Whenever someone asks me what I do, I struggle to find the right words. I usually avert glassy-eyed boredom or confusion by replying that my job is simply to make things on the web user-friendly. User Experience (UX) is an increasingly popular concept that most people can relate to. It’s critical, and it rightfully receives a lot of attention, but UX isn’t the only thing that falls to designers. While seemingly less glamorous, there’s a multitude of other important things that designers are tasked with.
Enter the unsung hero of product development: Customer Experience (CX). In a broad sense, it’s defined as the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. Recently forecasted as the next top differentiator, CX is increasingly important to customers.
From a design perspective, one critical aspect of CX should be how the actual client relationship fits into the design process. The TL;DR version of this is that if good UX is about people and for people, we can’t write off this group of them.
Not surprisingly, there can be apprehension about a client moving out of the “client zone,” from the traditional reviewer/approver role into a contributor/teammate role. It may be feared as a barrier to good work or as inviting too many cooks into the UX kitchen. However, a collaborative relationship with the right people on your client’s team can be a huge advantage for a designer. Here are some reasons why:
Your client is the expert on their business/service. They have a body of knowledge that goes beyond documentation and project briefs, which you will need in order to truly understand the problem you’re solving.
Similarly, they’re well versed in the industry or subject matter of the product. This is especially critical for products in industries that are prone to jargon and complex business rules, such as finance.
They have direct access to things like analytics, customer feedback, customer support interactions, and users, all of which are assets to a designer. An open client relationship helps build the bridge for a continuous stream of information, as opposed to a static set of data that is reviewed early on and then put aside until the next phase of work or the next redesign.
You’re more likely to find alignment on strategy. As you dig in, your team will learn new things, come up with ideas, build out a roadmap, etc. You may even discover that the best thing to do is to pivot from the initial proposal or concept. Unless they like surprises, you want your client to be a part of that journey.
Client involvement along the way means less time spent on documentation and education by you. That means more time for actual, meaningful work. Win-win.
By developing a partnership with your client, your team will get much further and will encounter less friction along the way. You’ll garner greater support if everyone feels connected to the work.
Of course, this partnership will look different for each team or product, and as with most things, there isn’t one correct way to do it. You’ll want to ensure you have a solid foundation of effective communication and clearly defined roles and expectations. Aside from regular daily or weekly interactions, there are several ways to start building a great CX:
- Start with a Workshop. This is a great opportunity to learn about your client’s business and industry, to work together, and to provide value and start defining the vision of the product.
- Run a Design Sprint. If the product vision isn’t clearly defined or you’re looking for a way to innovate and quickly test new ideas, you might want to try a design sprint. You’ll determine the key players on your client’s team and have the ability to work closely with them to find alignment and to solve a problem, from definition all the way through user testing.
- Conduct Stakeholder Interviews. It’s important to make sure your client feels heard, and it will only benefit you to make sure your team has captured the right feedback, concerns, and goals of the stakeholders. This is also a great way to develop rapport and open up communication.
- Hold Regular UX Reviews. If you have a transparent dynamic, you don’t have to wait until you have a polished deliverable to include the client. Sharing process work, user review or testing results, or early design concepts can be incredibly useful for validating assumptions and the overall direction of the work. It also helps to build trust and confidence. This practice gives your client a window into “the why” behind the decisions you’ve made and the effort and value you’re providing behind the scenes.
- Provide Company Updates. Dependent on the needs, this could take the form of a presentation, a slide deck, or even an email. The audience could range from C-level executives to lower level employees. The basic idea is to be proactive by demonstrating progress and status at a high level to ease any anxieties, answer questions, and build excitement.
What are some ways you include your client in your process? How has that impacted your team?
Tom Kulbytė (2017, August 2). 32 Customer Experience Statistics You Need to Know for 2017. https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/
Nancy Neumann (2017, June 2). Creating Alignment With Design Sprints.
Simon Sinek (2011). How Great Leaders Inspire Action. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action