Define your product to excel

If you treat colleagues with the same consideration as customers, you have to cater to their needs. It’s important to define what your colleagues, your internal customers, need and want, and then to base your offering on that; it’s the same approach as when designing a product or service for market.

For example, within my team, we have a function that builds bespoke reports for our business.
Outside of the usual reporting of sales, we combine lots of streams of data and publish them as one to give our internal customers informed positions upon which to base their decisions.

Many big companies have a reliance on Excel and the reporting capabilities it offers. When you think about it, it is an amazing tool that we all now take for granted, but it’s not just about putting numbers in some boxes.

How will they read it?
Online, offline, mobile, printed. You know what it’s like when you receive an email that doesn’t display correctly on the device you have. Annoying, right?

What views of the data will each user type need?
We work in a complex business and you probably do to, with different users that have different uses for the same data sets. It might be inconvenient to keep re-cutting the data but identifying and building this functionality into the report in the early stages means a lot less work later down the line.

How does each user want to receive the report?
Think about how your internal customer operates and align your product (our report in this case) to their needs. Some, usually desk-based colleagues, like collecting reports from a website while others prefer to have the report emailed to them so they don’t have to go and look for it. We have a lot of field teams who spend very little time at their laptops; they don’t want to spend time navigating websites to get their reports so this works better for them. Others receive their reports via an internal social media platform so that they can have follow-on discussions about the results online.

What repetitive tasks will users do with the report?
If a user is completing the same task again and again once they receive your report then you should look to write some macros to automate these tasks. We also give our users functionality to contact us directly from within a report, instead of opening up their email. Also, when users enter more data into the report we provide action buttons that automatically collect the data and send it back to us to be incorporated in future reports.

Some organisations have developed users that, when a report is received, their first thought is to recut the data and put it into a form that is either familiar or comes closer to meeting their exacting needs. There are obvious cost implications here as time is spent reworking reports. Users (your customers) will only stop re-cutting reports when the first version they receive meets a high proportion of their needs. It’s difficult to quantify how much this re-cutting costs a business because you never really know if your users are doing it!

When we really engage with our internal customers and deploy all of the thinking above, and more, we end up with a more usable report that a customer find easier to use. This leads them to be more likely to incorporate it and into their daily routines.

About the author
James Scutt |
James is an eminent Customer Experience XM leader and strategist with a unique value proposition spanning sales, operations, technology, culture change and the hospitality industry. A Non-executive Director and keynote speaker, James is the founder of &