The experiences customers have with brands involve many digital elements, including everything from websites, chatbots, mobile apps, kiosks, interactive voice response (IVR) systems, digital assistants and more. In spite of the recent focus on the customer journey, many brands fail to craft these omnichannel experiences based on their most important commodity: humans. Let's take a look at how human-centric CX design can improve the customer experience. 

Emily Wright, senior research analyst at the comprehensive software reviews service, told CMSWire that many brands add new digital channels and then think they've done all the work necessary to provide a better customer experience. Wright said a digital channel is merely a tool. “It's how companies understand their customers in order to make that tool as useful as possible that will be the true differentiator between companies that think they provide strong customer experience and those that actually do,” said Wright. “Taking a human-centric approach to CX design is critical to bridging this gap.”

What Is Human-Centric Design?

The concept of human-centered design (or as we are referring to it, human-centric design), was coined by global design firm IDEO, and is defined as “a creative approach to problem-solving.” Human-centric design puts people at the center of the development process and enables brands to create products, services and experiences that connect and resonate with their customers. Additionally, unlike traditional customer experience strategies, human-centric design requires brands to make their customers a part of the CX design process.

“To be truly human-centric in their CX design, companies need to constantly learn about their customers, which requires going beyond simply asking customers for feedback via surveys as an example, which many companies still think is sufficient in and of itself,” said Wright. “Companies must empathize with their customers, examine each touchpoint through data analysis and customer input, and bring their customers into the CX design process.” Wright suggested that brands identify highly engaged customers and work closely with them to understand pain points, and test out processes and channels. “Implementing and iterating solutions is crucial.”

Ricky Spears, CEO and founder of the Ricky Spears internet and gaming tutorials and tips website, told CMSWire that creativity is something that is often missed by CX professionals. “Evolving human needs in our dynamic environment cannot be satisfied with old products or offerings,” said Spears. “New products, services and experiences must be created regularly to bring value to the user and a perceptible change for the better. Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving and is like an innovation,” he explained, adding that it's a process that starts with figuring out people's problems and ends with new ideas that meet their needs.

Related Article: Elevating Human-Centered CX in a Tech-Powered World

Human-Centric Design Relies on Active Listening

Successful brands actively listen to their customers and obtain actionable insights from the feedback they receive through surveys, social media, one-on-one interviews, reviews, and both traditional and unconventional feedback methods. Furthermore, they actually use those insights to enhance their products and services, improve all of their channels and eradicate the pain points in the customer journey. 

As far back as 2018, a Statista report indicated that 55% of United States respondents said that they believe most brands take action on the feedback that is provided by customers. Unfortunately, this is indicative that 45% of those polled do not think that brands actually value them or their feedback. More recently, a 2022 Redpoint Global report revealed that 74% of customers feel that brand loyalty is about feeling understood and valued. Clearly, customer feedback plays a large role in enhancing the customer experience, creating loyalty and increasing customer retention.

Daniel Kroytor, founder and director of TailoredPay, a leading merchant account provider, told CMSWire that customer feedback is the best tool for designing human-centric experiences. “So we gather qualitative data throughout the customer journey via focus groups, interviews and questionnaires. Doing so enables us to capture highly detailed customer feedback that reveals how satisfied our customers are and what contributes to or takes away from their experience.”

The Basics: Personas and Segmentation

When it comes to human-centric CX design, Wright said that it's critical that brands nail the basics and that developing and regularly refining rich personas and segmenting one’s customers in meaningful ways will remain a bedrock of CX success. Customer segmentation — which groups people based on characteristics including age, income, education, location or other demographics — enables brands to better understand a specific customer base. Customer personas, on the other hand, facilitate a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of a specific group of customers within a segment and are fictional archetypes that are based on qualitative data that has been collected through research with real people.

“By closely aligning with customers and truly getting the basics right, companies can solve real human needs and develop the ability to adapt to rapidly changing customer expectations and desires effectively, efficiently and ahead of their competition,” said Wright.

Joe Piette, executive VP of customer experience at Andrew Reise, a customer experience consultancy, is in a unique position to discuss human-centric design. Piette told CMSWire that conducting research and usability studies, as well as creating journey maps, workflows, user models, visual concepts, designs, prototypes, etc. all help put customers at the center and make inanimate interfaces much more human. "Incorporating emotion, not just transactional inputs, into the process is critical," said Piette, who provided some guidelines that brands can use when focusing on human-centric CX design.

Observe and listen, and walk in the shoes of customers who will use the technology, mentally and emotionally. Understand how your brand fits into their lives versus how their lives fit into your brand. 

Learning Opportunities

Know when technology can’t replace a human, and when to trigger or offer a real person without friction in the experience. Know when the technology is either not helping a customer reach their goals or is getting in the way. 

Don't assume that just implementing a digital interface/technology will solve the problem. Spend time to thoughtfully implement based on customer input. 

Find and duplicate successes with customers throughout all customer transactions and journeys, whether they’re digital or not. 

Related Article: 10 Steps to Business Growth Using Omnichannel Marketing

Human-Centric Design Is Essential for Etailers

Human-centric CX design should be used across all of a brand’s channels, from its mobile app, to its brick-and-mortar storefront, to its marketing and advertising campaigns, and finally, to its website. A poorly designed website not only contributes to a poor customer experience, it heavily impacts ROI. Shopping cart abandonment costs online retailers billions of dollars each year. According to a report from the Baymard Institute, shopping carts are abandoned an astounding 69.57% of the time. This problem can be avoided through human-centric CX design.

Ben Dickie, advisory lead at Info-Tech Research Group and SoftwareReviews, told CMSWire that human-centric design (HCD) puts the target customer stakeholder back in the driver's seat. “HCD focuses on the needs, wants and limitations of the end user of a product or service,” said Dickie. “In the context of website design, HCD involves developing a comprehensive understanding of and empathizing with the target audience and using that understanding to inform the design of the website in a way that is intuitive, user-friendly and meets the needs of the user.”

According to Dickie, human-centric design is useful for designing websites because it helps to ensure that the site is effective at meeting the goals of both the business and the user. “By considering the user's perspective and creating a website that is easy to navigate and use, organizations can improve the user experience and increase customer satisfaction, leading to increased traffic and conversions. Additionally, HCD can help businesses to better understand their target audience, which can inform other aspects of the business, such as marketing and product development.”

Final Thoughts on Human-Centric CX Design

The customer experience is often driven by data analytics, ROI and economic trends, but many brands today are beginning to craft a better-informed experience through human-centric CX design.

By actively listening to customer feedback to obtain actionable insights, and using personas and audience segmentation along with human-centric CX design, brands are able to enhance the omnichannel experience and improve the customer journey.

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