From insights to improvements: data-driven product enhancement at VDAB

Feb 08, 2024
  • sales, marketing and service

What do people need at various transition points in their career? How do you effectively connect employers with the right talent? For VDAB, Flanders’ public employment service, answering these questions is key. To make sure they create digital products that meet users’ needs, the organization adopted a customer-centric, data-driven approach to digital product enhancement. Annabel De Craene, product manager at VDAB and delaware experts Elise Bernaert (Voice of the Customer expert) and Sien Liu (digital strategist) offer a glimpse behind the scenes of this ambitious project.

  • Client: VDAB, Flanders' public employment service
  • Challenge: Enhancing digital products and services to meet the needs of modern citizens and employers
  • Solution: Embrace a customer-centric approach and implement a culture of continuous, evidence-based improvements

The challenge: digital expertise required

“There are times in every career where change is necessary or at least being considered,” says Annabel. “One of our goals is to provide citizens with the right services, at the right time, to help them navigate these moments of transition.”

In the digital age, that’s easier said than done. “People rely on the internet for guidance on job seeking and have high expectations of digital services. We had to significantly review our digital offering to keep up. To understand how to do that, we needed in-depth customer insights. Because we didn’t have the right competencies in house, we turned to delaware for support.” 

We have no use for consultants that stay on the sidelines. We need them to roll up their sleeves, become part of the team, and help execute the plans.
Annabel De Craene, product manager at VDAB

delaware’s assignment was both strategic and tactical. “At VDAB, we have no use for consultants that stay on the sidelines,” Annabel continues. “We need them to roll up their sleeves, become part of the team, and help execute the plans.” Elise, Sien and other delaware professionals thus joined VDAB’s brand-new Digicon team: a group of experts tasked with collecting and interpreting customer insights and feedback and turning it into actionable items. 

The process: strategy, execution, and continuous improvement

The team started from a classic Think-Plan-Act model, which included a kick-off, analysis and a roadmap. “Later, this evolved into a more flexible model for continuous optimization,” explains Sien. “As a full member of  the Digicon team I was able to adapt the roadmap and broaden the scope when needed. For example, when we encountered a gap in our understanding of the customer’s wants and needs, I simply aligned with Elise to determine which surveys were needed to fill that blank. This allowed us to be extremely specific.”

Think-Plan-Act, and continuously improve

To enable more customer-centric enhancements the Digicon team implemented a clear methodology based on the classic Think-Plan-Act framework, which they updated for continuous improvement.

  1. Defining high-level and/or specific hypotheses to cover pain points
  2. Disproving or validating these hypotheses through targeted research
  3. Clarifying the ‘as-is’ customer journey
  4. Developing the ‘to-be’ customer journey
  5. Updating the KPI dashboard in Azure Data Studio
  6. Creating the roadmap to go from the ‘as-is’ to the ‘to be’ situation 
  7. Continuously analyzing the roadmap’s backlog and checking with insight-based customer personas

The Digicon team also created customer profiles to help map the customer journey per product and determine next steps. “These personas were based on demographic data as well as qualitative data from Qualtrics surveys,” says Elise. “They tell us a lot about how VDAB’s users actually behave. When you’re trying to make your products more customer centric, those insights are incredibly valuable.” 

We complement digital performance analysis with insights from surveys to provide context to the metrics. Knowing that there’s an increase in conversions is great, but you also want to know why it happens.
Sien Liu, digital strategist at delaware

The result: small changes, big impact

Throughout the project, one of the main challenges was convincing VDAB to embrace a customer-centric, outside-in approach. “What really helped were the KPI dashboards,” Sien adds. “For the first time, data was centrally available to anyone who needed it. And when we started implementing enhancements that made products more popular and useful for users, the value of this approach became undeniable.”

“By becoming more customer centric, VDAB was able to move several steps closer to achieving its strategic targets,” says Annabel. “It also made it easier to perform key tasks, like ensuring transparency on the job market, closing the gap between supply and demand, and positioning ourselves as an independent guide.” 

Working with consultants from delaware really helps us make our case and generate buy-in. They also put us on a fast-track to developing these skills ourselves.
Annabel De Craene, product manager at VDAB

And what about quantifiable results? “That’s always a challenge with these kinds of projects,” Sien and Elise admit. “However, the positive feedback the team gets from users speaks volumes. Most of them are glad that we’ve tackled some of the most pressing issues, like introducing better search filters. These kinds of small improvements have a big impact on the online experience and really help people to get where they need to be.” 

“VDAB is a big organization, with lots of stakeholders,” Annabel adds. “If you want to introduce something new, you need to prove its value to a wide range of people. Working with consultants from delaware really helps us make our case and generate buy-in. What’s more, the external experts also put us on a fast-track to developing these skills internally. In the end, we really want to be able to do it ourselves as well.”

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