Today’s interview is with Debbie Levitt, who is the CXO of Delta CX and the author of Customers Know You Suck. Debbie joins me today to talk about how we are in danger of over-indexing on failure and celebrating failure rather than trying to emulate what makes successful companies successful, how that is manifesting itself, why we talk about Apple and Amazon a lot but often don’t really emulate them, the relationship between failure, speed and quality and what customers actually care about.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Personalization is pervasive but it’s not personal – Interview with Shafqat Islam – and is number 488 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders who are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.
Here are the highlights of my conversation with Debbie:
- If we are truthful, we are surrounded by a lot of stuff that doesn’t meet our own standards.
- That’s why it’s so hard for people to think of a company that’s really doing an amazing job in a CX or UX or experience space.
- We started with the whole fail fast and just release things.
- Somehow, this got overgeneralized.
- And now we’re at the point where we went from fail fast to pretty much undoing accountability. And now to the point where we seem to glorify failures.
- We see numbers like 50 % of Amazon’s AB tests fail, 92 % of Airbnb’s AB tests fail. But we’re told, this is great, this is good product strategy, this is good product management.
- But instead of us saying, “Hmm, we’re not doing something right here. We guessed what users would want. We were wrong.”
- What ends up happening is we just glorify our process.
- And in reality, these processes are extremely broken, trying to be led by product rather than value is extremely broken.
- Many companies thinking that they’re going to save time reject the idea of any sort of early research.
- You’ve got to do early research, which in CX and UX, is typically called generative qualitative research because you’re generating evidence data and knowledge about your target audiences, about technology, about whatever might end up influencing your decisions and your priorities etc.
- How many of those meetings have you been in? When people say “We know our customers. We know what they want or need, or we think we can create something that they will want or need. So let’s just start with the idea. And that’s where you get things like build, test, learn, but we don’t start with learn.
- Assumptions are part of a guessing lasagna that might end up in the short or long term as a waste of time, money, customer trust, customer support.
- I wonder if moving fast and failing means we just give up on quality.
- I think that we claim that we’re failing and we’re learning, but I don’t feel like I’m watching teams really learn from their failures. They learned that the one idea that they had might not have been as good as they thought, but what did we really learn? What would be better for the user or whoever’s experiencing this in this case?
- Ultimately this isn’t fast. It takes much longer to guess our way to some sort of product or product market fit than to do research.
- Most of the companies that we admire are out there doing extensive research, some of them even still have R &D teams, where they’re doing that early research and development.
- Apple isn’t rushing out MVPs and rushing out the fastest thing they could make.
- When people go to most Apple products, they’re saying, “Yeah, this just works. This just makes sense.”
- But, yet most of us live in a world in which the products and services we’re surrounded by, they don’t feel like they just work. They don’t feel like they were made for us.
- We need to throw more expertise at this because the problem is a lot of companies in order, again, to try to be fast they’ll rush into research and often not conduct the right method of research for what we’re trying to learn. We don’t need more people doing mediocre to poor research.
- Customers don’t want minimally viable anything, and customers don’t have a calendar up of how fast you are. They just want quality.
- Debbie’s best advice: Do early qualitative research to replace opinions, guesses, and assumptions with evidence, data, and knowledge.
Debbie Levitt, MBA, is the CXO of Delta CX, and since the mid-1990s has been a CX and UX consultant focused on strategy, research, training, and Human-Centered Design/User-Centered Design. She’s a change agent and business design consultant focused on helping companies of all sizes transform towards customer-centricity while using principles of Agile and Lean.
She has worked in various CX and UX leadership and individual contributor roles at companies including Wells Fargo, Macy’s, StepStone, Sony Mobile, and Constant Contact. In the 2010s, San Francisco UX and marketing agencies had Debbie on speed dial. She completed projects for Traction, Fjord, LIFT, Rauxa, ROI·DNA, and Fiddlehead.
Clients have given her the nickname, “Mary Poppins,” because she flies in, improves everything she can, sings a few songs, and flies away to her next adventure.
Her new book, “Customers Know You Suck,” (2022) is the customer-centricity how-to manual. Start investigating what’s holding you back from improving customer-centricity. Learn how to be value-led: how much value we can frequently create for potential and current customers. In 2016, she became an O’Reilly author, but has since chosen to self-publish, and now has her own publishing imprint, Delta CX Media.
Outside of CX work, and sometimes during CX work, Debbie enjoys singing symphonic prog goth metal, opera, and New Wave. You can also catch her on the Delta CX YouTube channel.