What is the key to great customer experience? “Start with the customer”.
It is such a simple statement, isn’t it? With a little luck you’ve heard this statement before. Perhaps when looking at the service design for a new product? Or when a team was doing an annual review of success metrics for the business?
There are many easy ways to engage customers as part of user experience or service design. Here are a few examples:
- asking customers to come and speak with staff
- asking customers to sketch a web page as part of a UX design workshop
- observing customers as they interact with a service or buy a product
- getting groups of customers together for focus groups
- seeking feedback from customers after they’ve purchased a product (either in the form of a quick survey or selective interview)
In another post I also outlined areas during service design where user research could be beneficial.
Unfortunately, even though ‘start with the customer’ is a simple statement, many companies fail to translate this phrase into action.
So why is it so difficult?
Part of the challenge in being customer-driven is that it requires us to work on the culture of organisations. Sometimes this means looking at the role we play within our organisations, which can be confronting.
If we look at the companies in the world today that are exemplars of how to engage with customers, all of these have worked hard on their culture. Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Evernote, Atlassian….all have embodied a strong customer focus as part of their culture and operations.
These are 5 ways organisations can direct their culture to be more customer centric:
1. Give Customers A Seat At the Table
In order to involve customer perspectives as part of service design, we have to ensure they have a seat at the table so their voice can be heard. This means creating specific and formal mechanisms to involve customers. Whether it’s establishing a forum or running focus groups, it’s important to ‘call out’ specific activities that provide ways for customers to give us their feedback.
2. Give Up Preconceptions / Opinions
“Customers don’t always know what they want”. I’ve certainly heard this before in opposition to involving customers in research. True…sometimes customers don’t see a different opportunity for a product or service than business teams can. But if we reject involving customers for this reason its short sighted. Every single time I’ve listened to customers I’ve always been surprised by two or three brilliant ideas they’ve suggested that I could not have thought of without them. Once I learnt this, I gave up my opinions about what I thought I knew.
3. Be Humble and Prepared to Listen to Their Ideas
To give up our preconceptions requires humility. By being humble and acknowledging we may not have all the answers, we’re open to ideas. Unfortunate many organisations don’t train staff to listen well. Yet this is an essential skill when involving customers. Listening, patience, openness…all of these attributes are required to be able to recognise feedback and ideas from customers that might help us make remarkable improvements to our products.
4. Be Prepared to Design Customer Experiences to Fit Their Ideas
Beyond recognising a good idea from customers, we need to be prepared to design experiences and change our products based on their ideas. This requires giving up something. We will have to change something that exists or create something afresh. It is more than likely we’ll need to devote people and funds to do this. Those organisations that are prepared to reshape their services to fulfill customer expectations are the ones that are truly customer-led.
5. Invest in People and Systems Who Know How to Speak With Customers
Speaking with customers is a skill and profession. Like all professions, the people with expertise in this area know the best methodologies and tools to use to involve customers in research (whether that’s using online surveys to seek feedback, or prototyping tools like Axure to create materials for research). Investing in the right people and tools will boost the organisation’s capability to involve customers and ensure their feedback is recorded and applied purposely.
What are the ways you’ve seen companies work on their culture to deliver a a great customer experience? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.