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Creative Agile Approach Helps Client Pivot to Personalization in the Midst of COVID-19

By JP Spanbauer

Agile. From protests to Tech stacks, who isn’t talking about it? At Thrillworks, we push our living Agile mindset at each turn.

Working in Agile is a set of principles, and a way in which the process and the work is iteratively done in small parts through a highly collaborative structure. Above all, it values human communication and feedback between internal and external stakeholders, as well as quick adaptation to change that produces successful results. It’s dangerous to go alone, and honestly, it’s better when all our minds work together.

Technology development is what popularized this idea by trying to speed up the time it took to develop software to bring it to market faster. Right now, you are probably reading this article on a product that was delivered through Agile. Your phone, your browser, even your operating system. No matter the platform, the goal is to quickly and continuously develop and test products, with subsequent versions that are improved from each of its predecessors.

Why does a Creative Director think that living Agile is important? 

Humans are messy. We are often like a swarm of locusts that immediately overwhelm and break the best laid plans, especially when it comes to a rigid experience. Have you ever played a game in which no matter how hard you tried you just couldn’t find the next step? As a player, you either found the next step after several attempts or created your own path. Navigating a game with obstacles is like working on a project’s challenges in Agile. If it didn’t work the first time, try again. If this way didn’t work, find another way to accomplish the task. These breakdowns in user experience and understanding are why we need to live Agile, which inherently allows for flexibility including the room to find the ways and processes that work.

A user-centric approach forces Agile to always consider the importance of humanization – not just in what we do but also how we do the work. By focusing on the delivery, an evolving experience our clients allow their end users, it guides us to create from the perspective of the individual.

Who are our clients? One of them is a financial service firm made up of products and services that has its roots in the US and multiple locations in Canada. The company has always provided investment advice to retail customers by enthusiastically going door-to-door. No doubt Covid-19 has turned this model of selling upside down. Prior to the pandemic, the financial institution had also worked with strategy and creative teams in a traditional manner and its processes and execution were rather linear.

What does that mean? An agency might have gathered requirements for a client and set business objectives at the start of a project and after that, one department would wait on another to finish their parts of the work as the criteria to begin its own. There are many companies that continue to operate under this Waterfall method. One of the caveats of this relatively traditional agency-client relationship was the lack of communication with the client throughout the project, which would leave them feeling unheard, ill informed, and perhaps as though a team of people went away to make something without their further and continuous involvement.

When we started chatting with this client, we’d discovered that this was the way they had been working up until recently. Perhaps “the way” ensued because it was the way an agency-client relationship was respected or perhaps it was the only method known, as may be the continued case for many agencies and clients. Could there be a method that is more collective based so that clients can feel their voices being heard and actively participate as we helped them to achieve business objectives?

Enter Agile. To deliver the best in class for our clients, we must use the right tools, synergistic processes, and ways of working, all of which allow teams and clients to co-create instead of idling their efforts. This way of working has teams as well as the clients working on the project, broken down into smaller chunks, together at the same time to accomplish the end goals set out in the big picture. In fact, various areas of expertise working simultaneously would enable all stakeholders to come up with new ideas that would consider multiple viewpoints. The result of each working version of the product and service are improvements of the previous state. In Agile, Thrillworks is enabled to create new solutions to address concerns that perhaps clients didn’t know they had. How our clients’ customers, the end-users, experience the product or service, helps us guide our creative approach.

How Agile works during project discovery and implementation

Door to door isn’t coming back for a long time, if ever. More than surviving, we wanted our client to thrive. How? This was part of the conversation that led to pertinent questions in shaping the digital strategy.

Collaborating and asking questions in Agile

We asked our financial services client many questions, as they did to us, and it was in this ongoing conversation that the client and Thrillworks shared ownership of the unified, common business goal. We both wanted to improve the customer experience as much as possible through pivoting to digital while maintaining the sense of community that the brand had always fostered.

Q: What is the big picture?
A: To continue the sense of community by keeping our “doors” open to customers, but of course now, with only the digital avenue.

Q: What is the business goal?
A: To drive qualified leads: potential customers who were likely to turn into actual ones.

Some more questions we asked:

  • What was the success rate of prospective door-to-door customers turning into actual clients?
  • Did your customers even know they had needs that this financial firm could solve for them?
  • How does a financial products and services firm stay competitive?
  • What changes does the company need to make in order to become more user-centric and value-driven to clients? 

Pivoting to personalization

Not only was the long-standing financial brand willing to pivot – it had to. Keeping in mind a personal touch was the most important aspect in allowing their customers to connect to while maintaining a sense of community that its “doors” are still open by a welcoming an interactive website guided the changes.

We suggested personalizing every advisor’s profile with unique video stories placed beside their areas of expertise. Viewers who feel a financial advisor’s background resonated with their own background can easily find more information by emailing the expert. Or, if they are ready to become a customer, book a slot in the advisor’s calendar. 

Getting creative in the process

The challenge was: how would it be possible for each financial advisor to showcase their personality during a pandemic when typically creating professional videos of them would require gathering in-person at a studio?

A facet of Agile is flexibility in the way work is done. Navigating this pandemic yet not sacrificing quality work, under the creative guidance of Thrillworks’ art directors, each financial advisor had studio kits sent to their homes and were patiently (and, of course, virtually) instructed on how to bring their best selves to life through video. It was as much fun to help the client figure out which lighting worked to bring their best selfie angles to life as it was to give some help on using Zoom. From the process to final presentation, our client was able to speak in the way that would resonate best with their clients, and Thrillworks was there to guide them through it all.

Curious to find out how Thrillworks can help your brand pivot to meet your customer’s needs? Give us a shout.

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