There’s always too little customer understanding - this is how you can increase yours

The importance of customer experience is emphasized in today's business environment, yet, it's not an easy task. Here's how you can improve your customer insights.

I recently had a conversation with a photographer who runs a one-person company. Thet said they wanted to improve their service process and wanted a better understanding of the customers. Even though the company is small and the connection with customers is direct, the photographer still felt that they had a poor understanding of clients' needs. What does the customer really need at each stage of their customer relationship? With what digital means could a photographer help his client get a better customer experience, and at the same time improve his own work and business?

The importance of customer experience is emphasized the larger the company. The effects on turnover can be significant if, for example, the website is not clear and pleasant to use. Customers are quick to change to a competitor's website, and take their money with them.

Why is customer understanding so important?

So it's worth listening to the customer, even if it's not always easy in practice. In a large company, the end customer can be very far from those who manage and develop the business. A service designer can help the company to include from the beginning also people who deal closely with end customers on a daily basis, such as sales and customer service representatives. They provide information on, among other things, what kind of things customers ask about and what kind of things they struggle with.

End customers are also worth involving directly: they are definitely the best experts in the user experience of your product or service. The company's employees are often too close to their own work that it's hard to see what kind of experience the end customer will have. It is often impossible for a designer designing a service to understand all the nuances of the service from the customer's point of view. The customer, on the other hand, does not think about the boundary conditions of the business or the technical solutions required by the service, so it is easiest for them to objectively assess what kind of service to use. How does it work? How is it actually used? How does it make the user feel?

The customer experience and service path often consist of very small pieces. Can the answer to the customer's question be found in the FAQ sections, does the customer receive a reminder email about their appointment, is there a link to the user's calendar in the email, can the customer find the company's pages and contents easily with a search engine? Today, the service experience often consists of a combination of the physical world and digital solutions. In this case, it is even more important to involve customers so that the company can form a true picture of the customer experience - and improve it.

Where to start increasing customer understanding?

Almost all companies collect customer feedback in some way, so it's a good place to start. Customer understanding is often deepened by interviewing end customers or users. The customer can also be observed in practice while using the service. Various surveys on websites are a common way to gather information about customers' needs and the challenges they face. Also, from site analytics and usability studies performed on the site, a ton of valuable information can be collected.

In the best case, customers participate in workshops together with company representatives. Workshops are often very fruitful when service providers and users sit at the same table to discuss. The service designer prepares the workshop so that different points of view are heard in the discussion and the discussion is smooth.

It is worth asking customers for their opinions even after the initial phase of product creation. Prototype testing is critical so that a service with big problems for the user is not put into production. After the publication, it is worth carrying out various surveys on the site in order to get direct feedback about the new service.

It can sometimes be difficult to reach end customers or users and get them involved in the development of the service. Customer relationships can be sensitive, especially when it comes to potential new customers. The service designer can help here as well and think about the best way to contact potential interviewees or observers on a case-by-case basis. It is often worth giving customers a small gift for participating. Often, however, customers are satisfied that their opinions are heard and are quite motivated to participate in improving the service.

In the case of a photographer, it is not difficult to reach the end customer, as they themselves deal with them on a daily basis. So a service designer is not necessarily needed in a one-man company, but the photographer has to take the initiative. The key to gaining customer understanding and understanding the needs of the different stages of the customer path is ultimately the same for them as it is for any larger company: the customer. The photographer - and anyone developing the company's business - should therefore start asking the customer, either by themselves or with the help of a service designer, how they could be of better help, and how the customer perceives the current state of the service. Information may sometimes be painful, but it is also a requirement for development.

Heini Kaasinen
Service Designer

Curious and emphatic service designer who makes sure that the end-users voice gets heard.

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