Screens & Places: More Human, Less Digital

The intersection between digital, human and physical experiences

Empathy Exercise

We need to focus more on human interactions and less on digital technology. That might sound odd coming from someone who has preached digital for more than 20 years, but it’s all about finding the right balance.

Retailers like Hointer have almost completely removed the human element from shopping for a pair of jeans. Shoppers use their mobile device to select an item and then a robotic system in the warehouse picks the jeans and places them in a change room. After you try them on you can purchase them right there in the change room. Awesome, right!? The concept works for their brand, but for many, finding better ways to connect with your customers will involve a strong human component too.

Finding the right balance

We all know we are in the midst of the digital revolution. Businesses are turning to new digital technology to find better ways to connect with their customers and create internal efficiencies. One of our clients in the financial sector has been redesigning its retail banking experience. A big business challenge has been finding the right balance between the digital and human interactions within the physical environment and beyond.

We know that the average Canadian interacts with up to five digital touchpoints before purchasing a product or service (source AskingCanadians). However, most businesses are still not clearly defining the role of each touchpoint and how it plays into the total customer experience. And, often there is too much pressure on digital touchpoints to do it all.

Also, we spend a lot of time creating and building new touchpoints for our customers without really understanding how people think or feel during their path to purchase. The fact is we as human beings often have a difficult time empathizing with each other. On a recent episode of Conan, Louis C.K. sums up this point in a conversation about how smartphones are impacting human interactions.

Empathy Map

A simple exercise we use in our ideation workshops is the creation of an empathy map. An empathy map is a technique to look through the lens of a person, customer, employee or any stakeholder to better understand how they think, feel, listen, see and speak.

The exercise is simple. Before the workshop session, prepare a basic profile of the person you are trying to empathize with. Often we describe a day in the life of that person. Break into small teams of 4 to 5, and, using sticky notes, describe in words how that person feels, thinks, sees, hears, etc.  At the end of the session, each team presents their findings. The outcome is often an eye-opening, insightful, heartfelt and fun look at the very people your business is trying to serve. Film the presentations. People will often act out or take on the persona of the person you are trying to empathize with. In my experience, I have witnessed some of the most incredible presentations complete with tears and costumes that could compete with the best local theater productions.

We have found that this one little exercise will help your team see the world through the eyes of your customer and can spark innovative ideas to put more human into your digital experiences.

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