Tearing down the customer experience

6 min read

For the last year we’ve been experimenting with new ways of approaching and defining projects with clients. We’ve done this for two reasons; earlier in the year we’d been inspired by the stories of David Rogier, Tristan Walker and Adam Grant’s powerful idea and philosophy of Give & Take. We were also interested in understanding how we might step away from the traditional pitch process, an approach we feel is fundamentally broken.

So with this we set about writing our rules of engagement:

  1. Do work for a business we wanted to work with
  2. Do work that we’d actually want to work on
  3. Do work that had real actionable value to the business
  4. Focus intensely on customer needs and pain points
  5. Give more than we ever expected to get in return
  6. Trust that by doing great work we’d win a new client
  7. Treat the whole thing as a big experiment
  8. Get out of the building!

Taking these ideas we approached Canyon with a simple request…‘give us 3 hrs with your leadership team in Germany and we’ll present a complete end-to-end teardown of your customer experience’.

Kindly they said yes.

So a date was set and we began testing our hypothesis that by being proactive, giving before we got and doing something of real tangible value to the business we would impress enough to secure a project and hopefully start a long term relationship.

An Outside-In Perspective

Our process on Canyon started as it always does with an intense focus on customer needs. However in this case we had two limiting factors; no brief and not a lot of time. Due to these factors we decided the best way to gain insight quickly was to order a bike and document our own experience. Usually this would happen with actual customers.

This is a very design thinking approach to research and it gave us the first hand experience of each and every touchpoint from ordering to delivery we needed. Our goal being to uncover insights that could help shape a vision for how the customer experience might be improved and create value very quickly.

Values Set Expectations

Without a brief or any direction in terms of where to focus we needed an anchor from which to make decisions.

Reviewing Canyon’s brand book their founding values really helped us build a picture of who they were and most importantly helped define a set of expectations that we, and thus their customers, would have not only of their products but the experience with the brand across every touchpoint.

Seeing words such as ‘experience’, ‘innovative mindset’ and ‘high-quality’ immediately set the bar very high (this we like) and got the team motivated to imagine how things could be better. Importantly we also started to realise just how good a cultural fit Canyon would be with Common Good – a critical measurement when working with new clients.

With these statements at the forefront of our minds we set about learning as much as possible about what it was like to be a Canyon customer.

The Customer

Before ordering the product we needed to define a broad persona from which to view the experience. Knowing women are the fastest growing segment in cycling (Mintel Bicycles 2015) and 24-35 year old millennials are most likely to purchase products like bikes online we needed someone who matched this customer segment profile.

Welcome Anya.

Starting the process with a usability lab where Anya purchased a product she wanted we then observed the rest of the process through the eyes of Aimee our Service Designer.

Constraints = Creativity

A week into the process we had news from Canyon that a new website was going to be launched a week before we presented. Had we approached the task with a core focus on the website, as would be expected of a ‘digital’ agency, we’d have been a little stuck. Instead this constraint forced us to think creativity outside the site experience which in turn created much more value and fixed more pressing problems for both client and customer.

A key learning we all took from this was to embrace constraints wherever and whenever they appear. If they force the team to think differently about the challenge and consider new routes that’s a very good thing. It might not feel like it at the time but trust us, it is!

The Canyon Project Wall

Using Anya’s journey we created the Canyon Project Wall in the studio. Roughly, using post-its, doodles, pictures and print-outs, we plotted every touchpoint of our customer journey along with notes on feelings when we recieved things, assumptions we had about how things should be, the weather, time of day, etc.

No detail was too small! We even tracked the weather.

We also learned just how important it is to share thinking early on in the process with your client. The fact that it’s rough and scrappy is a good thing. It shows thinking, process, exploration and will stop you going down the wrong path early on.

Stepping back we could see a cluster of touchpoints immediately post purchase which were disconnected from the brand values. Needing to focus as we moved into ideation it was clear to see we had two areas to look at – one physical and one digital.

The Sprint

Starting our sprint with a check-in, project point of departure exercise and business model canvas we spent Day 1 discussing our assumptions and understandings of the brand. A bit more research gave us a broader starting point to begin ideating. Once we’d mapped our customer journey, defined the problems and barriers we started to look at the opportunities for new and existing customers.

Day 2 involved fun ways to come up with creative solutions…

…however we got a little too carried away and starting envisaging some futuristic concepts that didn’t fit the model of human-centred design – desirable, viable and feasible. So we stopped.

Here we learned that taking time to take a step back and reflect on our process is key to moving forward. Doing so made us re-evaluate the insights we had and take a more strategic and action orientated approach. Using the rules written at the start helped us make decisions like this very quickly.

So Day 3 was much more focused ideation and hard decision making. Keeping everyone on the same page throughout was crucial because of time and energy. Visual examples, sketches, pens, paper, post-its were quick and easy to facilitate the process at speed, and keeping everyone aligned meant we didn’t waste time going off in different directions and hitting brick walls.

The Prototypes

Day 4 and 5 were prototype… prototype… prototype.

We begin prototyping with low fidelity quick sketches, storyboards and mock-ups first with pen and paper. Once we’re happy with the rough prototypes we refine them into more high-fidelity prototypes using Sketch, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Still super simple but giving a much clearer visual idea of the new functionality and concept supported with visual cues and a narrative.

The Meeting

How beautiful is Koblenz!

Debrief with a view @commgoodco

A post shared by Common Good (@commgoodco) on

Excited to meet Canyon, the Common Good team made their way to the client HQ in Germany.

The session kicked off with us walking the team through of the process, showing the current customer journey and presenting supporting case studies of exceptional customer experience design from the likes of Warby Parker, Fast Company’s most innovative company 2015 and Vitsoe, Dieter Rams furniture design business.

We then shared prototypes of the new experiences we’d designed. Standing around the table discussing the merit of the ideas created a much more interactive environment and felt like a more engaging way to speak to a team vs. pitching passively.

Less tell and more show.

We were super impressed by Canyon, they understood the process and understood the value of our thinking and design approach. We’re very happy to be working with them to create a much more connected customer experience for their customers and driving some significant business results in the very near future.

Key Learnings

From the very start of Common Good, the way we do things was always going to be a huge differentiator. The purpose of starting the business was to leave the status quo behind and create a culture of thinkers and doers who enjoy working with clients that share a similar vision and ambition to drive innovation and change either in their business or market.
We learned some vital things from this process that will significantly shape our business going forwards:

  1. Provide real tangible value — By focusing on those things that needed to be fixed we were able to create a huge amount of value very quickly. In doing so we learned about the brand, business, it’s culture and where we can have direct positive impact. The client on the other hand gets to see our process, thinking and ideas very early on in the relationship thus wasting very little time or capital (which can’t be said for most pitch processes).
  2. Think about the connected customer experience — We learned to think more about the customer’s entire experience not just one part. Everything today is connected and it’s not enough to solve just one problem, you have to think about every interaction. With Canyon this meant stepping out of our digital comfort zone and re-imagining the box experience.
  3. Do the simple things really well — Focus on making what you are already doing much better. Practicality coupled with vision are a powerful thing!

We’re really happy and proud of what we achieved here, are very excited to be working with Canyon and will continue to define projects with clients in this way. So if we’ve gotten in touch it’s because we think we can really help.

We’d also love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post.