The User is Not Like Me: Design Thinking in Customer Experience #forrforum

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Anthony Myers avatar

The User is Not Like Me: Design Thinking in Customer Experience #forrforum
Design thinking can have a measured impact on customer experiences, Kerry Bodine, VP and principal analyst at Forrester says, but organizations must have empathy for their customers first.

The Importance of Research

Whether designing new products, services, workflows or business practices, employing some of the ideas wrought from the design world can improve customer experiences and help drive differentiation, Bodine said at the Forrester Forum West conference recently.

In order to create those empathetic moments, however, organizations have to really understand customers, and that means getting up close with them and figuring out what they want, Bodine said. That starts with research. 

"You need to go out and observe them, and to talk to them one one one about their behaviors," she said.

This is necessary because as one of the core ideas in the design world tells us, Bodine said, the people using the products and services companies produce are different from those who made it. The user is not like me is a phrase Bodine offered ti illustrate this.

Sometimes, of course, up close observation of subjects is not possible, but there are other ways to better understand what customers are looking for. Diary studies are one example of an exercise said she has seen work in the past. Members of a group are encouraged to upload photos and info about what they did over the course of a few days, and that gives designers a tiny glimpse into their perhaps seemingly work a day lives.

The next stage of design thinking is analysis, both quantitative and qualitative, Bodine said. Quantitative analysis can be messy, but like similar activities such as customer journey mapping absolutely critical. 

Learning Opportunities

Ideation, Prototyping, Testing + Iterating

Design thinking next takes us to thinking up ideas of what a product or service will look like, and then building a prototype. One popular example of a prototype is wire frames for laying out apps or websites. The advantage of a prototype is it can be quickly changed for low cost. In the case of services, role playing can be employed as one method of prototyping, Bodine suggested.

Finally, we test and iterate. Think of it like shampoo, rinse, repeat. This is where little wrinkles are evened out, and as design guru Charles Eams once said, 'the details are not the details, they make the design.' The smallest of things can end up being super important, Bodine said, adding that she recommends the book Microinteractions by Dan Saffer to support this.

For another way to consider design thinking, the opening image is a good place to start. When we use design thinking, we start with research, and this widens our view of a given project. With analysis, our view of the project converges, and then it diverges again with ideation. Once we approach the testing phase our view converges once more.

Looking at the two diamond shapes in this image, the first could be considered to be answering the question, is this the kind of thing people want? For the shape on the right, it could be seen as answering the question of if it is, how do we make it right? 

"Don't forget to have fun with these kinds of projects," Bodine said.

"Designers want to involve people in their process, and this is also true in co creation."

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