How human-centered design can revolutionize the customer experience

Nov 30, 2023
Customer experience Digital transformation Customer experience

When it comes to standing out among the competition, companies are up against both well-resourced enterprises, nimble and scrappy startups and everything in between. To compete, many businesses are refocusing their efforts to win market share by providing a leading customer experience (CX). By focusing on providing a seamless, frictionless CX, these companies make it easier for customers to find and engage with them, then buy and repurchase.

However, companies seeking to improve CX can often fall into the trap of relying too heavily on quantitative data that describes the what of the customer experience, but not the why. As a result, they lack the insight to understand their customer’s true needs, motivations and desires, limiting their ability to make their customer experiences more intuitive or impactful in a way that will drive positive business outcomes.

The most effective way to create a winning customer experience is to put the customer at the center of every aspect of your business—everything from your product and services to your back-office processes and technology stack. By leveraging a human-centered design approach, your business can help ensure that your CX leverages a complete, genuine understanding of your customer’s needs, wants and emotions. 

How human-centered design enhances CX 

Human-centered design makes products, processes and solutions more relevant by combining quantitative data with qualitative research to uncover a deep understanding of the customer perspective. 

Starting with an understanding of what the customer wants instead of what the business wants, your company can then create solutions that deliver a deeper, more resonant and more engaging customer experience—which then drives the business outcome your company wants to accomplish in the first place. 

While it may sound like common sense—of course the customer should be at the center of CX—many businesses still rely on traditional, data-driven approaches when defining the customer journey. Because data is relatively easy to collect, analyze and understand, many companies are simply more comfortable using hard metrics instead of taking the time to dig into the complex emotions of people. However, it’s these emotions that ultimately drive purchases, and thus business performance—ignore them at your risk.

While every practitioner leverages their own framework, a human-centered design methodology generally follows a similar process. The RSM approach to human-centered design is a four-stage framework that enables our advisors to delve into the emotional needs of people and create more relevant solutions:


Our multidisciplinary team leverages detailed research, personal interviews with customers and firsthand observations of the complete customer journey to identify the true needs, motivations and challenges of the people you want to influence. 


Next, our team takes these learnings to generate clear user insights into the customer pain point to be solved.  


After the pain point is defined, our team engages in a structured, collaborative process of ideation, prototyping and concept validation to generate an effective solution.


Our team then works with the client to implement the solution, monitor progress and optimize the solution as needed to meet the evolving demands of the customer. 

Using this approach, our clients can tap into the genuine customer experience, going beyond superficial data indicators or solutions that are biased by the desire for a specific business outcome. Not only does this approach yield more personal and effective CX solutions, but the iterative process enables greater adaptability for the long-term relevance required to foster customer loyalty.

Understanding the human-centered design difference

Human-centered design differs from a traditional approach to improving CX in a few key ways. 

Using a traditional approach, a new initiative will often start with a business objective to be solved, with solutions designed to encourage customers to take actions that meet that objective. However, this approach fails to capture the full emotional and behavioral nuance of the customer interaction, and often leads to a one-size-fits-all solution rather than one that addresses individual customer pain points and desires. 

A human-centered design approach instead starts with the emotional motivator that is behind each user action. By understanding what drives a purchase, click, share or other customer action, businesses can then deliver new or better ways of making the customer experience more personalized and relevant. 

In addition, a traditional model often approaches CX in a vacuum. For example, a customer support function might focus on improving CX by reducing its call wait times by hiring more staff, implementing new training modules or purchasing a new technology platform. Using a human-centered design approach, a business might instead discover an opportunity to improve its product or solution so that a customer’s needs are satisfied, eliminating the need for a call in the first place. By taking a holistic, collaborative approach, human-centered design can more effectively uncover solutions that drive more sustainable business outcomes.  

Finally, a human-centered design approach prioritizes a rapid, iterative approach. By engaging in a continuous process of prototyping, validating and optimizing a solution, businesses can leverage the feedback loop to identify a more effective solution and evolve it along with changing customer expectations. 

Make the customer the center of CX

Embracing a human-centered design approach enables the total experience transformation required to make your CX resonate and stand apart. 

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