Including customers in the design process automatically helps seed the market through awareness and references. It provides insight to competitive differentiation, value propositions, and product messaging. And finally, it strengthens the brand loyalty of your product and your business.

You’ve made market intelligence a priority.  The team has been diligently speaking to customers.  Customer problems have emerged from interviews that fit your product strategy and vision.  You understand the competition and are seeing trends in where the industry is heading.  The big day has arrived – the product launch.  Anticipation is high as you have incorporated everything you heard into this release.  Thud!

 

How can this be?  You go through your mental checklist.  Your team interviewed customers?  Check.  They analyzed the industry and competition?  Check and check.  The team uncovered market problems that would differentiate your product, create value for the customer, and the product was designed to meet their specifications.  Check, check, and ch…wait, designed to meet their specifications?  Did the team do that?  What is the design process?

 

To learn more about customer experience design, click here.

 

Download the Design Validation Tool to identify your customer’s key problems and find existing alternatives to help fix any issues, and write down customer feedback on the proposed solution.

 

Unfortunately for many products, this is a common scenario.  You identify the right problem, but the result is not the right solution.  Assumptions are made as to what the customer wants and needs, and unfortunately the results miss the mark.  Then the finger pointing begins to identify who to blame for the failed launch.  You’ve been down this road and frankly, it gives you a headache. 

 

Let’s rewind and ask yourself three questions to achieve outstanding product designs and results:

 

  • What is the customer trying to achieve with this solution?

     

  • What is the pain the customer is feeling and trying to resolve?

     

  • How can you be sure?

     

Your Design Thinking Needs Analysis and Abstract Reasoning to Align with the Customer

 

Put another way, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes when designing your solutions.  Your market intelligence has told you what problems customers are experiencing.  However, oftentimes your team doesn’t dig further to align the solution to the problem.  You need additional analysis and abstract reasoning.  What does this actually mean?

 

Let’s start with analysis.  Hearing a problem in the market is only the first step.  You then analyze the impact of the market problem on the customer’s business.  Is the problem something they can solve themselves?  Can they create an alternative workaround that is “good enough”?  The analysis needs to be done to understand the impact of the problem on their business. 

 

You now perform abstract reasoning to translate the “why” into the “what”.  Or in other words it translates the problem into a solution the customer wants.  The problem must be addressed, and the customer must be willing to pay for your solution.  Many times, market problems are straightforward.  However, it is poor assumptions and over-engineering that can lead to irrelevant designs. 

 

To avoid this, you should follow this three-step process:

 

  1. Ensure you understand everything the customer described as the problem. Ideally, this will include their idea of what a solution looks like, but it’s not required.

     

  2. Brainstorm with the team reasons why the customer is having the problem. Identify what the customer ideal end state might be with the right solution. You need to be MECE, or Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive, in your thinking. To learn more about a MECE framework, click here.

     

  3. You now understand what the potential end state might be. It is time to define solutions that meet the customer’s needs. This does not have to be a drawn-out process that takes days or weeks. It should be focused on the problem and be comprehensive on potential solutions.

     

Your Design Should Reflect Your Empathy for the Customer

 

Empathy?  Yes, that’s right, empathy.  The ability to connect with your customer on an emotional level will reflect in your design.  To learn more about the impact of the emotional narrative, click here.  Your team heard the problem and has outlined one or more solutions.  But you can’t stop there. 

 

Challenge yourself and your team by asking the following five questions:

 

  1. Was the customer exasperated because of the problem?

     

  2. Was the customer at a loss for how to solve the problem?

     

  3. Was the problem negatively impacting the business?

     

  4. Did you discuss the problem with the customer, so they know you understood their frustration?

     

  5. Will your solution ease the pain for your customer?

     

You must be sure the customer’s pain has been addressed in your solution.  Knowing this is important as it gives you the green light to proceed. 

 

Your Design Must Be Validated by Customers

 

I realize saying this makes some of us uncomfortable.  What if the competition finds out what we’re doing?  What if the customer doesn’t like it?  The reality is competitors will find out, but they are already behind.  More importantly, discovering the customer doesn’t like the solution at this time is a win!  While you don’t like to hear it, learning at this stage saves significant time and money.  You can learn from this feedback to correct your design.  In addition, building on the emotional narrative, this also creates a sense of partnership with customers.  It let’s your customers know you’re listening to them and their feedback is important to you.

 

With increased complexity, to achieve the right level of validation, the following steps must be completed:

 

  1. Ensure the requirements have properly captured

     

  2. Share design concepts with customers for their opinions

     

  3. Review wireframes with customers and update based on feedback

     

  4. Develop prototypes and watch customers use them and capture feedback

     

  5. Iterate prototypes as needed to arrive at final solution

     

Working closely with customers to help drive your design throughout the process makes your products better.  It includes the most critical stakeholders in the design process – the customer – to increase success.  Additionally, it builds the foundation for a successful product launch.  Including customers in the design process automatically helps seed the market through awareness and references.  It provides insight to competitive differentiation, value propositions, and product messaging.  And finally, it strengthens the brand loyalty of your product and your business.

 

Download the Design Validation Tool to identify your customer’s key problems and find existing alternatives to help fix any issues, and write down customer feedback on the proposed solution.

 


 

Additional Resources

 

Schedule a working session at SBI’s Studio.

 

Located in Dallas, TX, our facility offers state-of-the-art meeting rooms, lounge, full-service bar, and a studio used to tape our TV shows. SBI provides the location and facilitators, all at a compelling price point.

 

As a guest of The Studio, you’ll get unlimited access to SBI’s CEO, Partners, and a handpicked team of experts. Together we’ll focus on developing an action plan for your needs by getting a month of work done in just eight hours. It’s an amplified experience that you can only get in one place: The Studio. I hope you join us.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stuart Gill

Combines his expertise at increasing product revenue with a proactive approach to talent acquisition and development.

Stuart brings extensive experience to various product management and project management roles with an emphasis on the software industry. He helped grow top line revenue to a variety of software products that were either built from the ground up or were acquired and grew to be market leaders in the US and then introduced to the European and Asia Pacific markets. He has also worked in various sales enablement positions, implementing different methodologies for onboarding and talent development.

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