Simo Säde // May 11 2016

How to dive into the life of an individual understanding the ”experience” in customer experience?

Simo Säde

Principal Consultant, Service Design & UX



”The fact that they sent you to talk with us directly like this is a very welcome development. So far, they have dictated everything, like in the Soviet Union.”
-Public sector official about a neighbour organization. Female, 44 years.

There are tons of attemps to define and operationalize customer experience and user experience. Professionals have argued about those for years. It´s evident that customer experience is not about things like choosing the right CRM system, re-organising your sales channels, or remembering to run the yearly satisfaction survey. It’s about real people, what they think, do, and feel.

Thoughts and feelings … ? Don’t worry, you can figure out the intangible through qualitative design research.

Every Touchpoint Counts for User and Customer

Let´s set the scene. User experience is what the user experiences before, during and after using your product or service. If the user is a customer, it can be called a customer experience. User experience is the totality of user’s perceptions as she interacts with the service. It is born and develops further in every touchpoint along the user journey. So it is related to every issue that the user comes across on the journey – whether it’s physical, digital, mental, or social. It may be a tiny detail or the wholeness of the service.

”It is so good that this service offers so much info in one place. Things that you normally first guess, then google, and then guess again.”
-Pensioner on a web service concept. Female, 75 years.

A positive experience may be a pleasant surprise or a negative friction taken away. The creation of it is a two-way thing. The user herself is an active builder of the experience through her own actions. It is also heavily influenced by her earlier experiences and attitude.

The Glory of Face-to-Face

To manage something you need to be able to measure it. Therefore you need in-depth understanding about the users. To get that, there’s nothing more powerful than talking to a person face-to-face. Good old observation and interview, ethnography, or action research.

To understand past experiences and to envisage future ones, focus on
• User’s life, activities, and thinking
• Past experiences. Good ones and bad ones. In general and in relation to the specific service in question
• User’s future needs and future desires (not the same thing)
• Getting feedback on your future concept ideas
• User’s physical, social, and technological context
• All the subtle issues you can read between the lines, when talking with somenone. Things that even the user herself is not aware of.

“The kids leave by 6.45 and after that my husband would wake up at 7 and he would freshen up and I give him water and prepare tea. Then both of us read newspaper and the highlight at this point is having a chit-chat and sharing your views with each other. This is a bonding time with each other. Sometimes we have clashes. My husband talks about what he wants and that is what just has to be done, he doesn’t want to listen to my point of view.”
-Housewife on day-in-life. Female, 30 years.

User research activities not only help you gather information for practical decision making but also provide understanding on the intangible, most interesting stuff, like perceptions and experiences.

Bridging the Gap Between User Insight and Service Development

User research gives a plenty of insight for service or product designers. These experiental elements that can be made visible when interacting with someone in person need to be cherished all along the design and development process. But please remember, there´s a risk of loosing that vision. For keeping the user perspective alive, there are a few important things:

• Research and design need to work in collaboration in discovery and in design. With each other and with users
• To squeeze the valuable insight out from the vast amount of data you need to do a proper qualitative analysis.
• The information gathering activities, the analysis work, and the design efforts all require using visualizations for capturing, modelling, and representing the experiences. Only that way all stakeholders can communicate. Make it concrete, make it real.

“Too much information feels bad, you loose the control… it gets out of hand at some point. New guys, they have all the VTS reporting points and so forth, but as I’ve done this for years, I have only the depth curves and the vessel being towed.”
-Tug boat captain about new technology. Male, 37 years.

Take It Through, All the Way

To sum it up, there needs to be an experiental continuum from the discovery phase, through design and implementation, to use. All this means that you need to have a clear decision that outstanding customer experience is truly valued and it is a goal worth achieving. And for doing that, you need to build the tools and processes, set the targets and measure it – also the actual ‘experience’ in customer experience.

Face-to-Face – thoughts and feelings – are the core. Go and listen the user.

The citations are authentic user quotes from several projects.


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