How designing for your people before customers creates magic

When it comes to improving products and services and launching new initiatives, it’s a multi-disciplinary effort. However, there are people who aren’t (effectively) engaged until it’s too late. They’re the people on the front line. The people who directly interact with customers. The people who can actually make or break a new launch/initiative, at times.

Front line engagement

The staff on the front line need to be engaged early in the process and be full armed to deliver great experiences. Engage them to help shape the solution, through understanding them, understanding their needs and what success looks like in their roles. What do they need to achieve? What are their limitations? What are the work arounds they cleverly construct?

Projects that have the capacity to engage the front line specialists early in the development cycle are much better placed to achieve the goals set out. There are too many examples of when this hasn’t happened.

Imagine the dent in staff engagement when the new branch design means staff who sit in a branch need to use their own personal heaters under their desks because the back room isn’t warm enough (despite OHS policy stating they’re not permitted to do so!). How would you feel being put under pressure to achieve ambitious KPIs when the working conditions don’t cater to your basic needs?

How would you feel if customers are given a couple of virtual reality headsets to play with in store when there’s no budget to buy a decent notepad?

Let’s remember such customer experiences are not delivered by robots (at least yet). Has your team engaged with these staff members? To what extent is the team empathetic about their environment?

Always on

And to what extent does your team understand that in this ‘always on’ world, any under par interaction can be called out and published in social media for anyone to see?

Imagine being given a script to follow that remains within the parameters of some tight policy and your response is then published on Facebook by an irate customer. All it can take is a few lines that don’t feel authentic for someone to be called out publicly. This is the new reality of being on the front line. Burying phone numbers in the depths of websites and not returning calls within a reasonable timeframe exacerbate these situations.

Leverage their value

Fortunately, when we do hang out with the front line, they’re elated we’re taking the time to listen to them, see the things they have to deal with, hear their concerns, feel the limitations and sense the success moments. What we’re always surprised by is their passion, their energy and sheer tenacity and eagerness to do the best thing for customers… they’re true customer champions.

Beyond buddy sessions in the stores or call centres, these conversations can also be future focused. Their enthusiasm and knowledge can be put to great use in the creation of journey maps, ideation, prototyping and testing. Then, after going live or shipping, give them the opportunity to provide more feedback (importantly through a communication channel that suits them) to fine-tune some more.

Even one conversation can help avoid a fundamental problem with a launch or iteration of a design or process. This is beyond the benefit of simply engaging them, making them feel like an important part of the broader team.

There should be transparent relationships, where all parties appreciate the goals and constraints of each other’s roles. This the best foundation for designing the optimum solution within the boundaries of business possibility.