Transform Customer Experience with Human-centered Design
Every company is looking for the silver bullet, that Secret Sauce, Killer App or One Weird Trick that will propel them to the top of the competitive heap. In our digital age, that has increasingly come to look more and more like Robot Whispering, a kind of digital sorcery of binary incantations and the secret power of invisible algorithms.
As marketing wizards increasingly obsess over honing the perfect combination of SEO keywords to enchant and beguile, or the ideal string of algorithmic code to mesmerize and compel action, their focus inevitably shifts from the end customer to the digital gatekeepers mediating the customer experience. The tools and systems that should merely provide the substrate for online commerce start to dictate how and when and why engagement occurs. Even when the algorithm’s goals diverge from human goals. Or actually works against them.
All of this can lead to an off-putting, alienating experience for the humans who remain the actual end users, the actual customers. Making your customers feel like a distant second thought is a great way to transform them into ex-customers. It turns out, the One Weird Trick for business success is neither weird or a trick: it’s Human-centered Design.
What Is Human-Centered Design?
We’ve talked about this concept before, in a piece examining the appeal of the lived-in feel of tech in the Star Wars universe (TECHNOLOGY FOR HUMANS). In fact, the need for Human-centered Design (HCD) has been around for ages; since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, the drive for efficiency and the requirements of automation have competed with the actual human desires of the consumer. But it’s only in recent years that recognition of this fundamental has become increasingly important for businesses, as automation and digitization spread to every aspect of the customer relationship.
Simply put, HCD is a design approach that puts the customer at the center of the design process, ensuring that the products and services created actually meet their needs, wants, and expectations. By using HCD to create customer experiences, businesses can create a more consistent, enjoyable, and satisfying experience for their customers.
The need for human connection, and therefore Human-centered Design, might seem like plain old common sense. But it’s wisdom all too often overlooked, no matter how backed up by research and real-world experience. In an insightful VentureBeat piece examining the differential impact of design and making the case for HCD, a focus on customer relationship-building and human-centered principles are identified as key strengths one can bring to the “business decision-making table.” Why? Because “putting the needs and goals of the human user or customer at the center of the ideation and development process is becoming increasingly important as companies seek to appeal to customers with heightened expectations.” It turns out that incorporating the insights and perspectives of HCD “can dramatically improve the quality of the ideas, prototypes, and finished products” your company creates.
Of course, even something as intuitive sounding as “human-centered design” requires real skill and practice to implement correctly. The VentureBeat article outlines several key considerations and best practices for driving outcomes with HCD. From ever-green advice like “understand the business” to the refreshingly pragmatic “roll up your sleeves,” the piece highlights an approach that focuses on bridging the perspectives of both business partners and customers, “incorporating HCD into the cross-functional development process.”
To be truly human-centered, businesses must understand not just the customer’s needs and wants, but also their motivations and behaviors. This can be done through research, interviews, surveys—and strategic empathy. Another important tool is creating a feedback loop: gathering customer feedback on the experiences they’ve had, and then using that feedback to inform and improve the design process. A feedback loop ensures you continuously adapt and improve the customer experience, keeping up-to-date with ever-evolving customer needs and expectations.
We Speak Human
While we may be quickly approaching a time when purchasing decisions are made by algorithm and people are left to idly pursue our pleasures under the benevolent watch of machines of loving grace–for the foreseeable future, humans still call the shots. Make sure your products are designed for them. Make sure your messages speak to them. Whether designing your a product or implementing a DXP, you can’t afford to forget the real, human users that will be at the other end. That’s why partnering with a human-focused agency like EX Squared is so critical: we speak Human.