G space, as the 3G handset market rapidly grows from ~30% in 2009 (out of 1.15Bu)  to a projected 55% (out of 1.5Bu) in 2010. The more immediate threat is perhaps to current Nokia suppliers ST-Ericsson, Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), TI, and Infineon.

The deal, expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010, is for Nokia’s wireless modem technologies for LTE, HSPA+ and GSM standards. As part of the deal, Nokia will transfer around 1,100 R&D employees to Renesas.

This daring move, especially in the face of recent exits by high profile chipset players from the wireless modem business, affirms Renesas’s commitment to being a full wireless systems platform provider.

Renesas Electronics, founded only recently (April-2010) from the merger of Renesas Technology and NEC Electronics (TYO:6723), is expected to become the world’s third largest semiconductor supplier based on combined revenue. Its scale and breadth of embedded products provide the foundation to be a formidable global wireless platform provider.

Here are some implications of the announced deal.


FOR NOKIA
  • Unshackles Nokia and removes internal barriers to sign up with any standard chipset offering
  • Reduces R&D costs and allows Nokia to refocus R&D on core value-added Apps/Services and User Interface/User Experience related activities
  • Strategic alliance that gives access to advanced modem technologies for HSPA+/LTE
  • Increases supplier base for wireless modems

FOR RENESAS
  • Gives immediate access to robust, proven technology for a relatively modest price, that would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive and long-drawn to build from ground up.
  • Provides access to critical IP from Nokia, strengthening its competitive positioning
  • Positions Renesas as one of few strong players to offer a complete mobile broadband platform – Application Processors, Basebands, Integrated SoCs, Power Management, RF Transceivers, and Power Amplifiers.
  • Access to a key customer, and potentially rapid ramp up in volumes globally beyond their traditional Japanese market.
  • Positions Renesas as a key alternate source for Nokia’s high-tier smartphone platform awarded to ST-Ericcson (U8500).
  • Positions Renesas for a significant play in a broad array of wireless embedded device markets in smartphones and beyond (ereaders, gaming, personal navigation, smartbooks, tablets, netbooks, etc.)

FOR OTHER WIRELESS CHIPSET SUPPLIERS
  • It lowers entry barriers to QCOM, BRCM, IFX within Nokia
  • It brings in a strong 3G modem chipset supplier, threatening the dominance and growth of currrent leaders, Qualcomm and ST-Ericsson
  • With its SH-Mobile S-series applications processor, Reneasas increases competitive pressure in the smartphone processor domain, and especially in the integrated applications+baseband SoC space (where it has considerable experience with the SH Mobile G-series) that includes Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson, Marvell, and Broadcom.
  • It ups the ante for standalone Applications processor players to build/acquire modem technology and/or look aggressively at new embedded device markets beyond smartphones.

In summary, Renesas Electronics promises a “renaissance” in the mobile platform space, that is sure to have ripple effects in the wireless semiconductor space.

★★★ There’s more valuable insight on smartphones and new wireless frontiers at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section


What’s your smart (phone) call?

August 21, 2009

Smartphones are poised to be the fastest growing handset segment in the coming years, rising from 14% of global handset shipments in 2008 (Ref 1) to a projected 32% in 2010 (Ref 2).

Further, smartphones command higher ASPs (average selling price) on the order of US$350 (2008)  signaling higher revenue and profitability potential for handset OEMs. This has heightened the intensity of competition among handset makers.

Historically, handsets have evolved more as ‘fat modems’ where application processing and modem communication were all handled on the same chip. On the other hand, application centric devices such as PCs, gaming devices etc. evolved as standalone devices based on discrete applications processors. Connectivity was added on via discrete connectivity modules.

While data speed does impact user experience, application and related services offer many dimensions to differentiate personalization and user experience, thus leading to higher ARPU over voice centric services.

The two worlds are set to collide to create converged devices with vast possibilities (Refs 3 and 4). It also means non-traditional wireless players whose core competency is more on the applications side will enter the fray. For example, Intel is pushing its application processor, Atom, from Netbooks down into Smartphones (Ref. 3). On the other hand, Qualcomm has just announced it is targeting its integrated application and baseband processor, Snapdragon, at Smartbooks (Ref 4).

CRITICAL QUESTION  – DISCRETE vs. INTEGRATED PROCESSORS?

The handset designer is now confronted with a daunting choice – the use of a discrete applications processor in conjunction with a discrete baseband processor versus an integrated SoC that combines an applications processor with a baseband processor in a single chip.

Product management and handset designers need to evaluate the trade-offs in reaching an appropriate decision. Here are some key trade-offs that influence the decision process:

Discrete vs. Integrated Smartphone Components

Discrete vs. Integrated Smartphone Components

Neither is a silver bullet.

Both have a rightful place and will jostle with each other to dominate this growing segment.

The choice however can have significant implications on product and business competitiveness via such dimensions as system cost, time-to-market, power consumption, flexibility to spin out devices for different communication standards, performance maximization, harmonization of user experience, device form factor (via PCB size & component count) and component supply chain management.

REFERENCES

Ref. 1:  ABI Research – Smartphone and OS markets (Q1-2008)
Ref. 2:  Qualcomm- Evolving Wireless Services (Jan, 2009)
Ref. 3: Sharp unwraps ‘world first’ Intel Atom phone
Ref. 4: Qualcomm Enters Intel Territory

★★★ There’s more valuable insight on smartphones and new wireless frontiers at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section (see whitepapers)