Play 1 - Identify and Understand Your Customer

The word “customer” means different things to different people. Taking time to truly define who your customers are and what they need is an important first step.

Identify and Understand Your Customer

Identify Your Customer

Identifying and understanding your customer requires a combination of tactics, such as analyzing available data, conducting interviews, surveying, monitoring online ratings and reviews, and social listening.

Questions to Consider:

  • Who is your customer? 
  • Are they internal or external? Or both? 
  • What are the demographic factors that may affect how your customer interacts with your products and services (age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, occupation, location, life stage of your customer, etc.)? 
  • Is there a difference between your current customer base and your ideal customer base? If so, what are the differences?

Understand Your Customer

With your customers identified, you must get into their mindset and habits. It’s important to check your assumptions; talking directly with your customers is the best way to gain empathy and truly understand them.

Questions to Consider:

  • What are their goals?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What are their fears?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them?
  • What specific benefits are they seeking from you?
  • Who can they go to instead of you?
  • What are their current attitudes and beliefs?
  • How do they typically consume information?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • How did they originally find out about you?

Understand Service Design

Many components come together to form the end customer experience. While we may be working on a specific product or platform, we operate within the context of a larger service. Service design can help inform our design process by analyzing and documenting the broader context of our project.

It’s important to think of the “big picture” behind organizing resources to provide a positive customer experience. These resources—people, props, and processes, often called the “three Ps”— include digital platforms but extend beyond the scope of UI and UX. Service design plans and organizes these resources to optimize the assets and restrictions of a service.

Service DesignDesign based on the Nielsen Norman Group methodology.

Service design involves three layers relating to customer experience, which can be organized into a service blueprint. Between each layer are the “lines” of interaction and visibility. The line of interaction indicates the extent to which the customer can directly interact with the product or service through touchpoints. What happens beyond the line of interaction could be documented in detail on a journey map. The line of visibility indicates the parts of the service the customer can see but not directly interact with.

Relevant terms

Front stage:  This portion of resources encompasses the touchpoints in the user’s journey. Any websites, apps, help desks, or products the customer directly interacts with constitute the front stage.

Backstage:  This portion involves policies that govern a service, supporting technical infrastructure, platform architecture, and system design, all of which affect the customer experience but are not direct touchpoints for the end user.

Line of visibility: The separation between the front and backstage, or that which the end user can and cannot see and interact with.

Line of interaction: The separation between that which the customer can directly interact with as a touchpoint and that which they cannot.

Service Blueprint

REI’s service blueprint can help you in your journey; download below or in the Resources tab.

Note that this is a holistic view, and for agencies that typically operate in silos it is important to build a cohesive strategy through collaboration. Many organizations focus on just the props (e.g. an application or system) or have separate initiatives focused on processes or people. While creating a holistic strategy might seem daunting, the price of rework is more costly and excruciating. 

Service design often relies on assets like journey maps, modeling the interaction of a customer with touchpoints in the user journey, as well as service blueprints, designed to showcase both the customer’s journey as well as people, props, and processes with which the customer may not directly interact. 

Build Customer Personas

Personas are fictional characters that represent your different customer types. Building personas helps you get in the mindset and perspective of your specific customers so that you can design products, services, and systems to meet their exact needs. Gathering multiple personas gives you a reference for whether you are meeting the needs of all customers and can help with prioritization.

User Persona

REI’s persona template can help you in your journey; download below or in the Resources tab.

Map the Customer Journey

Mapping the customer journey can help you understand your current customer experience and identify roadblocks that need to be addressed. Note that there could be different customer journeys depending on the personas you identified. Create a visual depicting their entire journey from the initial touchpoint (or interaction) with your brand all the way through the end. When building the customer journey, be as detailed as possible.

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you consider the initial touchpoint?
  • Are there touchpoints before they become an official customer?
  • How do your customers find out about you?
  • What steps do they take along the way?
  • What systems or tools do they have to use during these steps??
  • What specific touchpoints do they have along the way?
  • What do they think, feel, or need at each of these touchpoints?
  • When do they drop off?
  • Do they come back again?

For new initiatives, the customer journey map allows you to design products, services, and systems that are holistic, seamless, and consistent; a fractured or siloed journey creates customer frustration that hurts the bottom line. For improving existing initiatives, the customer journey map can help you pinpoint specific problems and can facilitate discussion on which areas to prioritize when there are time or budget constraints. This allows you to focus your resources on addressing the most critical and impactful items and avoids long-term user frustration that might lead to losing your customer. 

Ideally, the customer journey map is a living document that is continuously reviewed and updated. The pace of technology and customer expectations is at an all-time high; organizations must continuously take “inventory” of their total experience to keep up with the pace.

Customer Journey Map

REI’s journey map can help you in your journey; download below or in the Resources tab.

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