The COVID-19 crisis has had a considerable effect on the lives of everyone around the globe. And as we have changed how we work, shop, socialise and relax, business leaders have been tasked with developing new strategies and solutions. To help rethink businesses and make rapid changes, many trends have been accelerated, among them, remote working, digital transformation and human-centred design.
The question now, of course, is which new customer behaviours and habits will persist. What are the implications for the long-term viability of new business strategies? As we live in a world that has little precedent, how can we assess needs, build and test solutions and adapt our businesses to recover sustainably?
How Our Businesses Have Changed
The COVID-19 pandemic has first and foremost changed human behaviour. We have been required to distance ourselves, to live under new rules and to work remotely. As a result, businesses have had to make real-time decisions in order to adapt and respond. But, while we have faced significant challenges, we have also had an opportunity to improve, to shift focus and, in some cases, to completely redefine business strategy. We have had to build in extra lines of communication and focus on relating, empathising and listening to those around us, seeking new ways of engaging and retaining workplace culture. It has allowed us to be more flexible, adapting traditional processes, systems and services.
However, now that our businesses have begun to stabilise, we are facing the next set of challenges. The question is how much of this new behaviour will stick and how that will impact the long-term viability of our businesses. And, there is no point of reference, there are no previous insights or long-term analyses we can turn to.
The Importance of Understanding Your Customers
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to review the data and truths we thought we knew about our customers. We have had to consider how we capture the customer experience in a way that allows us to respond rapidly in times of crisis. And digital channels are a prime route to understanding our customers and, ultimately, to improving service delivery.
By understanding our customers, we can rationalise and justify our efforts and initiatives. During the pandemic, this meant providing insights in the most efficient ways to channel customers to relevant resources. All of our customers are on their own journey in their own point in time. And this has been highlighted during the past year. By trying to understand the background, that they all may connect with a website or app simultaneously, but with different needs, we have a chance of building the responsive and personalised content and experience required.
The Use of Human-Centred Design in Uncertain Times
The COVID-19 crisis has affected the way we work, the way we interact, our expectations of services and our outlook of the world. Some of our new behaviours will revert to the old ones, and some habits are bound to become engrained. Our businesses need to understand evolving customer needs and create offerings that will allow them to recover in the short term and thrive in the long term. Human-centred design puts people, the customer, at the heart of the process of creating solutions. This means listening to people, observing their behaviour and, ultimately, having a better understanding of what they need or what. And, in turn, this leads to the development of products, processes and services that are better suited to those needs.
Making huge business changes at speed was no doubt challenging. However, even amidst a crisis, the human-centred approach has allowed businesses to better understand the new needs of their customers, let go of old ways of doing things and create bold solutions that have delighted users. Consider how airlines quickly reconfigured their planes to move more cargo, how clothing companies diversified to creating face masks and how universities rapidly switched to online learning. And, when it comes to designing apps, a human-centred approach allows us to structure information architecture in the way that best serves customers, and it encourages us to test services in meaningful ways.
However, we need to use human-centred design not just in a responsive way to determine what our customers need now, but in an anticipatory way to try to cater for what they need in the future. A human-centred approach encourages continual testing and iteration, which allows solutions to evolve alongside customer needs.
How Can You Rethink Your Next Project?
Amidst a time of change, where friction and frustration are rife, comes ground for innovation. In the aftermath of people feeling out of control, we have an opportunity to improve the human experience. We have a chance to see opportunities for improvement and to build solutions.
A human-centred design process can help you to establish new business ideas, innovations and solutions with confidence. The ultimate goal is to understand the problems that your customers, employees and partners face and to explore novel solutions in order to solve them. Moreover, by putting the user at the heart of your next design project, you can mitigate uncertainty, fear and discomfort. Instead, you have an opportunity to create delight and to make something that actually makes a difference to their lives.
Ultimately, with a human-centred approach to your next project, you will be able to build a solution that facilitates greater productivity, flexibility and resilience, whatever the world throws at us.
In summary, here is how human-centred design can help your business build more sustainable solutions:
- You’ll understand your customers – by putting the user at the heart of your next design project, you will have a much deeper understanding of their needs. You will be forced to ask deep and meaningful questions and to come up with solutions based on the answers to those questions.
- You’ll be solving a real problem – it’s easy to think you have the right answer and to build a solution that you think will impress. However, it will only work if you’re solving the core user problem. By fully understanding customer needs, you will work on creating a solution to the real problem they’re facing.
- You will build with confidence – by creating something that solves a real problem and then continually testing the solution with your users, you will have much more confidence in what you are building and will save time and money in the process.
- You will improve the lives of your users – creating something that actually makes the world a better place for its users makes a huge difference to not only those users but to your bottom line.