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Improving Customer Relations with Empathic Design

  • by: Robin Johnston
  • On: 20, Dec 2017
5 min read

Instead of guessing what your customers want, there are several ways to get customer feedback and actually learn their wants and needs, and use them to improve your marketing efforts. Your restaurant or retail store might use comment cards, online surveys, or maybe you connect with customers on social media. You're probably familiar with the positives and negatives of these approaches. After all, feedback is a way to engage the customer and show them they're valued. However, implementing the feedback you receive into meaningful data is another idea story. Instead of traditional market research approaches, the empathic design method is a different way to tackle providing better service.

Another challenge for businesses is that the amount of competition out there requires innovation in addition to just pleasing customers. To innovate, restaurants and retailers must also tap into the customer wishes that they can't or don't articulate explicitly. These might be things customers don't share when giving feedback because they don't believe a company will ever adopt these ideas. Or sometimes the customer cannot ask for these solutions because they don't know the capabilities of an existing service. The goal is to find these hidden desires and create a way to offer them so that both the company and the client benefit.

What is Empathic Design?

Empathic design focuses on the client and employs observation to reveal latent desires or new solutions that help a product or service be used better. This is why it is important to pair customer observation with professionals who can innovate and understand the possibilities of a service or product. Essentially, this requires observation of consumers in real-life settings. This process uses visual information in addition to data to create new ideas. Another bonus is that it's a low-risk, low-cost way to try to new things. Even those in the service industry can find ways to utilize this form of innovation.

Finding New Approaches with Existing Content

This is low-cost and low-risk because empathic design is an exercise in finding new ways to think. Look at your existing systems to find new ways to serve customers or to appeal to them. Yes, innovating and better efficiency sounds good, but these aren't just buzzwords. These are simple yet sometimes hard to find solutions. Take one example.

Cheerios are perceieved as a breakfast cereal. However, interacting with real families with small children uncovered a different use for the food. They didn't use the cereal for breakfast but liked the snack potential offered by the food. It was easy to put the food in bags, to eat one by one and could be used anywhere. This kept small children busy while giving them something healthy to eat.

The makers of Cheerios didn't have to create a new product. Instead, they needed to recognize how the existing item was being used by analyzing customer behavior. This allowed for a better understanding of who uses their products and why. This showed them a demographic they should be marketing to, parents with toddlers, and showed them how to tailor their marketing efforts.

how to Use This Method

How do people in the service industry use empathic design? A restaurant might observe clients getting in and out of booths at their establishment to see who has trouble with this process and how they could help. Or, management might watch clients using the salad bar to look for areas to improve this service. Let's take a step back though.

You decide to observe your clients. What are you looking for? Who are you observing? This step involves getting into the mindset of your target audience and learning about their needs and wants. To do this, you need to know who your customers are. Finding your target audience is made simpler with the Analytics Dashboard from Bloom Intelligence. You can learn who visits your restaurant, when they visit and for how long, how much they typically spend and more.

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