How BlaBlaCar creates a customer-centred culture

BlaBlaCar is a ride sharing service that operates in seven countries around the world serving millions of customers. Its success is built on making ride sharing easier and more reliable than catching a bus or owning a car. Chief Product Officer Remi Guyot says that it achieves that by working hard to make customer centricity part of its culture and processes.

For many organisations, culture is vague and hard to pin down. But Remi Guyot, Chief Product Officer of BlaBlaCar puts the company’s success down to building a customer centric culture.

‘Saying you’re customer centric is easy. The hard part is walking the talk,’ says Guyot. ‘I think here, everyone can see our culture in the ways we work and the documents we produce.’

‘For instance, we want all our employees - everyone - to understand what it’s like to use our service. So we make sure that anyone in the company can take a day off to book trips using the service. We make sure the HR policies and software is in place to make that easy for anyone to do.’

One key metric

To keep the focus on the customer, BlaBlaCar has come up with a unique project process. ‘Our product teams have a seven step process called ‘Discovery Discipline’,’ says Guyot. ‘At every step they have to take the customer’s point of view.’

‘For instance, in the first step, you have to identify the one key metric that your project will influence. People tend to come up with fifty or none, but for us it has to be one. No project moves forward until they tick that box.’

Teams can struggle to identify that metric. ‘That can be a sign that they haven’t understood how their project aligns to the bigger picture,’ Guyot explains. ‘So we ask them to think about What’s our mission, our vision, our strategy, what’s the objective you’ve been set, and the key result? When you do that exercise, it becomes clear what the right metric is.’ And because the company mission is customer centric, the metric has to contribute to that.

‘Next we ask them to pick a use case. Again, just one. Often when you’re trying to build something, someone says ‘oh what about these other use cases?’ but if teams try to address every single use case, they stop thinking clearly about the main use case that will make or break the experience of most people. Teams feel like they’re being customer centric, but the reality is they deliver a poor product.’

Each step is aimed at making teams think about customers, and make clear decisions.

‘This process is difficult, but it’s liberating for teams, and for me as a stakeholder. Teams want trust and autonomy. I want to know they’re doing the right thing. I can look at a single sheet and see that the team is heading in the right direction without interfering.’

Giving staff the tools they need

BlaBlaCar works hard to make it easy for staff to be customer centric. ‘You cannot blame the team for not being customer centric if you don’t give them the resources they need,’ says Guyot.

‘If people feel that usability testing will mean they miss a deadline, then they won’t test. So we put a lot of work into finding usability agencies all over the world where we can contact them and be running a test in 48 hours.

It required a lot of energy to remove the hurdles, but now for a product manager, it’s barely any effort. So they run the tests, and then they see how valuable they are, and that’s transformed the behaviour of our teams.’

Talking to Guyot it’s clear that BlaBlaCar’s customer centric culture isn’t abstract. It’s about making deliberate focussed choices that bring every discussion back to how to best serve their customers.

Five keys to customer centricity

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Giles founded cxpartners with Richard Caddick in 2004. He's author of 'Simple and usable' and an invited speaker at design conferences around the world.