Getting in your customer’s shoes with service design.

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On April 26th we celebrated Design Week PDX with a very Ruby presentation by our Chief Product and Technology Officer, Katharine Nester, and our Director of User Experience, Terri Haswell.

With a spark of inspiration—and classic Ruby flair—they revealed one of our secrets here at Ruby. We think it’s important to get “In Our Customer’s Shoes.”

It’s not really a secret, we’ve made “In Our Customer’s Shoes” our company-wide theme for 2017. We passionately believe that in order to really know the people you’re designing your product or service for, you need to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Simply put, it’s how we get to know our customers.

Walking in Their Shoes

Next time you see your customers in person, take a look at their shoes. Could you imagine walking in them—literally and figuratively? Is it easy? Hard? Why might they have chosen those shoes specifically?

In order to really know the people you’re designing for, you need to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. You need to feel empathy for them. It’s this curiosity and empathy that drives Ruby to deliver consistent WOW-worthy experiences for customers.

This attitude shouldn’t stop at customer service. The dedication to understanding your customers’ experiences extends its reach to everyone in your organization—from product and UX, to billing and finance.

Step 1: Act it Out

Getting to know your customers can be easier than you think. Start with what you know which is your relationship with them. How do you fit into their lives? Why and how do they need your service?
One effective way to get into your customer’s shoes is to roleplay. Have your team get up and act out scenarios that your customers may experience on a daily basis. It gives employees a visceral and literal understanding of your customer’s feelings, stresses, and experiences. It’s much easier to feel empathy for someone when you’ve had a small taste of what they might be going through.

This is a great place to start for two main reasons:

  1. Organizational buy-in. This is step 1 of moving your organization towards being more customer-centric because you’re exposing employees to a customer’s perspective in a meaningful way.
  2. Low investment. Acting out scenes is free, fun, and insightful. Don’t feel like you have time to plan? Don’t worry—it can be total improv!

Step 2: Ask Them

Who knows your customers best? Well, unless you have a psychic on your team, your customers know themselves best!

The next step is to reach out to them. Get to know them as people.

Think Vogue’s 73 questions, Inside the Actor’s Studio, or even the classic game of 20 questions. We use this interview method to learn about the challenges our customers face, what they feel passionate about, and what makes a good day good and a bad day bad. It helps us get to know them as people—not just customers.

Interview goals include:

  1. Gathering real insights directly from customers.
  2. Sharing insights with employees so the whole team gets a chance to walk in your customer’s shoes.

Step 3: Make it Actionable

And how does Ruby use all this information? Service design!
Service design is a collaborative approach used to identify what people, services, and systems are needed to deliver an experience focused on the steps in a customer’s journey.

In summary: service design is understanding that experiences don’t just happen—it’s all intentional.

There are many tools in Service Design. Our go-to service design tools are Journey Maps and Service Blueprints, which take all your prior insights and make them actionable.

  1. Journey Maps capture the end-to-end user journey, uncovering highs and lows in a customer’s journey to satisfying a need. This creates a narrative that allows you to see the experience from a customer’s perspective.
  2. Service Blueprints represent your strategy for figuring out all the people, processes, and systems that you need to support your customer’s desired journey.

Step 4: Diving into the Service Blueprint

A Service Blueprint is often broken up into three stages.

  1. Journey/Front Stage. This is what’s happening from the customer’s perspective. Think of it like acts in a play—the end-to-end path a customer takes towards a final objective.
  2. Backstage. This is where all the work happens that’s necessary to put on the play—imagine all the stage managers, audio engineers, and lighting technicians.
  3. Behind the Scenes. These are the actions and systems that are needed to put on the play that aren’t ever experienced directly by the customer. For example, the ticketing systems and playwriting.
Getting to Know your Custoemers Shoes with Service Design
A service blueprint in its entirety

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of starting a service blueprint, but it can be easier than you think. Start small and iterate to awesome by taking on small challenges over time.

The customer research, journey map, and service blueprint represent how everything comes together to create a cohesive customer experience. It’s the act of understanding your customers and applying that knowledge to improve your services.


Get into your customer’s shoes, use that empathy and insight with service design tools, and you will design and deliver exceptional, wow-worthy customer experiences.


Interested in learning more about what it means to get in your customer’s shoes? Check out some of our Ruby Resources!

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