Is Your Customer Chair Green?

On our hangout Designing to Solve Consumer-driven Problems” last week, Beth Mercurio, shared that Symmons keeps a green chair in every conference room that represents the customer. The chair serves as a physical reminder to keep the customer in mind during every conversation. No one is allowed to sit in the chair, unless they are of course, the customer.

Does your company have a green chair? Does it have a way to ensure that the customer is always a part of the design conversation?

If not, keep reading. Last week’s hangout provided some interesting insights into why keeping the customer at the center will allow you to better understand the problems at hand.

Our panelists included:

UNITEDHEALTH GROUP (Optum) – Ed Boudrot, VP of Product Management

SYMMONS INDUSTRIES – Beth Mercurio, Director of Strategic Initiatives

CAPITAL FACTORY –  Michael Morton, Mentor

What Are Your Customer’s “Key Moments”?

Our conversations, given the topic at hand, centered around how to keep your customer at the forefront of your design process. With new and exciting technologies popping up, it’s easy to get excited by a gadget. But remember, designing products for technology sake will leave you with a less than desirable product. What you need is to keep the customer key moments in mind.

Key moments allow for you to focus on a customer’s pain point, and as Ed Boudrot of UnitedHealth Group points out, it allows to you implement technologies in meaningful ways. When management at UnitedHealth Group wanted to bring Google Glasses into the patient-doctor experience, Ed was game. But, he wanted to do so in a meaningful way.

After observing and talking with several doctors, the Optum team at UnitedHealth Group observed and heard about the “wasted moments,” specifically, when doctors were walking to see patients.

This was the moment for innovation. Ed’s group used the Google Glasses to help display upcoming patient information to the doctor as they walked to see each patient. The result was a more informed doctor who could then personalize the patient experience. A win all around.

In reiterating this story to our hangout participants, Ed reminded us that practitioners should ask themselves:

Who are you serving?

What is their journey?

What are the key moments?

How can we apply technology to the problem?

Then Beth of Symmons talked about understanding “who you serve” and probing deeply by asking open ended questions to delve further into the jobs-to-be-done. For example, ask “So tell me about your day?” which can then lead to what the person loves, does not love, what jobs they do that may cause anxiety or frustration. Then once you find the level of consistency across your customer base, the “aha” moment should bring you to ask yourself, “Is this something I can solve for?” This first discovery is a great place to start because you know the customer will see value in something you have heard from them that they need.

Iteration, It’s Not Just For Products.

Iteration, both on the product level and through research gives you an opportunity to constantly keep your customer at the center of your process. Beth uses ethnographic research to help gather customer feedback at each stage of the research process. You need to be open to iterating to ensure you have the best solution for your customer. She says, “Customization and personalization are becoming the cost of entry. You have to truly understand what is valuable to your customer…You must have enough interactions with the customer in their environment to understand how they will see value and how they want to experience things. The value needs to be super clear so they will buy your product or service.”

Ed of UnitedHealth Group reinforced that iterating is critical to success. Ed and Michael of Capital Factory agreed that you do need to be sure and plan for iterating because iterating can take time and resources that may not otherwise be accounted for. So setting up budgets and resources planning for iterating will help you to get the best product or service to the marketplace.

Do You Have a “Learner’s Mind”?

Ed reminded us to keep an open mind when solving a customer problem.  He said to be sure innovation teams are focused on the design statement, as opposed to one specific objective. This allows you to truly understand and see from a customer’s point of view.

He gave a great example using people who want to lose weight. He said “the first thing that may come to mind is to send them a scale to help solve the problem so they know if they are gaining weight. But we did ethnographic research and found out that people hate their scale. After deep synthesis and analysis, we uncovered that they wanted a coach.”

Beth reminded us to be sure companies are not talking to themselves. They must talk to the user, and do so repeatedly. She reinforced that customer journeys evolve as customers change s you need to have check ins. It is not one and done.

Michael of Capital Factory reminded us of the importance of iterating, testing, observing, too. Beth said that there will be more opportunities for disruptive innovation as the world becomes so much more technologically advanced. Yet even though we have moved to a more technologically driven world, we must keep our customer in the forefront when designing the next great product.

You just may need the green chair or “customer seat at the table” like Symmons has.

Listen in for more on our hangout  “Designing to Solve Consumer-driven Problems”.

Gretchen Hoffman

Posted By: 

Gretchen Hoffman

VP Marketing