Customers as Testers – The Future of User Experience and Testing

Our environment is in constant change and turmoil because of ongoing digitalization. We live longer and the power of individuals is increasing constantly. The nature of work changes and we value well-being more. Information technology is a big part of this change as an enabler. Technology becomes more complex, dynamic and mobile. Most importantly, it will become more user-friendly if customer experience is brought into testing more closely.

Conventionally testing has been performed in the office. But the Internet of Things, sensors, alarms, and monitoring produce information that can be processed automatically. For instance, washing machine can send an automatic service request to the service company when there is a leak, and file the insurance form for the insurance company automatically. To test this, do we need to make the washing machine leak? Or do we test new innovations such as the Apple Watch, Sports Tracker app, and Apple Health by going to the gym?

“Technology becomes more complex, dynamic and mobile.”

It used to be enough to figure things out when they came across during the test process, but today we need to be prepared for different types and rapidly changing testing environments, and scenarios the customers may face. These types of situations set challenges to test environment and test automation. Testing is changing: we test and learn. Most importantly, we need to test customer experience, not only the software. Remember also that usability and user experience are key factors in customer experience.

The Customer in the Center of the Development

Customer, his/her behavior, and needs have to be in the center of the development focus. In practice this means that new services are co-created together with customers. New ideas need to be facilitated constantly, and new concepts and their business viability have to be evaluated before moving into implementation. Big projects and renewals need to be broken into smaller pieces and tested with pilots, short trials, and prototypes.

Customer panels should be used for testing, and customer experiences need to be analyzed and learned from – to figure out, for example, what kind of product the customer would consider to be a good one. It’s important to note that not all new ideas necessarily yield new products and services, but they can yield something else and offer valuable learnings for the organization.

Information Technology as an Enabler

The challenge with development, testing, and customer experience consideration has been that old and too tightly integrated systems have restricted big and massive projects. Process and service layers should be planned because they enable agile development and customer experience testing. New applications and systems should be taken into production incrementally, and earlier than before.

The biggest risks in digitalization are related to outsourcing and multichannel solutions because they are beyond the organization’s own control. The several APIs and suppliers with ever-growing number of complicated and interconnecting technology, increase complexity. In addition, the pressure to take services into production faster forces to create bigger versions.

The future of Digitalization and Customer Experience

Predicting the future of digitalization is difficult. But what we so far know is that digitalization has already changed customer behavior rapidly and customers want service, no matter where they are. Also industry sectors fade or vanish, and the significance of business partners increases.

We also know that technology trends change rapidly, machines integrate to other machines, and sensors gather information, which steers our actions. Examples of these include Google Now, Nike iPod Sensor, Apple Watch, smart cars, and even smart washing machine, like the one from Samsung, which is operated and monitored with a smartphone. The information, the customers voluntarily share via these devices and applications, is being utilized. Therefore, we need to test concepts, ideas and processes. Testing needs to be focused on the right place. Also, the demand for expertise in testing will increase, and new forms of testing, such as exploratory testing, will arise.

"Most importantly, we need to test customer experience, not only the software."

Customers are ever-increasingly involved in testing ideas, pilots and beta versions. That is why the job description of a tester has changed dramatically: it’s not only about testing systems and user experience anymore, but it’s all about testing customer experience! Not to say that there still wouldn’t be a need for testers who test for bugs and problems, but the pressure for quality in testing is increasing.