Every business is a software business and must enable its tech teams to respond autonomously to changes in the marketplace.

That is the view of leading UX (user experience) specialist Jeff Gothelf, who says baking agility into a company’s processes allows it to compete at national or international level.

Gothelf is based in Barcelona but acts as a consultant to companies around the world. He recently worked with the teams at Manchester-based tech giant Rentalcars.com to help evolve their approach towards customer experience.

“Whatever it is you do, you’re in the software business. If you want to compete at scale, software is the only way to do that,” he told BusinessCloud.

“Managing a software business is different to managing a legacy business such as a bank, travel agency or retailer: it requires a different mindset. How do you staff a team to build the platforms? How do you assign work to that team and incentivise it to provide the best possible customer experience?

“There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty and complexity in business and in software specifically, especially when combined with the unpredictable nature of humans. As it scales your company needs to be able to react in an agile way to technology shifts, changes in consumption patterns, competition that you never saw coming, geopolitical shifts, market shifts, changes in consumer sentiment.

“The manufacturing mindset of ‘I’m the boss, let me tell you what to do and you just go forth and execute it’ doesn’t work in a software-based business because we’re not manufacturing stuff. We’re looking to continuously learn, improve and optimise the systems that we’re building to take advantage of the current realities on the ground.

“You need a fast turnaround and to empower your teams – the people who are making the software, who are closest to the customer and to the technology – to be able to make their own decisions based on what they’re learning from the market.

“Their success is not based on what they build – it’s measured on how they impact customer behaviour. Did they get customers to come back more than once a month? To tell their friends? To increase the amount they purchase from us on every visit?

“If every time they learn something new they have to move the decision up the chain, by the time they get around to updating the system, their competition has blown past them.”

Rentalcars.com is a digitally native business which employs around 1,700 people of 71 different nationalities. It is the third-biggest eCommerce business in the North West behind Shop Direct and N Brown.

The platform enables people to rent cars in 163 countries with just a few clicks. Like taxi platform Uber, the business doesn’t own a single car – yet has processed more than nine million bookings in 2017.

The fast-growing firm started life as TravelJigsaw but rebranded after it was bought by the Priceline Group in 2010.

Supriya Uchil

“Jeff and I met a few months ago at an Edinburgh conference called Turing Fest where we were keynote speakers,” said chief product officer Supriya Uchil said of Gothelf. “He has these great insights into what listening to the customer means for us: showing customer obsession is the number one quality we need to have.

“We are in a world where we need to continuously try our products out with our customers – not develop the product over a nine-month period then test it out.”

Uchil has spent most of her career on the West Coast of America. She worked for Amazon for ten and a half years and was also involved with several start-ups, including mobile and online game developer Zynga.

“My move to Rentalcars last year was to do with thinking about how we can ease customer pain points in car transportation,” she explained.

“Can we create something so powerful that customers recognise us, come back to us and we become the global company dominating that industry?

“We work with car rental suppliers to bring lower prices to our customers through breadth of selection – and ensure we provide transparency through the whole process, so there are no surprise costs at checkout.”

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