( Andy Cars is the founder of Lean Ventures, an innovation strategy consultancy based in Stockholm, Sweden. Andy is often hired by large companies to support them when designing and executing on their innovation strategies while strengthening their overall innovation capabilities. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.)
WHY A “CUSTOMER HAPPINESS CANVAS”?
When I designed the Customer Happiness Canvas the aim was to create a tool that provides structure and context for discussing and visualizing the strategies a startup team employs for getting and keeping customers.
More specifically, what experiments can your team run to reduce unnecessary friction when getting new customers (the blue boxes) and increase customer engagement and loyalty (the red boxes)? Early stage startups natural focus is on customer engagement and loyalty, but as they get closer to problem-solution fit, they tend to shift focus towards optimizing onboarding.
Arguably, these are the two most important areas to get right if you want to build a repeatable and scalable business model.
WHO IS YOUR “HAPPY” CUSTOMER?
At the center of the Customer Happiness Canvas is a circle for the customer. Start by filling this out. Make sure not to define your customer too broadly. Remember as a startup we’re looking to attract early adopters first, i.e. that niche segment with the greatest pain for the problem that we are aiming to solve.
Early adopters act as an early litmus test for our business model. If we can’t get them onboard, either we are focusing on the wrong customer segment or there is something not right with our offer or how it’s communicated. And it’s a good idea if we can find out about this as early as possible, preferably before building the solution. That’s why attracting early adopters is the first step towards a scalable business model.
If you have a two-sided business model with more than one customer segment, you would need to fill out a separate canvas for each segment. This is the same as for the Business Model Canvas.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE CUSTOMER HAPPINESS CANVAS
The Customer Happiness Canvas consists of 10 boxes, five for each side and which are laid out as follows:
EASILY TESTED – What can you do to remove unnecessary steps
that stand in the way between your product and your customers
EARLY AHA – What value can you deliver to customers right away? What can you do to get them to their “aha” moment as soon as possible?
EASILY BOUGHT – What financing, packaging, tiered pricing or delivery options can you offer to make it easier to buy from you?
TRUSTED – What can you do to make your customers less apprehensive to buy your solution? What brand promise can you make and how does it connect with your values?
COMMUNICATED – What can you do to improve communication, channel mix, and make sure that your value proposition is crystal clear?
PLATFORM – What can you do to make them invest more time and
money into your platform making them less likely to leave?
CO-CREATION – What can you do to allow your customers to be part of your value creating processes, e.g. design, creation, assembly or delivery?
EMPATHY – What can you do to hire, train, empower and guide your employees to learn about the jobs your customers are trying to get done, and take initiative to delight them?
EXPERIENCE – What can you do to create a memorable experience around your product that delights your customers and builds loyalty?
REWARDS – What can you do to involve your most loyal customers as brand ambassadors, engage them through gamification, and have them come back to buy more?
TRIGGER CARDS TO GET YOU STARTED
In addition to the Customer Happiness Canvas, I have also designed a set of trigger cards to help during ideation. The trigger cards start out with a “How” and “What” question followed by a clarifying example.
The reason for the “How” and “What” questions is to establish a baseline for how your team is measuring success and what experiments you can generate to try to improve on your baseline numbers. Continuous data-driven experimentation to unlock the next growth spurt sits at the core of the Customer Happiness Canvas.
After that it’s pretty much the same ‘rinse and repeat’ process as when you run the Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas as part of Lean Startup.
A TOOL FOR LEAN STARTUP, BUSINESS MODELING AND GROWTH HACKING
The Customer Happiness Canvas is one agile tool among many. It’s meant as a complement to the Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder & Pigneur) or the Lean Canvas (Ash Maurya) and may work well as a trigger for Lean Startup and Growth Hacking teams that have gotten stuck. But to get any real value from using these tools, it’s not enough to just filling them out. That’s only the first step on a never ending journey of experiment design and testing. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to transfer the ideas from the Customer Happiness Canvas to an experiment board such as the Javelin Board or Trello, where you can more easily track and report the learnings from your experiments.
SHARING IS CARING
I’m sharing the Customer Happiness Canvas and the trigger cards under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license, meaning that you are free to use, copy, share and create your own versions of these tools, even commercially, as long as you give attribution to the licensor. To view the full license visit
It’s my hope that you will find these tools useful to structure a dialogue with your team around the two most important aspects of your business, i.e. how to reduce unnecessary friction to get new customers and how to keep customers by driving customer engagement and loyalty.
YOUR FEEDBACK MATTERS
Last but not least, it would be great to get your feedback on the Customer Happiness Canvas, and perhaps eventually, stories on how you’ve used it in your work. Please leave your comments in the section below.
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