Customer Empathy and Narrowing the Field

  • 3 Min Read

Analyst Phil Hill says D2L is vying for market leadership. How did it step away from the competition? Customer empathy.

Since joining D2L almost 18 months ago, one of the core beliefs that I’ve brought from my consumer background is the critical importance of developing deep customer empathy across every department within the company. It’s a priority for every D2L employee to truly understand the day-in-the-life of our users, “walk in their shoes,” and then make a concerted effort to apply those insights to every aspect of our company. This is what I believe to be the secret sauce for creating great customer experiences, and it’s something we’re very passionate about at D2L.

This focus on customer empathy has led us to make changes not just in “what” we do, but, even more importantly, in “how” we do it. For example, our product development process now includes users throughout every stage of the design and development process. We go far beyond just asking customers what they need and actually observe users in action in their classrooms and offices to truly understand the challenges they deal with day-to-day. Users are key participants in our early ideation sessions, and also in the iterative design cycles going from early mock-ups through prototypes and actual working code. Our recent launch of Daylight in the spring is just one great example of this process in action. We’ve found that this collaborative development approach with users has led to unprecedented innovation and speed, enabling us to effectively solve real pain points for users.

The feedback from our existing customers has been awesome, and—as history (and common sense) would tell us—when you focus on creating great experiences that solve real pain points, not only will your customers be happy, but the broader market will also follow. We’re excited to see that playing out as highlighted in an analysis published by Phil Hill, one of the most influential analysts in elearning. In a recent e-Literate blog, Phil gave a great summary of the major LMS user conferences that happened in July, and also provided analysis on the higher education landscape overall. In that analysis, he pointed out that “D2L and its Brightspace LMS have been picking up momentum–particularly in North America and Europe.”

As the graph suggests, Brightspace is seeing tremendous growth in implementations in the past 12 months, and that is driving a significant sea-change in the higher education LMS market overall. Per Phil, Brightspace by D2L and its rival, Canvas by Instructure, are in an emerging two-horse race for new implementations.

When reading Phil’s blog, I was really pleased to see him attribute Brightspace’s momentum to our focus on customer empathy and customer-centric development. As he noted in one of his observations from our recent Fusion 2017 conference, “the Brightspace product demonstrations during the conference keynote got significant spontaneous reactions from the crowd (along with hallway discussions) likely reflecting this improved ability to listen to customers.” I agree with him; the new capabilities showcased in the demos (live demos of actual working code by the way!) were overwhelmingly received, and were absolutely a direct result of the tremendous input and involvement of many of the most important members of our development team…our users!

With all that said, we’re not done and we certainly can’t rest on our laurels; the rivalry in the LMS space is just heating up. That competition only drives us harder at D2L to innovate even faster to turn the challenges educators face in the ever-changing learning space into “delightful experiences” they can’t imagine living without.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

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