How to really listen to customers

in Usability testing

Usability professionals need to actively listen to customers. Staying attuned to what they are thinking, feeling, and doing is critical.

But it’s easy to be distracted when you’re with a customer – you might feel they’re not telling you anything new, or you’re feeling the pressure from a client who’s observing.

Three attitudes can help you stay attuned with each customer:

  • Bracketing – put aside preconceived notions about your customer, ideas about usability problems,  possible design solutions, and so on.
  • Reflection – paraphrase what the customer has said so that they feel you have really listened. For example, if the customer says, “It really makes me angry when the website keeps logging me out”, you could respond “Being automatically logged out angers you.”
  • Horizontalism – treat each observation or utterance with equal importance, trying not to over-interpret how meaningful or trivial it is. For now, just collect. Analyse later.

Staying attuned, reflecting back to customers what they have said, shows that you have understood them and encourages them to continue.


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