Benefits of User-Centered Design
A customer experience is the holistic experience that customers perceive as they interact with every facet of a product or service. Individual experiences add up to form a concept, which becomes the product’s “brand.” If a user experiences poor technical support, or a sales person was rude, the user is likely to develop a negative perception of that product’s brand. In turn, the customer will likely tell his or her friends and family about his or her experience to discourage them from purchasing the product and having a similar negative experience. The same chain reaction happens with positive customer experiences. People love to share positive experiences with brands to convince friends and family to try a new product or service.
User-Centered Design improves the customer experience associated with a website or application. An understanding of the users’ needs and preferences with respect to a task, goals, or features of a product or service, becomes the set of user experience requirements. These requirements should be implemented throughout the entire customer experience – every “touchpoint” that the customer has with the company.
As an example, consider how you feel about Netflix, an online movie rental company. Your perception of Netflix is based on your experience using their website to perform tasks like searching for a movie, downloading a movie, putting a new movie in your queue, rating movies, re-arranging your queue, etc. In addition, the timeliness of movie delivery, the condition of the DVD that arrives in your mailbox, and the ease of returning the DVD to Netflix all add to your customer experience. If you have a problem and need to contact customer service, either online or over the phone, that is yet another opportunity for Netflix to implement user experience requirements, since your experience with the call center representative will further shape your perception of the brand.
Through your experience with each of these tasks, you develop a definition for the concept of “Netflix”. The user experience of all tasks associated with a brand, such as “Netflix,” must be designed to deliver consistent user expectations in order for consumers to form a stable concept of what the brand represents. Any fluctuation or experience of the contrary will dilute this mental concept, or “brand,” and take consumer trust with it. Identifying and implementing user experience requirements throughout every sensory experience of a website promotes a consistent, supportive customer experience and will encourage customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising as a result.
When re-designing the customer experience, it is a good idea to also evaluate how the change may affect employees of the organization. Conduct user research on employees from a variety of departments – not only the employees who have direct interactions with customers – as any change to the customer experience has the potential to impact all employees in an organization.
The level of employee productivity, with respect to a specific task or set of tasks, is often based on the tools that employees use to perform job-related tasks. In many cases, a software application or website is one of those tools. As employees use these tools to do their job, they develop a perception of each tool’s user experience and level of usability. For instance, as an employee looks up customer records or creates a sales transaction, the experience will have an impact on how they feel about their job, the company they work for, i.e., the brand they perceive, and ultimately, this will influence the way they treat other people, including co-workers, managers, and customers.