Participation gets you closer to your customers

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Service Design highlights the importance of understanding your customers profoundly. How to get close and exactly how close the customers should be?

Emotional connection makes us feel closer to each other and creates a personal bond between two people. When you know someone, it is more likely that you feel empathy towards them even in a stressful situation. This positive reaction comes in handy when reading customer feedback or listening to criticism, true or not. It is no secret that customer feedback and responses involved have significant meaning in succeeding in business and creating long-lasting customer relations. However, confronting this opportunity with a stable positive attitude is a tricky goal, especially when confronted face to face with actual high-demanding customers.

The question remains how to create this personal bond and enhance empathy and positive emotions when dealing with complicated human interaction? Service Design offers multiple solutions to this challenge. In Service Design Workshops people are interacting face to face and discussing what is important to them and how they experience the service. If the interaction goes well, participants are likely to share their worldviews and inspire others to share alike. They encounter a moment of group bonding with feelings of empathy, closeness, and importance.

Participatory Design vs. Service Design

Service Design Workshops are often facilitated by Service Designers who are in charge of communicating the results to stakeholders in a precise but usable manner. This common premise may be effective regarding finding the key points of service experience but doesn’t create true closeness between the stakeholders and the customers. A more effective way could be to participate in the group work in person and interact with the actual customers.

Being part of the customer group bond as one of the participants is an odd feeling to any business executive or salesperson. Customers know their service often better than the people inside the business organization.  They claim ownership to things not owned by them simply because they use these services frequently. It may not be a fair set-up but one that allows the customer to be the king. Customers may even want to make decisions then and there about how service should look like or what service features should be included in the future.

Listening to these suggestions without prejudice and understanding why customers are suggesting precisely these changes creates the magic. Understanding the why is always a business of looking, listening, and opening up. With real people, not just written feedback, it is easier to be present to others ideas, worldviews, and experiences. Valuing customers makes the business succeed and here’s an opportunity to appreciate them in person.

Make decisions a people matter

Customers eagerness to transform themselves to decision-making machines in the context of Service Design is nothing to be afraid of but to applaud.  Your customers are so excited about your business that they want to get involved and make it their personal, meaningful experience. This voice of customers, their togetherness means no less than a superb business advantage. Let them be heard, then, and be close to the core of business decisions and strategy.

The blogger, Heini Oikkonen-Kerman, works as a Senior Service Designer in Application Services Finland, Digital Customer Experience.

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