Customer experience planning fights your worst enemy: you.

The great thing about getting older is that you get quick at making decisions. Primarily because you’ve made your fair share of mistakes. And if you’re at least decent at what you do, you tap into that history of sometimes painful lessons to help you navigate around potential land mines. As a result, you get to be labeled as “wise”. Which is a term I like better than, “seasoned screw-up”.

But being the “wise” one can put you in dangerous territory. Your experience and intuition can result in bias that can unwittingly lead a team or a project down a wrong (and costly) path.

Design thinking to the rescue

User-centered design is a concept that has received a lot of attention. Recently I saw it framed as “design thinking”.

The concept is the same. It’s about a singular focus on the customer experience – understanding what the customer wants at each point of their journey – and then iterating to continuously improve the experience you are delivering. When thoughtfully practiced, it can help mitigate potentially dangerous bias.

It doesn’t matter what you think

That’s harsh. I know. If it’s any consolation, it doesn’t matter what I think either. The only thing that matters is what the customer thinks.

The sooner we get this into our heads the better. Because it will help us move beyond our biases and really understand what the person with the purchasing power wants.

3 tips to help you adopt design thinking

It’s nice to talk about all this theory, but you have to be able to put it into practice. Here are three ways you can validate intuition or move beyond bias so you know that you are on the right path to a relevant and meaningful customer experience.

  1. Practice empathy – put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Who are they? How do they think? How do they act? What must it feel like to deal with the frustrations or fears they’re facing? Go beyond what you think. Talk to the customers. Or at the very least, talk to your frontline people (they can tell you some stories about your customers). Spend some time in their shoes and you’ll get a very different perspective of the world.
  2. Recognize that you have a bias – your intuition may be right on the money at some point in time. This is the moment to be even more vigilant. Because you start can start to believe that you are a customer genius. That’s usually the time you get slapped upside the head with the realization that your bias just made you horribly misread a situation. Then you have to eat crow. And crow sucks.
  3. It’s not about being right – it’s rare that you will get the customer experience completely right. Even with great empathy and bias vigilance. Plus, here’s the kicker. Customers will change their behavior. Your best bet is to follow the pattern of iterate–learn–iterate. There is no destination. That’s why they call it a customer "journey”.