Chanade Hemming, product manager at Virgin Media and digital lead for the ‘I get help’ journey, continues the Summit with a presentation on product management. Throughout the presentation, Chanade emphasises the importance of customer experience and immersing yourself in the customer world. 

Getting signal from the noise 

We live in a world with so much data, noise, customer feedback. Chanade’s presentation aimed to inform the audience on how to set themselves up to listen to the right signals.

Most importantly, Chanade outlined three things:

  • How to set yourself up for success
  • How Virgin Media works and how to think about customers and their front line performers
  • How to be dated informed

How Virgin Media operate

At Virgin Media, there are ‘squads’ built around specific journeys, which are cross-functional, and they are supported by functional squads. The functional squads deliver change to customer touch-points, for example digital channels and are made up of product managers, designers, copywriters, developers, testers and analysts.

The design thinking process at Virgin Media involves the collaboration of people from across the organisation. Therefore, it is not only digital team members involved in design. At Virgin Media, design thinking is expressed predominantly through design workshops as well utilising the Google Design Sprint. The Nielsen Norman Group design thinking process is a good example of this. 

Virgin Media aims to move away from waterfall cycles which can take up to eighteen months, and move towards shorter, faster, processes. Chanade suggests that personas are good from a marketing perspective, but not for unique customer needs. Therefore, methods which are less generic and more situational are much more beneficial, such as ‘Jobs-to-be-done’.

Immerse yourself 

Chanade also emphasises the benefits of immersing yourself in the customer world and spending time with your customers. Chanade also outlined the benefits of encouraging the team to get away from the desk and gain value from the outside world; no matter what industry you are in.

Alongside the customer world, immersing yourself in the product is of huge importance. Experiencing life as a customer can provide valuable insights into how and where products can be improved.

According to Chanade, It’s really important to look inside, not just inside your own industry, but challenging yourself by looking at others. We must ask “what can we learn from different people in this industry, as well as those outside it?”

Tactical Empathy

Applying tactical empathy is important in all industries. This can be done by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes; thinking about the customer and the device they’re on and adapting the design to fit customer needs.

Chanade uses an example from Virgin Media whereby Virgin transformed its strategy to fit customer needs. Instead of using a long piece of text to help customers overcome problems, Virgin developed an interactive step-by-step method, which they found to be much more effective.

Chanade alluded to a quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” Following this, Chanade suggested that it is really important both to think about what the customer says to you and to couple this with all of the other data.

Data-Informed vs. Data Driven 

However, Chanade argued that using data alone is risky; “Data is great but it won’t give you the why”. At Virgin, the team makes data-informed rather than data-driven decisions, without thinking of the outcome at the end.

This data-informed method can also be implemented outside of work. This can be seen in our personal lives, for example, when booking a holiday. We don’t make decisions using one piece of data (e.g., the star rating of the hotel) you group data together to make an informed decision (e.g. the star rating, the price, the location, the reviews). These collective experiences and knowledge allow us to make informed decisions.

Chanade then went on to discuss several well-known brands and discussed whether they are data-driven or data-informed. 

A common misconception is that Tesco data-driven. They are actually data-informed, and this is visible through their recurring theme around convenience. For example, their launch of click and collect allows them to stay relevant. Their option for home delivery reflects their convenience. Finally, the fact that they have groceries, home furniture and clothes in store means that they become a one-stop shop for everything, again reflecting convenience.

Netflix is another example of a data-informed business. In 2015 Netflix hired an anthropologist which means that their content is timely and relevant, chosen by someone who keeps up with what is going on in the world.

Digital kingdom is not where the magic comes from 

Chanade concluded by suggesting that the digital kingdom is not where the magic comes from. Ultimately numbers only give you a snippet of reality. Chanade, therefore, reiterated the need to immerse yourself in the customer world, the benefits of bringing everyone on the team on the same single journey and the fact that humans are designing for humans. Involving your customers and adding a human touch to each and every product and design is necessary to achieve success.


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