Aug. 20, 2019 | InBrief

How human-centered design could transform your most dreaded experiences

How human-centered design could transform your most dreaded experiences

Think back to some of your most recent unpleasant experiences.

If you're a frequent traveler, you've probably found yourself, your luggage, and your backpack crammed into an airport bathroom stall with a broken door hook, balancing your items above a filthy floor and cursing the reason you're traveling, the airline, and yourself. Or perhaps last week you had a root canal and the bill came back charging you way more than expected—piling on to the physical pain you're already feeling. Or, you've been waiting at the DMV for hours waiting for your number to be called (and reading this blog post).

It's painful to even think about these experiences. Improving them is possible, but to design a good airport, DMV, or any other experience, you need to understand the needs of the humans on the other end.

Empathizing with your client or customer is what our Customer Experience consultants do best by using human-centered design.

What is Human-Centered Design?

Human-centered design is a way of working which puts people's needs and behaviors at the center of the design and delivery. At West Monroe, we use four principles—research, perspective, iteration, and feedback—each of which plays an important role in clarifying the context and personas for each experience before envisioning and testing a design. (READ: Using Customer Personas to Drive Human-Centered Design)

In applying human-centered design to the business traveler looking for comfort, we wanted to better understand business travelers' unmet needs and goals when using the airport as an example. So we asked our consulting colleagues (frequent business travelers) to tell us about their airport journey.

What we heard

Empathy begins by understanding our persona's (frequent business travelers) current behaviors and thoughts, as well as their major pain points and moments of truth.

  1. "I arrive 3 hours early because I never know what the TSA line will be like, especially on a Monday morning."

  2. "The boarding experience leaves much to be desired. I'm in Zone 1, but I'd much rather get on the plane toward the end, so I can take my time getting to the gate and sit in my aisle seat without getting up constantly to let others in my row."

  3. "When I land, I quickly rush to use the bathroom, refresh, and call a Lyft to get to my client site on time."

Design Ideas

Using the insights from our discovery, we iteratively devise and test future state ideas that could better meet our persona's needs and goals.

  1. Save Me Time Waiting for Security - what if my boarding pass could harness AI and real-time security line data to proactively notify me of the optimal time to arrive at the airport and which security line to head to?

  2. Optimized Boarding Fast Pass - what if boarding were optimized (back to front, window to aisle,) and I received a more exact and intentional boarding time or spot (à la Disney's Fast Pass)?

  3. Inform Me of Bathroom Occupancy Status - what if there were occupancy sensors to let me know while walking down the concourse that this is the least busy (or busiest) bathroom, so I could decide if this will be a quick restroom visit?

The unmet needs addressed above are clearly just for convenience. It would be nice to have these innovations in our airports but real problems exist globally. Uncovering essential human needs and solving a problem through their eyes could unleash the power of human-centered design to improve lives.

Human-centered design is critical to getting it right with your customer, partners, and employees. You should bring a human-centered approach to your strategy, design, and implementation projects to better meet the needs of your customers. Implementing change without taking this approach runs the risk of missing the opportunity to truly meet your customers' true needs and being perceived as simply "okay.". If you need help with human-centered design, reach out to us.


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