When your customers need you to change the way you do something, you can’t afford to spend months in a traditional software development cycle. A test and learn can approach can get new customer-facing services up and running, fast.

'Test and learn': a low-cost, low-risk way to resolve CX problems, fast

When something’s not working in your business, your instinct is to change it, fast. And, if that something is damaging the way customers perceive your brand, you can’t waste a single moment.

That’s why, for most process professionals, the traditional software development process is so frustrating.

We’ve looked before at how in-house IT teams are booked up months in advance, making it impossible to get prompt action on requests for process changes or new customer-facing apps.

But even when a dev team becomes available, you then have to go through a months-long grind of communicating your business requirements, waiting for the resulting process to be automated, then sitting through the testing and user acceptance stages.

This can take so much time that the new system no longer does what anyone wants. In fact, as most businesses struggle to capture business requirements fully and accurately, all too often IT have a really hard time to build what’s really needed. And in the meantime, your disgruntled customers may very well have gone elsewhere.

So how can process professionals break out of this cycle of frustration?

Addressing CX problems fast with a test and learn approach

The answer lies in new tools that put the power in the hands of process pros, and enable a rapid “test and learn” approach to developing a solution.

As a concept, “test and learn” belongs to the agile school of software development, where a new product or service is built iteratively, with the dev team getting feedback from end-users at every stage and refining the product accordingly.

It gets around one of the biggest problems with software development: that users don’t get to try the product until it’s “finished”, by which time it’s extremely difficult to fix issues which might have been obvious far sooner, if a few users had tried an early prototype earlier in the design phase.

Involve end-users in testing from the start

With “test and learn”, users are involved at every stage, not only describing their requirements, but also providing feedback at each stage and suggesting new functionality. Often, they’re asked to provide feedback on new systems before any actual development work begins, working from a process flow diagram or a so-called Wizard of Oz prototype. This cuts down on development costs and timescales, since very little has to be invested before user feedback can be sought.

One problem with this approach, though, is that users are giving feedback on something that doesn’t really resemble a working system. It’s hard to get a sense of how a digital product will look and feel if all you have to go on is a PowerPoint presentation or series of post-it notes.

To really provide useful input, users need to be able to play with a prototype of the system itself, and this is where new, Low-code development tools make life very much easier.

“Test and learn” in action at Thomas Cook

One company that’s used Low-code tools to get the most out of “test and learn” is the travel operator Thomas Cook Group. It needed a better way to handle customer issues, and wanted to empower reps with a mobile app to speed up resolutions. David Spickett, Thomas Cook’s Head of Customer Experience, led a test and learn project to quickly design this new system.

“Minimum viable product” created in 8 weeks

To ensure the app met the needs of resort reps and back office customer services staff, two small groups of both types of user were involved in the project from the start.

Crucially, the company chose to build a working prototype app – a minimum viable product – very quickly, for the user groups to play with and provide their feedback.
Using the MATS Low-code development platform, Thomas Cook built a prototype of the proposed app in 8 weeks, and without needing to do any programming. The app incorporated a “system feedback” button to enable users to provide their improvement suggestions directly into the app itself.

“Our reps could type in what’s not working for them, and type in their requirements, and that became our project log in terms of our development pipeline.”
David Spickett, Head of Lean, Thomas Cook Group

With user feedback being fed directly back into the system, the development team could quickly learn what else was needed. And because MATS is a low-code platform, the new functionality could easily be created in its drag and drop interface, with no need for any programming.

“Test & Learn” in action

“Test & Learn” in action

Spickett describes the project as “the easiest IT program I’ve ever worked on.” From the start of the prototype build in November 2014, it took less than eight weeks to launch a working system to all resort reps in Lanzarote, and back office customer relations staff.

“Test and learn” is a continuous process

While that first iteration of the live app already incorporated most of the functionality requested by the two groups of users, the “test and learn” process ensured that within another three months, the system was complete and ready to be rolled-out globally. Today, staff can still submit suggestions, so that the dev team can continuously improve the app based on real needs and feedback.

The Thomas Cook customer services team were delighted that the app was created so fast and so cost-effectively, but the real proof of its success has been in the impact on customer relations. The average time to resolve an issue dropped from 28 days in August 2014 to less than seven in August 2015 – a fantastic result all round. For more details on this story watch the case study video here.

Find out more about “test and learn” with MATS

If you’d like to learn more about “test and learn” style development with MATS, we’d love to give you a demo of what it can do, please use the contact page on our website.