Notes from the PDMA International Conference

November 9, 2009

I’m just back from the international conference of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) held at Disneyland CA. I was there to give a presentation with Dave Pilosof of Clorox on our evolving customer experience framework and how those concepts fit the development of the Clorox GreenWorksTM product line.  Here are some observations and insights from the event that I’d like to share.

The PDMA has made a conscious effort to bring in both service and product-based companies as well as both B-to-B and B-to-C companies and the range of attendees, Outstanding Corporate Innovator (OCI) award winners and speakers reflected that effort. This mix of conference participants gave me a good opportunity to informally explore with a broad spectrum of the product development community how important they thought it was to incorporate customer experience directly in the product development effort:

  • All but one of the service-based company speakers I heard explicitly used the term customer/user experience in their presentations, discussed its importance and talked about how they measured it and used it in the development process.
  • Only one of the product-based company speakers I heard explicitly used the term customer experience in talking about her company’s new product development effort.
  • I did an informal survey at the networking events and asked about a dozen attendees if they explicitly addressed the customer experience in their companies: 100% of the service-industry folks I talked to said yes and many had senior people with titles like VP or Director of Customer Experience in their organizations. On the other side, only about half of the people from product-based companies I talked to said they explicitly talked about customer experience and none of them had people with titles like VP or Director of Customer Experience. I asked the same question of the audience at my presentation and got a show of hands with a slightly increased percentage for product vs. service companies.
  • That said, in the in-depth conversations I had with  a number of people from both product and service-based companies virtually 100% said they believed that customer experience was important to their company’s new product success even if they are not yet talking explicitly about it as an organization. So even though fight now the service-based companies are out in front of the product-based companies in this area right now, I expect that my survey results from next year’s conference will show the gap closing.

As a closing note I’d like to highlight two of the presentations that I thought had an interesting or engaging nugget to share:

  • Peter Stewart of OCI winner Premier Global Services, Inc. (which provides tele-communication services, principally for conferencing and collaboration) talked about a high-impact low-cost route they used to capture the experiences of lots of customers – i.e. they gave out 500 video cameras to their sales force and said go tape interviews with customers. PGI got 1000’s of informal videos (see a short sampling) rich with insights that they sifted through to learn what was important and what was not.
  • Latitia Ferrier Webster of sports equipment company North Face talked in-depth about how they work with expert customers – mountain climbers, ultramarathon runners, kayakers – to tailor their offerings. In her talk she shared some pretty amazing videos of people using their extreme sport products and talking about what they experienced. (You can see some of these at their website.)

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