The most important factor in the success of a new product or service is how the customers feel about it. Development teams need to have a clear view of what is important to customers in their industry and in general so they can create a product which meshes with these expectations.

Customer interviews and shadowing are good methods for finding out how customers feel about your existing products or prototype. But to get a feel for what customers want in broader sense, send your team out on a service safari.

The idea is for people to go out “into the wild” and record their impressions of various customer experiences. They can focus on experiences in your industry or they can look for any type of customer service interaction. Impressions can be recorded in a low-tech way, via pen and paper, or in a more hi-tech way, with video, Dictaphone or smartphone.

The goal is for employees to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and gain insights into what makes for positive and negative customer experiences.

As developers wander "the streets" looking for customer service experiences, they should pay special attention to these issues:

  • How many stages make up the service? Which stages are positive and which are not?
  • Who is involved in delivering the service? What does each person do?
  • What objects are used and interacted with?
  • What information are customers provided with? Is it sufficient?
  • How do the people involved in delivering the service contribute or detract from the experience?

John Lewis, a UK department store, is known for its excellent customer experience. If you sent your team into this store and asked them to record all aspects of customer service, they might come back with insights such as: salespeople and customer service representatives are truly invested in the success of the store, they are empowered to make decisions so issues can be solved quickly and simply, and they ask customers for their feedback and write it down. These insights could then be used for the product you are developing – your team could think about how to empower customer service personnel and make customers feel that you care about their opinions.

Firsthand research will always be more powerful than making assumptions about what customers want or relying on Big Data. Send your team out into the field and let them be the customers for a little while. They will come back with lots of great ideas on what works and what doesn’t. Like other methods of identifying customer wants and needs, this is a small investment which will pay off in the long run.

The data gathered can be analysed using the «Mapping of the user journey» method. Triode team has used this Design Thinking tool recently.  Make sure you use an appropriate tool to analyze the data otherwise you will lose the valuable information.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.