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​Everybody talks about being customer focused, but how many of us actually are? Having a true understanding of your customers requires not only good intentions but also a structured approach that is both creative and analytical. Luckily, the “User Experience” profession has made incredible progress over the past two decades. UX techniques are incredibly powerful and you can use them too. Here are a couple of easy methodologies you and your team can use to kick-start your customer focus. Empathy Mapping I recently used empathy mapping with a fundraising organization to design a website for community engagement and donations. While the team had a great understanding of their market, this technique was a great way to flush out more details and add some color. You’ll be surprised how many new insights you can glean in such a short time, many of which will be solutions to your customer’s needs. Involving your whole team also affords many different perspectives.

  1. To get started, you’ll need a whiteboard or flip chart - the more writing space the better. Sketch the Empathy Map canvas on your whiteboard, as shown below.

  1. Discuss which customer persona or market segment you’re going to brainstorm first. It’s best to focus on a specific segment or persona so that you can really immerse yourself in their identity. Give them a name, a job title or any other key characteristics to make them feel real. It is also important to think about their content, as whether they are at work, home or otherwise will affect their thoughts.
  1. Start brainstorming by writing down the team’s ideas for each category on the empathy map. Alternatively, use post-it notes and stick them on the canvas in the following sections:
  • “SEE": What does your persona encounter visually? Their computer? Their kitchen? Friends?
  • “HEAR”: What noises and conversations are they experiencing?
  • “SAY”: What conversations are they having?
  • “THINK”: What’s going through their head?
  • “FEEL”: What emotions are they experiencing?
  • “DO”: What actions are they taking? What are they trying to achieve?

These six categories help your insights to be more palpable and revealing. Brainstorming multiple personas within different contexts will bring up many differences, and this is often where some of the most important insights emerge. To turbo-charge your empathy mapping, try informing the brainstorming session with real research. You can learn about your customers by having your team interview your target personas. Having real quotes and observations will give your empathy map maximum impact.

Experience Mapping

One of my clients is a legal industry technology provider. Again, the team had a deep understanding of their market with extensive research behind them and access to many friendly law firms for more targeted interviews. We used the experience mapping process to add structure to our understanding of “a day in the life of a customer". Thanks to this process we were able to spot behaviour patterns that unlocked innovative new product features that our competitors have not yet discovered. In many cases, the customer journey goes through a range of stages of the decision-making process. At each stage, the customer is affected by completely different goals, influences, motivations and frictions, as well as their actions, thoughts and emotions. This methodology gives you deeper insights into the various phases in “a day in the life” of your customers, so that you can more clearly identify opportunities to improve their experience.

  1. Start with a basic understanding of your customers.
  • First find out what customer research and knowledge exists in the business. What can your customer satisfaction reports or web analytics tell you about your customers? Has any other research been commissioned or collected in the past?
  • Ideally, your team can interview some customers to learn about their experiences. In many situations, there is no time for this, however it will give you more direct and accurate customer insights.

  1. Organise your team and start brainstorming.
  • Identify who should participate in the brainstorming session. Pick people from a range of roles so a variety of perspectives on your customer can be represented.
  • You’ll need a room with plenty of space and a very large whiteboard. Bring lots of post-it notes and marker pens.
  • Divide your team into small groups of no more than 5. Each group should start jotting down their insights and gradually clustering the post-it notes. Take your time and start by clustering duplicate and closely related insights, then group more loosely related ideas.
  • Over time, patterns will emerge. Are insights grouped by context or location? By time? By problem? This should help develop a natural way to divide the customer journey into stages. There may be multiple ways to stage your journey and it’s worth considering each of them.

  1. Analyse your results and look for insights.
  • Move your insights into your customer stages, and start looking for patterns within each stage. What are customers thinking, feeling and doing? What are their goals? What motivates them to move forward? What creates friction, holding them back? Organise the insights to reflect the structures which make sense to you and the team, using this to understand key patterns.
  • Step back and look at the big picture. What opportunities do you see to improve the customer experience? Do gaps exist in your understanding that could be filled through further research or interviews?

  1. Package your findings.
  • When the meeting is over, take the time to properly document the results. Remember that an experience map tells a story about your customer and should be more visual than textual. Distil the insights into a simplified, graphic user journey that conveys the key insights from your brainstorming session. If have an illustrator or designer on the team, ask them to turn your insights into a poster to share around the office. This can have a massive impact, enlightening and focusing every department to generate even more ideas and concepts for your business

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