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Leadership interviews from
Arcadier’s Inspire Summit

Know Your Customer by Henry Tano

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As the Project Manager of Savant Degrees, an innovation studio which specialises in designing digital products that are attuned to clients’ business goals, Henry Tano is an expert when it comes to helping clients nail their products’ UIUX. Savant Degrees’ work traverses the fields of business, technology and design. The Singapore-based studio considers and combines the “business requirements, feasibility and usability of the technology through design” to create a user-friendly product.

Savant Degrees’ business philosophy can be best expressed through former Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say’s comments at the SPRING/PayPal/Coastes Launch, a project by the company. He said, “Technology shouldn’t dominate the customer experience or seek to replace staff. Rather, it should make the jobs of staff easier and more meaningful.” Savant Degrees strongly believes in “putting users before technology” and they do so through embracing design thinking, “a state of thinking and methods used to investigate poorly structured problems. It also helps greatly in coming up with innovative, human-centred solutions to overcome these problems.” Judging by the extensive list of clients Savant Degrees has worked with, such as Nike, Standard Chartered and MINDEF, their methodology has certainly paid off. In his Arcadier Inspire Summit talk, Henry gives us an insight on design thinking by sharing the five steps that the studio walks through with every client to let them know their customers better.

Identify and Create User Personas

Customers are one of the most important stakeholders of any company. According to Henry, “Knowing your users is important so that you can design and build your product according to who they are and their needs.” Yet many clients, in particular startups, are clueless about their target market. To rectify this, Henry suggests going for the age-old method of street interviews. Rather than asking your friends and family, look to strangers for unbiased information. When working on a project for a client which operates a shopping mall, Henry’s gutsy team even walked around the mall and asked shoppers about their shopping habits unabashedly. Henry says, “As entrepreneurs, you cannot afford to be shy. You need to talk to the people you are trying to target.”

After getting an idea of who your target customers are, it is time to move on to the next step – crafting personas for them. Henry advises that you strive to make your personas as specific as possible. Besides their basic traits, namely their name, role, location and key activities, step into the shoes of your persona and ponder about what makes or breaks their day and what they want to achieve. By making your persona as realistic as possible, you will be able to empathise with him/her better when you go through the subsequent steps. Additionally, having a detailed persona makes it easier for you to narrow down and validate your assumptions.

Shortlist Target Personas

During the first stage, you may have crafted numerous personas. However, as a startup with limited resources, you need to understand that you will only be able to target a particular niche. Select key personas that you want to focus on, especially early adopters, as they are likely to be the ones most receptive to using your product. Startups need to “define, realise and quickly validate” these early adopters, who will likely form a significant proportion of your customer base. Henry also reminds marketplace owners to consider both buyers and sellers when building their personas.   

Map out a User Experience Journey

Next, map out a day in the life of your target persona before, during and after using your product. These are the three critical stages in the user journey map. Jot down plausible actions that the users will take at each stage. Once again, be heavy-handed with the details. The primary logic behind plotting a user experience map is that it enables the assumptions that your team may have made unconsciously to arise. When creating a product, we inevitably make assumptions about how the user will interact with it. Nevertheless, Henry warns that it is imperative to distinguish these assumptions from facts.

Assign Feelings to Mapped Out Tasks

Assigning positive or negative feelings to the actions that you have identified in the previous stage will allow you to get closer to understanding your customer. Make sure to be honest and assign feelings based on the persona’s idiosyncrasies. Come up with some adjectives to describe the feelings that you think they will experience as well. Henry brought up an example of a client who thought of simulating a treasure hunt experience on his website by having his customers search for discount codes on the site. To the client, his idea seemed ingenious but to his target persona, a busy career woman juggling both work and two children, having to painstakingly trawl through the site to locate the discount codes was more of a burden than a joy. Contrary to the client’s intentions of engineering excitement through the hunt, the task achieved the opposite effect and made the user immensely frustrated. Though you may love your idea wholeheartedly, keep in mind that “you are not your own customer. Someone has to love your idea to pay for it.”

Target Peaks and Troughs and Create a Solution

Lastly, upon identifying the positive and negative feelings that a user will potentially experience when interacting with your product, target those peaks and troughs and formulate your solution. It is useful to draw a graph based on the user journey map to aid you in visualising the ups and downs. Pen some challenge statements along with those peaks and troughs but make sure to avoid falling into the trap of asking ambiguous questions. In Henry’s words, oftentimes “it’s not the solution that is the problem, it’s the poorly asked problem that is the problem.” Your goal then, is to ask specific questions and create a solution that will resolve user pain points as well as enhance the user’s positive feelings.

While undergoing these steps, you may have found that you were mistaken on some points and had to return to previous steps to correct them. Constructing the best possible user experience is an iterative process. It is only when you constantly find, prove and disprove your assumptions that you can steadily improve on your product and create an even better user experience.

Watch the full Arcadier Inspire Summit talk by Henry Tano here



Watch it right here.

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