When you’re building products for customers, the problems you hear can create a kind of fog, a mist through which it’s almost impossible to see a pathway to something useful to lots of your customers.

We recently had a situation where a prospect was trialling our product. It was tough. They’re best described as a late majority type customer — facing that as a start-up was a brave and perhaps foolish adventure upon which to embark. In true Cradle style we threw caution to the wind and leapt at it!

With each install we learnt more and more about the chasm between technical change and cultural change. Transformational change. It’s easy to install a piece of software on somebody’s computer. It’s harder to get them to use it.

What problems did we face?
We persevered with the most basic of technical problems and discovered a family of challenges that we were facing.
  • “I can’t hear the phone ring — I don’t want speakers or sound on my computer”
  • “I can’t answer if I’m away from my computer”
  • “What if my computer’s locked?”
  • “We need to be able to have multiple people on a phone call”
  • “We need a phone that people can just pick up — we all wander around the work place and anyone should be able to answer”
The culturally embedded way of doing things was very well established and it’s hard to manoeuvre with this elephant in the room. Where the current solution was pretty slick, we had to match it or do better. We were also presented with a spreadsheet of feature requirements from every last person that were suddenly requirements. Phew.
It was getting to a point of sink or swim. We weren’t going to be able to swim without some help, so we looked around for a sponge to soak up some of the water. Headsets were already installed but they just weren’t cutting it. Without building out a full integration they really weren’t doing the users much good.
But even that wasn’t possible without build it all ourselves. Sadly none of the headset manufacturers made SDKs for our stack. We’d contacted the renowned brands but nothing. Radio silence. All except for some guys in Copenhagen.

John at Jabra came to the party after some luck with an email from our Electron enthusiast, Neil. Shortly thereafter we had a pretty shaky alpha build in our sweaty little hands. We might be able to kill a few birds, we thought!

As nerve wracking as it is to ship alpha software to customers to try with an alpha SDK from a potential supplier in the mix, we had to do it to test out this solution. We weren’t about to put Polycom phones on every desk…

We very quickly had a single solution to the problem family we had been contending with. A headset that rang (like an old fashioned telephone even), so that a human could answer a call anywhere in the building, whether their computer was locked or not, and could be swapped out for a speakerphone or even (gasp) a handset that she could pick up and hold!

This never happens. It appears obvious in hindsight, however, there was literally no solution given our stack even two months before we began. Ultimately, we shipped about 20 different builds of our desktop app in a very short period of time just to get this integration and set of problems behind us.

What Did We Learn?

You can’t change people. You have to build in some wins for people and see if they’ll meet you along the journey.

Once we had a decent rate of adoption we had the chance to introduce people to some of the benefits of their phone being a part of the tool they use all day at work — their computer. Even if we sold our soul and bought handsets for them!

No longer having to dial numbers; knowing who is calling, not only by number, but by name; being able to pick up and wander to a private space if the conversation needs it. All new ways Cradle customers enjoy the benefits of our platform.

Every so often a little help is what you need. Finding great companies to work alongside definitely makes life easier. We love what we build on top of, and try to make sure we’re selecting these carefully. Twilio have a fantastic service on which to build Cradle.

Jabra showed us how helpful a proactive and communicative company could be when we’re both working to solve the same set of challenges.

Find solutions for everyone. The original request was for desk phones. We weren’t going to do that. Nobody else wants that. We had to make something work for this customer that could work beyond the boundaries of 1980 tech.

Ship it early (well, carefully). Get your stuff in front of customers as soon as you can. They’ll give you all the feedback in the world as soon as they cut a lap of The Square in it. You can’t wait until everything is perfect before working out if the world wants it. Once we knew we were onto something, we could confidently build it properly.

A loud shout out to Jabra who were shipping us bug fixes (literally) every day. We quickly ordered a selection of Jabra headsets and narrowed in on the ones we love the most. We’ll go into this in more detail if you’d like to talk to us, however here is the shortlist.

Jabra Pro 930
This simple headset is our go to. It only plugs into your computer, and does exactly what it needs to: ring, answer, talk, walk, and hang up.
You’ll get crystal clear audio using DECT wireless for about 120 metres of freedom from your desk. It integrates directly with Cradle, meaning that even if you’re making that morning coffee, you can still answer the phone. Just don’t wear this one to the loo!
Jabra Evolve 75
This is our preferred next stepup from the Pro 930. You get a fantastic headset that does pretty much everything that the other headset options do: integration with Cradle, answering, muting, talking, hanging up — all from the headset.
However, you’ve also got a fantastic set of Active Noise Cancelling headphones that you can use for Spotify or anything else. They’re bluetooth meaning you can pair your mobile as well. This morning I was on a call to a customer using Cradle Desktop and my Evolve 75. I needed to leave to get to a meeting, so I transferred the call to Cradle mobile and walked out of the office still talking using my Evolve 75.

Jabra Speak 710

Every office should have one or two of these on hand. They’re great for that team meeting, or conference call where a few of your are trying to close that important deal. The integration with Cradle even comes in handy here too, with call answer, end and mute capability built right into the touch panels on the 710.

You can even pair two of these together for a larger meeting (or if you just want to steam your favourite jam for the office mid-winter Christmas party).

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