We have a tremendous opportunity before us—as companies and as industries—to not only solve problems for customers but also to do something just as important—to delight them with our products and services.
What’s the secret for making this possible? Staying focused on one of our most important resources: the customer. My fellow senior vice president in Oracle’s user experience design group, Jenny Lam, and I are working to create innovative, customer-focused processes known as a design culture. It’s an initiative that’s doubling down on what’s been a goal at Oracle for the past 41 years—giving customers tools they love to use.
Executives at every company say they’re focused on customers—and most of them are, to varying degrees. So, what makes the most customer-centric ones special? They’re better listeners. They start by gathering anonymized, quantitative data that shows how people are using their products and services. Usage data will tell them which features deliver the most value and which ones need to be improved because they don’t address actual problems or because they fall short in other ways.
Leaders also take advantage of qualitative listening. They speak with customers through focus groups, sitting with them as they use the company’s products, or via other direct communications—so company personnel can add insight and texture to the quantitative data.
Finally, the best listeners take a holistic view of user experience. They monitor all digital and physical touchpoints with customers—from sales, marketing, and support experiences to social media communications. By looking at every interaction the company has with customers, they see all the opportunities for either delighting or disappointing them. From there they can focus like a laser on how to make all future experiences great.
Whether your company delivers cloud services or makes widgets, it will benefit from a design that listens to customers’ problems and aspirations, as well as their unique preferences and needs, and then uses these insights to think creatively about how to address them. In design cultures, product managers, engineers, testers, senior executives, marketers, salespeople, support reps, writers, graphic designers, and user researchers all come together with the shared purpose of better serving customer needs.
Here’s a hypothetical example of how a customer-oriented design process can result in an exciting innovation for HR departments. The onboarding process is a critical step when bringing in new talent. How well it goes influences a new employee’s overall impression of the firm and may even determine how long he or she stays with the company. But imagine the typical first day: Instead of diving into the job, an individual often endures hours of “hurry up and wait,” spending valuable time with paperwork and specifying what computers and mobile devices are needed, provisioning email accounts, and working through other logistics.
Now imagine an employee interacting with a chatbot prior to the start date. Together they’d run through resource requirements and configuration preferences so everything is set up and the person feels welcome and appreciated from the start. Quantitative and qualitative listening at a technology company can be an essential resource for producing game-changing chatbots like this.
Companies that listen to customers and delight them with the help of design will distinguish themselves in an important way—they’ll beat the competition, today and tomorrow.
Hillel Cooperman is senior vice president for user experience design at Oracle.