Why Spending Time With Your Customers is The Big Aha of Design Thinking
May 31, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

Why Spending Time With Your Customers is The Big Aha of Design ThinkingExperiencePoint facilitators host hundreds of design thinking workshops, seminars and brainstorming sessions where they see clients experience countless aha moments, get inspired by great ideas, and identify hidden problems that lead to better product, service and experience design. Here is one of those stories.

When a new client comes to ExperiencePoint, their leaders often insist that they engage with customers all the time because they conduct customer surveys and host the occasional focus group. This is not customer engagement.

Design thinking only works when teams spend time observing how customers operate and interact with a company’s products or services so that they can develop empathy for the customer experience. It is only through this deep observation that truly customer-centric and innovative ideas can emerge.

When our clients shift the way they think about customer engagement and spend quality time with the people they are trying to serve, they almost always identify compelling new ways to make their products, services and experiences better so they can win the continued loyalty of their customers.

That was exactly what happened when ExperiencePoint worked with a team from an international transportation, casting and high-precision manufacturing company based in Europe. The company is known for its industrial piping and manufacturing equipment, and the culture of product design is highly structured. This approach has worked for a long time with the company regularly exceeding its profit and revenue goals.

So why do they need design thinking? Because the company’s leaders recognized that to remain competitive, they had to be more adaptable and customer-centric. So they put more than a thousand of their global leaders through the ExperienceInnovation learning program.

Work-Arounds on The Factory Floor

The workshops were eye-opening for participants who started to rethink their approach to product design and how they could better meet customer demands. That caused many of them to start visiting the factories where customers were using their products so they could fully engage and empathize with users.

On one of these tours, a group of designers saw that workers had duct-taped small cardboard boxes over the “automatic off” switch on one of their machines. When they asked why, the workers said people kept bumping into the switch and shutting the machine down.

The switch was placed prominently on the front of the machine so users had easy access to it, but it hadn’t occurred to designers that the placement would be a problem. The customer never complained about the switch, and they felt the cardboard box was a fine solution. But the designers saw it as an opportunity to make the machine better. They took that realization back to their team and with a simple redesign fixed the issue. Workers no longer had to worry about accidentally turning off the machines and causing inefficiencies, and the design-fix alleviated the issue from happening with any future customers as well.

The hardest part about solving this kind of design problem is figuring out that it exists and the only way to do that is to spend time with the customers while they actually use the product.

People find work-arounds for minor product design flaws all the time. They may never complain about it, but if you consistently spend time identifying and solving customer pain points, you will make their lives easier and cause them to appreciate you even more.

This is what customer-centricity is all about.


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