With products and services getting increasingly commoditized, customer experience has emerged as the number one differentiator for businesses across the globe. We truly are in the age of the customer. Nailing the customer experience piece can make the difference between success and failure.
Understanding your customer is the first step. This is undoubtedly the most crucial step because if you don’t know what your customers want and how they behave, any strategy that you adopt will essentially be akin to shooting in the dark.
There are literally hundreds of different techniques and tools that can be used to understand your users, their tools and lives.
Below are a few techniques, which may not be the most popular methods are certainly quite powerful.
Holistic System Map: A Holistic System Map refers to taking a more macro level approach to research. For example, if we were to look at a restaurant site (Let’s call it restaurant site.com) and were asked to fix a couple of pages. It may be tempting to jump in and start fixing the pages. But it is best practice to step back look at the entire ecosystem that integrates into the site. This means capturing the entire picture of customer interactions right from phone, blog, other web presence, app and social platforms. Try to understand how your work related to all these platforms. Analyze which design paradigms more common, look at creating unified branding.
Customer Support Records: One resource that is highly under-utilized is customer support records. If you have records that are stored over time, then you’ll probably have detailed records of problems that people have faced with the particular site. This gives great insights into what some of the pain points are.
Secondary Research: Tools such as Google Scholar can provide access to valuable academic journals and papers. This can offer empirical articles from reputed institutes around the world on specific topics such as user interface for an office reception area for example.
Scale Modeling/Role Playing: If direct customer feedback is not possible, scale modeling/role playing may help yield interesting insights. One of our customers, an airplane manufacturer needed us to design interactive screens for their delivery center where customer pick up the planes. In this instance, talking to customers directly was not an option since they were very high profile executives. To counter this, we actually constructed an architectural model that gave us a sense of how the space would look and where screens could be placed etc. Tools such as role playing, behavior mapping and scale modelling helped us get great insights.
Visual Design Research: Visual design research is a great tool once you enter the design stage. Create a ‘mood board’ of the existing design across channels to try and establish the tone and feel of the product for which you are designing. This will help create some words/ adjectives that can be helpful to capture the right feel for design.
Web analytics: In this case, web analytics refers to the process of using records of user movement within the system to inform design. It helps understand the motivations for user behavior within the system, which you can try to incorporate into design.
For example, a large fitness chain in the US had engaged us to improve the online registration process. Studying the process flow, we found that people had to go through about six steps just in order to register.The first page was generic and gave no indication of how long the process was.
Using insights from analytics, the registration page was given a simplified look.
Once you have solid user insights in place, it makes it convenient to move to the next stage of delighting your customer!