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  • Laura Stringer

Solving the Deeper Question

I once worked with a company that relied on brick-and-mortar sales offices. Any customer coming into an office was asked to fill out a paper form with basic information. It was such an outdated system!

A sales leader agreed. He asked me to “make the form into a web page”. His vision was to replace the paper forms and clipboards with an in-store laptop, so customers could fill out the form digitally.

Because he was a sales professional and not a tech professional, his thinking stopped with the interface: simply replicate the form, as-is, but “online”.

I wanted to build this product! What a fantastic move toward digital transformation. But there were some questions to answer first.

Namely, where was the data supposed to go when someone filled it out? Was there budget to build a database? (No.) Should it email the form contents somewhere? What does the form actually DO, aside from existing? How will we handle technical problems in the store? Etc.

But all of that was a small view of the situation. In replacing one in-store form with another, we weren’t really solving the whole problem.

What really got me was that we should be thinking deeper.

Imagine: a customer walks into your office - someone who is, right now, interested in your products and is potentially ready to buy. Instead of showing them the product they’re interested in, you’re going to hand them a form before having a conversation?

Paper or digital doesn’t even matter at that point; you’ve already derailed the customer from their goal of giving you money.

So in considering the customer journey, we can see very plainly that there must be a better way to accommodate the business need of collecting information.

Why not ask the relevant questions during a conversation and have the sales person record answers? Or have the initial conversation and then send the form out, after they’ve had a positive in-store experience? There are ways to collect the info other than a pre-sales, in-office form.

Do we even need all this information? Is it valuable enough to justify the customer’s effort? Or ours?

There may have been technical answers to these questions, but they were really process questions. My job was to think through them.

Simply digitizing existing processes doesn’t make them better. In fact, it could make things worse. Deep diving into the process, the customer journey, and then using technology to make targeted improvement - that makes things better.

Follow the experience, and the technology can follow naturally.


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