How to avoid pitfalls when becoming more customer centric

Nathalie Meuleman

Reading time
5 min read

Jun 17, 2021

As we are rapidly transforming into a service economy, more and more organisations are putting ‘customer centricity’ at the top of their priority list.
In service design, customer centricity is one of the five basic principles. As service designers, there are four pitfalls we encounter helping our clients becoming more customer centric. Here are a few tricks to avoid them.

Pitfall 1: Missing crucial information about your customer. “My digital dashboard shows me everything I need to know about my customer”

When you want to put your customer in the center, it’s important to really get to know him. What makes your customer tick? A pitfall is that we often don’t know the right things. We are too focussed on numbers and tend to miss context.

The solution is to complement with more qualitative data, by getting out of the building and actually talk to your customers, face to face. Quantitative research is about counting: it can expose or validate customer pains, but gives little direction on how to resolve them. Qualitative research is about understanding: it helps gaining insight in the ‘why’. Explorative research methods like context mapping use generative assignments, that help capture latent needs. This type of data is more about inspiration than it is about validation. It can help you find the real problems from which you can start designing.




“The trick to truly customer centred way of working, is to continuously involve your customer.”

Pitfall 2: Forgetting about the customer insights after your research. “This decision is supported by our our user research from 2010.”

We all understand that customer centricity is about listening to our customers. A common mistake is that we set out to do some customer research, we interpret the data and then go on with our daily business. Every now and then, we highlight one of the participants’ quotes, but only to support an argument. Moreover, as the context of customers is changing rapidly, so are their needs. That means that customer insights of several years ago can prove to be outdated. Using outdated insights can send the organisation down a path of creating solutions for customer needs that have already been solved or changed throughout the years.

The trick to truly customer centered way of working, is to continuously involve your customer. A second basic principle of service design is co-creation. The best way to develop a truly customer centric proposition, is to do it with them. Made a decision or new design based on customer insights? Check with your customer if you did it right. Do they have suggestions? Their feedback will directly give you new insights to work with.

Pitfall 3: The customer journey as the end result. “Yes, we’re customer centred; look at our customer journey”

Customer centricity is a mindset. For a lot of companies, it is difficult to get out of the ‘inside-out’ mentality. As service design gains more territory, buzzwords like customer journeys or personas also seem to pop up at companies’ wish lists. This is a good first step, as long as you use them right. Many of the methods from a service designer’s toolkit are used to empathise with customers. A persona is a tool to get yourself into his or her shoes. A customer journey helps to understand (the context of) his or her service experience. If the posters are up on the wall, it doesn’t mean you’re done though.

My advice: always think of the customer journey as a means, not as a goal in itself. Think ahead about what you are going to use it for. You may use it to choose your next focus for innovation, to solve customer pains or to design the ideal flow on your website. It is a powerful tool, but use it wisely. Reserve time and money in advance, so your team can start the implementation after the customer journey is finished.




“If the posters are up on the wall, it doesn’t mean you’re done. Always think of the customer journey as a means, not as a goal in itself.”

Pitfall 4: The lack of focus when optimising from the customer journey. “We decided to relieve every single customer pain with new innovations.”

The customer journey is a useful tool to optimise or redesign your products and/or service delivery. The power of the tool is in the holistic view: it considers the entire experience (consisting of many different phases and activities) as a whole and incorporates the customer’s context. The backside of this complete view is that it is difficult to choose where to start innovating. A pitfall is a lack of the right focus, for example by going into too much detail trying to solve every single customer pain across the entire experience. This will take a lot of time and will eventually leave you either overwhelmed or ending up not solving any of the pains quite properly.

Fortunately, there are things that can help you choose focus and prioritize. At Koos Service design, we use experience drivers. This is a set of drivers that’s based on your brand strategy. Experience drivers can make the difference between the customer experience of RyanAir and Emirates, even though they’re both getting a passenger from A to B. Taking these drivers as a guideline will help you to choose the insights that are interesting for you and leave out the things that don’t suit you as a brand or as a company.

In conclusion, the key to becoming customer centred is to get out of the building and listen to your customer on a regular basis. Use methods that are designed to continuously look at your product or service from a customer perspective and always prioritise your next steps based on experience drivers.

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