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Why Human-Centered Design Provides a Better Customer Experience

The customer experience isn’t just one thing that companies should consider in 2022. In today’s largely digital world, the customer experience is everything

Take healthcare, for example. The COVID-19 pushed many patients to use telehealth and telemedicine in 2020, and studies show that patients really liked it. In 2021, a Sykes survey found that 77% of patients said they were willing to try telehealth / telemedicine in the future, 85% said telehealth made it easier for them to get the care they needed, and 90% said they would continue to use telehealth for non-urgent issues.

What’s more, younger generations are increasingly turning to emerging digital channels when they purchase something, with 41% of 18-25 year olds buying via social media channels compared to 22% for people over 45, according to Deloitte. The future is clearly digital. 

And in a digital environment, providing an excellent customer experience is critical, because if your app, website or some other digital channel doesn’t meet your customers’ expectations, finding another that will is pretty simple. After all, 17% of U.S. customers will stop interacting with a company they love after just one experience, and 59% will do so if that bad experience is repeated several times, according to PwC.

The traditional approach: Starting from the wrong place

The need to provide a high-quality digital experience must be a top priority. But how can you ensure that your company designs the kinds of digital experiences that customers want? That shouldn’t be so hard, should it? After all, companies deal with their customers every day — surely they understand their needs when it comes to an app or a website, right?

Wrong. According to a Bain & Co. survey cited by the Harvard Business Review, while 80% of companies said they believed they provided a superior customer experience, just 8% of customers described their experience that way. Companies fail to provide excellent customer experiences because they’re designing them according to their intuition or their gut. This method inherently brings biases to the table that don’t reflect what their customers actually need. Instead, companies should adopt human-centered design.

Let’s take the example of developing a healthcare app to help patients find a provider. Often, the healthcare organization would identify the problem on their own, talk with physicians and hospital management, draw up requirements, and then developers would create the app. They’d produce a wireframe for approval, and then design and develop the solution, which, once it’s done, would go into a beta testing to generate user feedback which would inform changes to the app prior to the actual launch.

But, remember, we’re not developing an app for doctors and managers, and in this process, we’re starting with them. They’re not the ones who are going to use it and it’s not their problem we’re trying to solve. If we go about development in this way, the biases, problems and perspectives of doctors and healthcare managers are going to color and affect the creation of the app. We will end up solving the problem doctors and managers believe that patients have, not the problems that patients actually face

What is human-centered design?

Human-centered design forms the basis of any good product experience. It requires caring about your people and users, and learning about how the specific user experiences the problem you are trying to solve in their daily life. 

A human-centered approach to design has as its goal the creation of a solution to a user’s problem that will seamlessly fit into their life, providing a very natural experience for them that addresses their issue. We have to put our user’s interest first and keep our opinions on the side. The aim is to understand the patient experience of finding a provider, and not just one slice of it, but the entire flow.

Remember the 80-20 rule. Generally speaking, 20% of your customers will generate 80% of your revenue, so it’s critical to design an experience that 20% of your users simply can’t live without. Human-centered design is the method to get you there.

The human-centered design process

Here’s a brief overview of the steps involved in human-centered design.

Discovery and research: Begin by interviewing the end-users who will be using your solution, and make sure that the interview itself is open-ended and largely unscripted. Don’t ask questions that lead them towards a specific answer, because this will introduce biases. Read between the lines and ask follow-up questions that will solicit more information about what they value most and the parts of their experience that they find difficult or challenging. Follow the users’ lead and think like a detective. 

For example, if you were interviewing patients for the healthcare app above, you might begin an interview by asking if they’ve looked for a doctor lately and what their experience was like. They might mention that they had trouble finding a doctor that was on their insurance, so ask what tools they had been using. Turns out, they’ve been using Yelp because they value the reviews, but Yelp didn’t give them any idea whether the doctors they liked were in-network, so they had to call their offices, which took up a ton of time.

Even in this brief conversation, you’ve gathered critical information that will inform your design. Patients like the information they get from other patients’ reviews, but they also want to know up front about doctors’ status with their insurance.

Prescribe: In this step, you will create a hypothesis from your research about your users and develop a strategy to create the best solution for their problem. Never assume you know what users want or need. You have to measure using data. Look for patterns and themes among the end-users you interviewed, and hone in on what seems to be most important to them. Create a plan to test your initial prototypes with users so you can determine if you’re on the right track.

Treat: At this stage, you’re creating a wireframe or a prototype that you can use to test with users and get feedback. It’s ok if they’re just half-baked. You don’t need a fully functional solution, because what you need to know is whether you are moving in the right direction to solve the core problem in a workable prototype. When you test, though, don’t guide them through the solution — simply ask them to do something. Take notes and inquire about their experience: What do you want to do next? Why did you click here? What did you think would happen? How did that work out for you? Did the solution do what you expected?

Repeat: Even after you’ve released your solution, you’re not done. It’s important to continue to repeat the steps above so you can iterate and further improve it, constantly getting closer and closer to the perfect product to meet your customers needs. 

Business benefits of human-centered design

By following this process, you will end up with a solution that will come far closer to solving the customer’s actual problems in a way that feels intuitive and simple. And by giving your customers a great experience, you will experience all kinds of business benefits:

Human-centered design is all about removing your own personal biases so you can understand and focus on what customers truly need. I guarantee, you will be surprised at what they need. Think of it this way. If you’ve got a beloved classic sports car that needs repairs, are you going to take that 1968 Porsche 911 to a general mechanic or to the specialist who works exclusively foreign classic cars? The latter, of course, because you know you’ll get a better outcome. 

The same holds true with your customers — they want a solution that’s tailored to meet their specific needs, and unless you understand them, you won’t be able to give them the experience they desire. Simply put, data-driven, human-centered design is critical to creating a product that works, especially for digital-first consumers. 

If you’d like to learn more about implementing it within your own organization, contact us.

Digital Strategy | CX/UX Design

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