With the hurdles that 2020 delivered, how does a customer-focused approach adapt where there is strength in conviction and the ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with others?
Let’s look at what it means to understand others in context of what we produce and sell.
2020 has certainly represented a year that has been far from calm. Jenny Lewis, senior UX consultant says, “Products have been rushed to market, websites have been adapted for e-commerce and services have changed to cater for a different society. How UX relates to the wider world is how what is delivered has to be relevant. For instance, the high street has been in decline way before 2020. Products and services have to have meaning to people. What we need today, is different from what was created for people decades ago.”
The ability to evaluate as we move into 2021 is something that Emma Jones, UX researcher, sees as an important trait. Emma states, “The reason delivery has been rushed for many in 2020 is because businesses had no choice, the switch to online was swift for many. More than anything else, it became a way to survive. I believe that it is important to continually assess and evaluate. We can’t rest on our laurels. Being customer-focused is going to be more important than ever. The spaces that we have built, we need people to come back, again and again.”
Being Customer Focused Is Not A Term
But what does it mean to be customer-focused? Ali Carmichael, Experience UX, MD, recognises that it is not a definition, but a gut understanding, rather than an approach driven by the head.
Ali says, “People can explain from a practical level, but not necessarily understand what customer service is. An emphasis on customer focus looks great in a business plan, used during meetings and championed on social media. It is easy for it to become a convenience to businesses and the way that they look at the world, but not necessarily their customer’s perspective. This is why it is an ethos and not a definition.
“Until companies make that step to understand their customers, in the context of what they sell to them, can they then translate how to shape the products and services that can help them.”
Advice For 2021
When it comes to understanding the people in front of you, what advice would the team give?
Emma says, “Many businesses rely on quantitative data (such as customer surveys or online questionnaires), but sometimes the results may not be true, such as sharing what someone else wants to hear or completing whilst in a rush. Behavioural research allows you to spend time with others to see what they think and do. As an example, we have been working with a hospice on their new website design, but the conversations are leading to how the overall service can be modified to change people’s lives.
“When you get to know people intimately, you uncover so many different aspects related to service delivery. Businesses cannot forget when you spend time with your customers, there is so much that can be uncovered from a strategic and tactical level.”
Jenny acknowledges the impact of 2020 will revert to people championing the familiar. “There has been so much negativity, that in periods of stress people refer to nostalgia. Professor Constantine Sedikides (Professor of Social and Personality Psychology within Psychology Department at University of Southampton), recognised the importance of nostalgia as a powerful tool to battle stressful periods in our lives. The ability to look back with fondness can improve how we look at tomorrow.”
“When putting this in the context of UX research and testing, people don’t want to be bombarded with messages that feel alien to them and difficult interpretation. Cycles happen, such as companies who relied on pop-ups on their websites, but we got to a point where trends become oversaturated and businesses stopped the over-reliance on pop-ups being directly in your face and look to be more subtle. My advice is to champion familiarity and shun following the competition. You don’t have to be the quickest to market, the trendiest or the flashiest website, what you produce has to be right for others and for you.”
Who Will Be The Winners?
Understanding customers and users come down to the objective to want to make an impact.
Emma champions the ability to listen. “What we find from our research and results can sometimes be difficult for businesses to hear. Many businesses expect people to behave a certain way, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If a team can listen and be able able to step away from their own assumptions, this is where real change can happen.”
The future belongs to those who want to create a better experience for others. Strength and conviction might not be being led by the past, but by tuning into what customers want.
Understanding the role that we all play for others, where complexity and bias are swapped for understanding and respect is where companies will succeed. It all comes back to the customers we understand and serve. This has never changed, but as we move towards a new year, it is vital to the longevity of business success.