Your customers are fickle. Some want to speak to humans and not bots. Some need a good return policy to remain loyal. Some respond well to case studies during the sales process. Bottom line is that each of your customers is unique. And unless you’re willing to get to know them better, you may not keep them around. 

Thinking Beyond the Perfect Product

One of the best ways to become better acquainted with your customers is to actually invite them into your environment — or any venue, really — and ask them a simple question. “What is your perfect day?” 

It’s a method Nick Allen, global director of design and UX of GE Healthcare, stands by. The “perfect day” approach involves getting intense customer input and then designing the perfect day for your customer. It involves brainstorming through visual design, actually stepping inside the shoes of a customer to arrive at various iterations of experiences and good, old-fashioned hard work with colleagues.

It’s not about designing the perfect product or even focusing on an experience in a digital channel. It’s the entire customer experience. Imagine the experience for surgery at a hospital: from the process of scheduling the appointment, to your arrival, in-stay experience, actual surgery, post-surgery, discharge, return home, post-surgery care and followup appointments. How would you design that customer’s perfect experience?

Related Article: Future-Proof Your Customer Journey Maps With These 4 Techniques

Get Your Customers Involved

The problem Allen sees with overall experience design is we try to design these experiences on our own with little customer input. Sure, we do customer journey mapping and use analytics. We practice agile methodologies. Product and experience designers even do testing and demos and believe that’s making things better. And it may, for sure. “But would you design someone's dream home or dream wedding without them right there? We are building software for them and we’re building experiences, and we’re not doing it with them. We're designing the perfect software that we think is perfect.” Allen said during an interview at the DX Summit in Chicago. (Editor’s note: Simpler Media Group, CMSWire's parent company, runs this conference). 

Don’t be afraid to bring customers in for feedback. And this isn’t just about the occasional customer advisory board conference call, Allen said. Bring them in and put them to work. They may actually appreciate it, Allen said. “A lot of times at GE we’ll get nervous about asking customers what they think because we assume they won’t have time,” Allen said. “These are doctors, right? But, we found out they were honored to be invited in. Wouldn’t you like to be invited in by Apple or Samsung and design your perfect phone?”

Learning Opportunities

Start With The Most Challenging Cases

Gouse Ahamed Shaik, head of customer and user experience at MillporeSigma, said too often product and experience teams run on perceptions and assumptions. “I would really challenge everyone to get to know your customers first,” he added.

Set your challenging case studies apart from the easy ones and see if you can invite those customers in for help designing better products and experiences, he said. Ahamed Shaik supports the workshop idea, using graphic design to build out experiences. Visualize the process, he added.

Conducting these workshops with designers will help everyone learn more about the end-to-end customer experience and arrive at potential new solutions. “It's good to show something visual to make them understand,” Shaik said. “If you write it, they read exactly what you write, but if you draw they might be able to better see the concepts.”

Related Article: Great Customer Journeys Begin With the Right Tools

Anticipate Customer Needs

Michelle Cullinan, digital experience strategist and senior manager for Juniper Networks, was asked to describe how she would go about designing the perfect day for her customers. She said she’d try to better understand their pain points, what they cared most about, what they were trying to do. For example, she would address an implementation issue in their data center. “I would then try to understand who and where they were,” Cullinan said. “Do they run the data center? Are they part of a team? What country are they in? What language do they speak? Are they already a customer?”

Are We Really Listening?

Asked what his one big takeaway for designing a perfect day for a customer was, GE Healthcare’s Allen said too many of us say we’re talking too our customers. But, he asked, “Are we really listening to customers? And are we crazy enough to bring our customers in and let them design their perfect day?”