The Lean Startup methodology is a concept that originated in the tech industry in 2008, and has since taken other industries by storm. Fundamental to this concept is the idea of building a minimally viable product, that is, a product that would solve a particular problem or set of problems for a very specific audience or customer. This was a sharp divergence from thought processes held by enterprises in the past, and seems counterintuitive at face value: Why deliver an imperfect product to market?
In reality, releasing a product that still delivers value in front of a customer as soon as possible, gathering feedback, and iterating on product features based on that information leads to better products, and happier customers in the long run.
This is a concept embodied wholeheartedly at Maxwell Health, a technology company building benefits administration, enrollment, and engagement tools in HR and employee benefits. It’s been four years since our founding in 2013, and we still approach new development initiatives from a standpoint of constant iteration and improvement.
I sat down with our world-class design team, in charge of every user experience, workflow, and interface within the platform, to learn about why it’s so important to learn our customers’ pain points, the strategies that they use, and what brokers can learn from them.
Why is gathering feedback so important?
Empathy is a core value that has been critical to the company’s success. For the design team, there is nothing more important than designing with empathy for our customers, and that starts with knowing their stories and pain points, and understanding the impact that our work has on their lives - the positive impact if done well, and the negative impact if executed poorly.
“One of the most fulfilling parts about working here is that we’re building a technology that matters to a lot of people; we’re not selling socks,” said Kristen Boice, one of Maxwell Health’s product designers. “The accuracy and usability of our system means that people will get paid on time, and have access to health care and a sense of security for their family. If something doesn’t work, and an HR person is missing dinner with their family because of an issue, that’s important for us to know. It provides a real gravitas to the work we do, and a sense of urgency to solve that problem for all of our customers. It’s incredibly motivating.”
Empathy is a two-way street. Maxwell’s team becomes closer to our customers when we hear their stories and feel their pain and successes, and our customers are more satisfied when they feel listened to, and when they know that even if we’re not perfect today, we’re working to solve their problems actively, with an ear to the ground.
Know your customers, and your customers’ customers.
Designers and benefits advisors share an incredibly powerful role in customer relationships: the role of the expert. It is easy to take that role to mean that your customers want you to make decisions for them; but if you haven’t lived their story, it’s easy to lose sight of how to solve their problems. The reality is, designing solutions for someone else is hard, and research is paramount.
Additionally, serving multiple types of customers, as both designers and benefits advisors do, is a complicating factor. As a broker, designing solutions for an HR team alone is a problem, in that it doesn’t take into account the employee’s experience. In the end, HR teams are trying to solve problems for employees. If brokers can solve problems for both parties, they’ll have clients for life.
“It’s so important to know that not everyone thinks the way that we think,” said Maxwell’s Product Marketing Manager Ashley Faber. “We might think something is obvious and intuitive in a workflow because we built it, and we’re so close to it. But sometimes, we find that the language we used didn’t resonate, or we created something that worked for one segment of our customers but confused another. It’s so important to step out of our bubble, understand what our customers get caught up on, and address it.”
This is just the first in a series of articles on how our designers gather, analyze, prioritize and incorporate feedback from our customers and the lessons benefits advisors can learn from them. Stay tuned for our next article, covering specific strategies to implement to effectively learn from your customers, coming soon!