Improve Your Customer Experience with Human Centered Design Thinking
October 19th, 2018
Many of today’s leading organizations are putting more thought and resources into delivering a better overall customer experience (CX). When it comes to brand identity and making a lasting impression, getting the CX right is tremendously important in an age of almost limitless choice. Recent Gartner research even suggests that nearly 9 out of 10 companies are planning to differentiate themselves from competitors primarily by CX over the next few years.
Broadly speaking, CX is the interaction across all touchpoints between a brand and a customer over the course of their relationship. The purpose of CX design is to optimize that experience for all customers, improving their overall view of the brand. Customers expect brands to deliver superior services and experiences in ways that are easy and seamless. When these experiences are positive, they’re more likely to become return customers. Companies that deliver high-quality CX routinely outperform their competition.
Fortunately, design thinking principles offer an effective methodology for improving CX. The first step with any design thinking process is to question everything, especially who your customers are and what they think and feel when interacting with your brand.
Step One: Empathize
Every design process begins with identifying certain assumptions about customers. The next step should be throwing those assumptions away and starting over from scratch. Do you really know the needs, motivations, and feelings of your customers? Understanding these things is more than simply identifying goals and pain points. A truly human-centered design thinking approach forces you to empathize with your customers, putting yourself in their shoes to learn how they feel about interacting with your brand.
Design thinking principles utilize a variety of methods, including ethnographic studies, friendship groups, and customer journey maps to get as close to the end user’s experiences as possible. In many cases, people don’t know precisely what they want from a brand’s CX, or even what they do or don’t like about it in its current form. Only by engaging with them in genuine conversations can the most valuable insights about their feelings come to light. In many cases, they won’t be able to articulate how they feel, but careful observation and analysis of data can identify their real pain points and the things that add value to CX.
Design Thinking is equal parts mindset, strategy, and tactical approach, that when adopted and applied consistently, can deliver transformative business results
Step Two: Create
An additional advantage of this intensive, human-centric research is that it facilitates the building of relationships that can be nurtured over time. Those relationships can be leveraged during the ideation process to generate new ways to improve CX. Products and services can be prototyped with continuous feedback as part of a transparent design process that keeps the focus on the customer.
Designers should also keep the door open throughout the creation process, providing customers with tools for making their voices heard and their feelings known. This is a period when ideas have a tendency to stray from the core mission of addressing the customer’s needs, so ensuring that they never lose sight of who they’re ultimately serving is critical.
Getting to a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible can get you back on the path to gaining insights from potential users. Diary studies provide an excellent means of gathering information about the state of the CX, making it possible to continually refine products and services as well as the delivery mechanisms that form a primary touchpoint with customers.
Step Three: Implement (and Repeat)
Once you’ve finalized products and services informed by extensive, empathy-based research and continuous, iterative prototyping, it’s time roll them out and integrate them into a broader CX ecosystem. Naturally, there will be unexpected issues with any launch, but a robust CX can create strong enough relationships with customers to overcome minor setbacks that might otherwise negatively affect the brand. By continuing to use the same design thinking principles to hone in on the actual needs of users, companies can tweak their newly launched products/services to deliver the best CX possible.
But that doesn’t mean the process is finished. Not by a long shot.
With fast-changing technology and the resulting shifts in customer expectations, today’s ideal CX experience can be outdated and ineffective tomorrow. Changes in needs, tastes, and competition will necessarily force changes in any brand’s CX.
Once again, the techniques used to create meaningful relationships during the initial design research process can be tremendously valuable in the ongoing iterative CX refinement. By constantly gathering, analyzing, and responding to customer feedback, companies can evolve their approach to delivering products and services in order to create a unique CX that differentiates them from their competitors.
With so much competition in today’s global marketplace, delivering a superior CX is often the best opportunity for an organization to stand out from the crowd and establish itself as a brand that customers want to form a relationship with that will last for years to come. Human-centered design thinking provides a holistic solution that brings customers and designers together in ways that bring new insights to the fore and reframe expectations.