Do you know what your customers are looking for in a good customer experience? They want your services to be informative, helpful, accessible, easy, and timely. Do you think that your customers would give you a 5-star rating on every account? If not, a human-centered design (HCD) might be in order, and we can attribute much of that to the recent pandemic.
COVID-19 threw nearly every business into utter turmoil within days. Businesses across the globe had to quickly adjust and adapt as a matter of survival. At the same time, customer expectations changed. Such dramatic shifts call for an innovative approach to working with customers—a more human and empathetic one.
Businesses of every size had to step up their game plans for digital transformation to quickly make major adjustments in their business models. Unlike past business philosophies that started with how to generate more revenue, the human-centered design process focuses on the customer’s needs. From analyzing every step of the customer journey to creating the most useful products and developing new workflows, human-centered design focuses on humans who interact with your brand every day.
In light of these issues, we’re explaining human-centered design, its benefits for your small business, and why it’s so important for a good customer experience.
What Is Human-Centered Design?
Various researchers and philosophers contributed to the concept of human-centered design. Notably, a design theorist named Horst Rittel. Horst was particularly interested in what he coined as “wicked problems”. These were defined as problems that were difficult or impossible to solve. He determined that design thinking was the answer to solving complex problems. With the state of the world post-pandemic, it’s clear that the rapid and evolving changes in the marketplace today qualify as “wicked problems”.
So what exactly is human-centered design? It’s more of a mindset than a distinct action plan.
In a nutshell, human-centered design for business is a process for problem-solving that starts with understanding what your customers need and arrives at a place where innovative solutions address their needs. One source defines it this way, “Human-centered design thinking is equal parts mindset, strategy, and tactical approach, that when adopted and applied consistently, can deliver transformative business results.”
In the context of small businesses, the human-centered design approach homes in on your customers’ problems. It considers their motivation and how that translates to what they need from your company. That’s just half of it. The rest involves inviting customers and allowing them to be a part of the process before prototyping solutions and analyzing results.
The human-centered design process is important because your relationship with your customers isn’t what it used to be. In recognizing that, it’s appropriate to explore a more human-centered approach to delivering a good customer experience and how digital transformation can give you a big boost in the right direction.
Why Is Human-Centered Design Important?
Customer behavior and expectations are changing rapidly. Businesses in virtually every industry are experiencing lots of massive shifts. Change might make most people uneasy, but it provides opportunities to see things from a different perspective.
As a small business owner, you have to stay on top of consumer behavior trends if you want to remain competitive. You have to do more than read about them, analyze them, and talk about them during a conference call. It requires taking action—the kind of action that places your customers’ needs first and adapts to meet their expectations.
Today, innovation requires leveraging digital tools and relying more heavily on digital processes. The need for social distancing, and other health and safety measures, has prompted companies to switch to digital solutions either partially or fully. What’s more, your customers also expect to interact with your company via digital tools and channels.
Customers still want to hear from you—perhaps even more so than ever before. When interacting with your brand, it’s important to acknowledge that your customers come from a different emotional place than before. The pandemic has caused people to become more empathetic and altruistic and it’s created a heightened sense of community in recent months. Across the board, people now express greater concern about health, safety, and physical needs for themselves and others.
It’s up to your company to fulfill those needs by adapting your tools and workflows to meet your customers where they’re at. Simply put, by not meeting your customers’ needs and expectations, you’re likely to lose them to your competition. One survey says that 89% of companies will be primarily competing on the customer experience, and that’s up from 58% a few years prior.
10 Benefits of a Human-Centered Design for Your Business
By taking a human-centered design approach, your customers get big benefits, and so does your business.
Check out these 10 benefits that your business can look forward to after you change your design:
1. Sales and support reps will be more accessible to your customers.
2. Sales and support reps will be able to customize solutions, personalize interactions, and strengthen your relationship with customers—all of which lead to a better customer experience.
3. You’ll better understand the needs of your customers.
4. You’ll increase brand loyalty.
5. Customer retention will increase.
6. Your business will gain a competitive edge and be positioned as a leader within your industry.
7. Teams will fix problems at the root rather than just fixing the symptoms.
8. Sales and profit margins will increase.
9. You’ll learn more about the products and services customers want and what they’re willing to pay for them.
10. Leveraging automation will help you reduce errors and risks.
Improving Your Customer Experience with Human-Centered Design
By now, you’re probably thinking, That all sounds great, but how does it work? You could think about human-centered design the same way that a business designs its waiting room. Waiting rooms are generally painted in relaxing neutral colors. The chairs are comfy, and colorful magazines are strewn about. A sign-in sheet tells employees that you’re waiting, and if you’re in luck, there’s a hot pot of coffee within reach. By design, it’s intended to calm nerves and make the wait more enjoyable.
It works similarly within your call center. You’re dealing with real people with real needs, and they’re looking for reassurance that you’ll take care of them.
What Your Customers Are Looking For
The right attention when they need it
Protection from harm or problems
When expectations are met or exceeded
What they don’t want is a rushed experience where they feel like one in a batch of thousands.
Elements That Prevent You From Being Customer-Centric
Manual tools and processes
Tools that don’t sync or automatically share data
When talent doesn’t respond empathetically
Failing to digitize your processes
It’s not just a matter of using digital tools or responding to customers with more empathy. It’s using digital tools to design sales and customer support services that result in a seamless customer experience.
Why Business Is Human-Centered
People are one of your most important commodities. Machines and software programs are handy for doing repetitive tasks, but there’s no substitute for a human voice capable of responding to a customer’s needs. That takes human skill that current algorithms can’t match.
First, let’s talk about the “human” component of human-centered design. People are individuals. They have their own objectives and opinions and they’re looking for specific outcomes. The right digital tools help you to understand all those things about your customers, and they help you connect the customer’s objectives to the outcomes they expect.
Next, let’s factor in the “centered” component. The “center” refers to the starting place, which is your customers’ needs. The business and technology aspects of the customer experience are next in line, right behind the people and their needs.
To work with a human-centered design, you have to fix the problems in your business that prevent you from genuinely satisfying your customers’ expectations. That’s not just the task of your leaders or your sales and support teams. For a human-centered approach to work, you need to develop the same mindset company-wide and engrain it into your company’s culture. You can do that successfully with the aid of digital transformation, which will create lasting value for success.
Creating the Right Human-Centered Design Framework
Now, let’s turn to how to use digital tools and processes to create the right human-centered framework for your sales or support teams. With the help of your CRM, you already have some data about your customers. You need tools to help you build on that data and analyze how to leverage it to improve the customer journey.
We’ve got some great tips to help you:
Use a cloud phone system with dashboard analytics to evaluate calls, analyze customer interactions, and map the customer journey.
Leverage cloud phone system features to respond more quickly to customer calls to cut down on wait times and callbacks.
Leverage automation to learn even more about your customers with voice calling features like call logging, call recording, call transcription, and insight cards.
Implement sales automation software to generate quality leads and expedite them through the sales funnel.
Use software that enables multiple communication channels such as text, messaging, email, and phone.
Leverage digital tools to assess the productivity of your sales and support teams.
Implement automated survey software to gather customer feedback and gauge satisfaction.
Set up virtual teams to leverage the best talent to serve customers better, as many people will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.
Human-Centered Design Methods
If you think of the role of a designer, they take the lead on vision and creativity. It takes a team of other people to bring it to life. Your IT staff, sales leaders, support leaders, team members, and even your customers all have valuable input for switching gears to human-centered design culture.
IDEO.org came up with a human-centered design methodology that includes three phases—ideation, inspiration, and implementation—and packaged it into a design kit. Here’s a snapshot of what the phases look like.
The ideation phase is an inquisitive phase. It’s the time to ask lots of questions, interview people (including your customers), and explore what changes you want to make. This is the time to put all your hopes, dreams, and aspirations on the table.
What is your biggest design challenge? How can you set up a design that aligns with your business goals, including improving the user experience? Start brainstorming and write it all down. What is the context of the design and what are your constraints? Finally, determine whether you need to reframe the original design challenge.
For the inspiration phase, create a journey map and outline how it will create positive change. Gather lots of information about how to bring it to life. Look for commonalities among the ideas and group similar ideas. Sort out which ideas to keep and which to remove. Create the main concept from all the ideas. Bring it to life by acting it out or creating a storyboard. Don’t forget to incorporate feedback from your customers into the journey map.
Define how you will measure success. What metrics and KPIs will help you reach your goals? Your roadmap will determine where you’re going. More importantly, it shows when you’ll get there. With Aircall, your phone system dashboard provides analytics to help you measure progress.
Beyond your help desk or CRM, what partnerships do you need (cloud-phone system, software integrations)? Evaluate them and implement them. Try out a live prototype and run a pilot or do A/B testing. Use digital tools to optimize your plan and adapt it for scale.
After implementing human-centered design, the challenge is to keep adapting and innovating. There’s no way to know for certain how the marketplace will evolve in the future and what impact it will have on your customers’ expectations. What you can count on is that by making the switch to digital transformation, you’ll have the design, flexibility, and agility to reliably carry you through changes as they evolve.
Published on February 22, 2023.