Using human-centered design to advance customer journeys

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

In a world brimming with technology and analytics, we often seek definitive answers from technology to help us understand our customers. But, sometimes a more analog approach can be more effective. Human-centered design elevates your understanding of the customer and provides unique insights using simple methods. While once considered novel, a human-centered approach is now commonplace since it helps identify customer pain points, aspirations, motivations, and frustrations, leading to better solutions

Here are three ways to enrich your customer insights:

1. Map their journey

Crafting a vision of what’s possible

Identify the journey your customer takes with your product or brand. Map the general journey before you explore specific audience segments. Deeply consider when it begins and when it ends (if ever). If you can, visualize each step in the journey. What is the touchpoint? What happens during each step? What players and tools and systems are involved? What questions are asked? What answers are given?

If you look at your journey as a whole, you’ll often see that most journeys are focused on moving your customer through the purchase process. It’s our default mode. Focusing on what our company wants to accomplish is the whole point after all. Our data often focuses on where we lose our customers in the journey as well as how they rate their experience throughout. Again, this is an assessment based upon what we want them to do. A human-centered approach flips this. To uncover truly valuable insights, we need to examine the journey from their perspective.

2. Get inside their experience

Developing a journey map to identify opportunities for improvement

Place yourself in your customer’s shoes and explore the journey from their vantage point. Don’t think transactionally. Rather, focus on how they experience the journey. How do they feel at each step? What attitudes or assumptions do they bring to the journey? What needs do they want to address? Are they seeking to satisfy a functional need (e.g., buy a burger) or are they trying to address a deeper emotional need? (e.g., feed/care for a hungry child). Dig deep to uncover and truly understand the root cause. Map these needs and responses against your customer journey. You may begin to see patterns or specific areas that should be explored in more depth.

To fully access the customer experience there is no substitute for taking the journey yourself or listening carefully to your customers in conversation or focus groups. First-hand experience places issues in stark relief and makes it easier to really understand the challenges in learning, buying, and using your product or service (from simple things like long waiting times to more nuanced details like understanding what elements of your product they really value.)

3. Look beyond your customers

Launching a new global operating model

Once you’ve created the visual journey and identified challenges and barriers, you can begin thinking about how to resolve them. Listening to what your customer wants is essential. But, you cannot count on customers to reveal everything about themselves. There may be motivations that even they cannot identify. Seek additional input from team members and others with diverse backgrounds and different functions. These new and unique perspectives can help highlight what you might have overlooked as familiar. Customers may love your product, and struggle with how to pay for it. You can also look at other customer experiences. What made them good or poor? What lessons can you apply to your customer journey?

Get in touch with your human reactions, feelings, and thoughts as you analyze the data. Add context to your data insights to make real and lasting connections with your customers. Adopt a human-centered design approach to improve your understanding of customer needs, enhance their experience, and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Matt Morasky

Co-founder and Partner at Territory, Matt focuses on helping organizations approach, develop and execute co-creative solutions to strategic challenges of all kinds. A veteran visual thinker and consultant, Matt works shoulder to shoulder with leaders and their teams to provide the insights, skills and tools to keep pace with increased complexity and accelerated change. He is also co-author of The Art of Opportunity, a practical guide to identifying, developing and seizing growth opportunities through strategic innovation.

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