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2 mins Read

It’s Called CUSTOMER Experience Design for a Reason

Published April 27, 2015

Listening to your customers can (and should) inform the ways you design interactions with them.


My son – a 23 year-old Millennial, budding commercial real estate broker and typical internet consumer – came across this photo a few weeks ago on Reddit, and sent it to me with a short note; “… pretty much sums up how most companies of scale try to sell to and serve me…”

To paraphrase Graham Clark, Vice President & Global Head, Customer Experience Management at Mphasis and one of our key partners, “…listening to your customers and the data that surrounds them is one of those ‘eat your vegetables and exercise regularly’ discussions. Everyone knows they should do a better job of it, but not everyone does.”

And even for those organizations that have customer listening programs in place, the ability to analyze and take action on it – particularly in the context of customer experience design – is severely lacking. It’s this lack of mindful experience design that leads people like my son to recognize that, when it comes to interacting with their customers, many companies just don’t “get it.”

Customer experience design inaction (sorry: in action)

The photograph above does an excellent job visually depicting an all-too-common customer experience design problem. The designed experience anticipates that customers will gladly walk through a stile that redirects them from their objective – the other side of the street. They’re obviously wrong – the actual, desired customer experience couldn’t be clearer.

I’m sure there’s a sound engineering or safety rationale for this design, but it’s both expensive and useless. Customers – like all of us – are pretty adept at finding the shortest distance between where we are and where we want to go, and taking it.

We’ve seen this same thing play out in everything from content organization and buyers' journeys to IVR systems and loan applications. Many of these things seem so obviously counterintuitive once you take the time to look at them from the outside-in, through the eyes of your customers. Which is why the best time to undertake this exercise is before you build, rather than after.

Many customer experiences (including products, services and digital interactions of all kinds) are built based on what various stakeholders and decision makers believe customers need. But quite often, these beliefs are informed by prior experience with customers, or “intuition” about what customers need rather than data.

Using customer data to inform customer experience design

Sadly, not every marketer or executive has the prescience and customer insight of a Steve Jobs. That said, a CEB survey (quoted here in an HBR article) appears to indicate that most marketers, at least, are pretty confident in their ability to predict – absent independent support – what customers need.

According to this study, marketers on average depend on customer data for just 11% of all customer-related decisions. While this may have been a sound approach to customer-facing service design a decade ago (probably not), in today’s fast-changing world of digitally-enabled, omni channel experiences, it’s a recipe for instant obsolescence.

For most of us, the best source of information about what customers want and need comes from our customers, and the data that increasingly surrounds them. Today more than ever, we have a radically increased ability to “listen” to our customers and understand their wants and needs.

From Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) programs that are better integrated into the regular “rhythm of the business” to the mountains of data that surrounds our customers as they search for, find and interact with us, the importance of listening to them – and using that data to design the experiences they desire – is more important than ever.

And tomorrow? More important still.

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