The importance of looking at things from the customer’s perspective rather than the company’s is a critical element that many companies forget when starting to improve their customer experience. However, there is growing evidence that overly-focusing on the customer during experience design can be every bit as much a problem as not focusing on them at all.
Experience design is a relatively new discipline that is undergoing rapid evolution, driven in large part by the recent involvement of trained service designers. Their involvement has generated new best-practices that resolve the over-focus on customer problems and significantly improve the customer experience.
Focus on customer jobs NOT on customer personas
Customers don’t interact with companies to help pass the time, they do so to get help getting important jobs done better than they could do them by themselves. It makes more sense to concentrate on what customers are trying to do, on the outcomes they want from doing them and where they need help the most, than on customer personas.
This is not the only problem of focusing on customer personas. Customers who may look identical on the surface may have very different perspectives on which jobs are the most important and where they need the most help doing them. Once customer jobs have been identified they can be used to segment customers by their jobs.
Best practice in experience design today is to look beyond superficial segmentation by customer personas and to segment by customer jobs instead. This not only focuses the experience designer on what the customer is trying to do, research by Strategyn shows it also provides a significantly better foundation for experience design.
Focus on customer decision journeys NOT on interactions
When customers interact with companies to get their jobs done it usually requires a series of closely related interactions for customers to get all the outcomes they want. The interactions typically are between the customer and the same people, take place through the same channels and are closely spaced together in time, in what McKinsey christened a ‘decision journey’. It makes more sense to focus on the series of closely related interactions in the decision journey than on the individual interactions.
Best practice in experience design today is to identify the decision journey(s) that are involved in getting a customer's jobs done. This not only focuses the experience designer on how the customer gets the outcomes they want, research by McKinsey shows that focusing on decision journeys produces a 20-30% bigger increase in business outcomes and a 30-40% bigger increase on customer satisfaction than focusing on interactions.
Focus on customer decisions NOT on emotions
Interactions between the customer and the company typically require customers to make one or more core decisions. Sometimes quite complicated ones. Although customers make most trivial decisions driven largely by their subconscious emotions, (neuroscientist Antonio Damasio estimates that 95% of all trivial decisions are made this way), they make most of the core ones consciously by thinking through them, particularly the more complicated ones.
It makes more sense to focus on core decisions and how customers make them, than to focus on the emotions that only play a subordinate role in making them. Focusing on decisions also provides the designer with the insight required to provide the right decision support to help customers make better decisions.
Best practice in experience design today is to identify the key decisions that customers make to do their jobs and provide the right decision support to help customers make the decisions better. This not only focuses the experience designer on the critical decisions in the customer experience, research by Glen L, Urban and Fareena Soltan shows that providing customers with just the right support to make better decisions increased engagement, trust and consideration by 25%.
None of these best practices change the critical importance of looking at things from the customer’s perspective, but they do provide the experience designer with newer and better tools to improve the customer experience.
Please feel free to share your own perspective on best-practices in experience design.
Dr. Graham Hill is a partner at Optima Partners.