The Be Your Customer design method is a type of role-play or role-reversal technique where the designer or researcher acts out a scenario as a customer. The difference between this method and a regular role-play is that here the researcher enacts a situation specifically as a customer.
In a standard role-play or role-reversal, the researcher first observes the users or customers and then performs a scenario as the observed users or customers based on the character profiles defined during the observation activity. This is not necessarily the case in this method. For example, in Be Your Customer method, the designer or researcher performs a task which the customer is required to perform, make notes on how the performance of the task differs from the characteristics being simulated, the difficulties or challenges the designers faced during the simulation as well as note down design improvements that would make the customer’s life easier when performing the same task.
In UX, it really helps to put oneself in the customer’s shoes; for example, going through the entire signup or payment flow and experiencing issues as well as discovering pleasant surprises first-hand as a customer. Based on the experience, the researcher can reflect whether the designed customer journey is worthwhile to undergo. This also helps the researcher to develop empathy for the customer by getting into their mind to evaluate a scenario.
Being your customer can be applied to other domains as well, such as to test a product prototype or a service model. It can be helpful in evaluating the pros and cons of competing for product ideas or concepts to determine the winning value proposition that one would want to be delivered through a product. Therefore, this method is highly valuable in evaluating not only the features but also the steps or number of transactions or number of clicks that a customer needs to navigate in order to make a successful purchase.
This method is used to simulate what goes on in a customer’s mind when making a transaction but can be performed or can give insights for multiple customers and point out improvement areas with every performance. Therefore, the method is not as time-consuming as regular role-play or role-reversal methods. Additionally, Be Your Customer can be combined with surveys or interviews with the researchers, who that act as customers, to elicit insights that could get missed or skipped when the designer self-reflects on the customer journey and makes notes.
Advantages of Be Your Customer
As the method requires the designer or researcher to place themselves in the customer’s shoes, it is a human-centered or better yet customer-centered approach of looking at the scenarios.
Be Your Customer allows the designers or researchers to reflect on the customer journey they simulated or task they performed allowing a better and deeper understanding of issues and good experiences.
Thinking and looking at the world from the customer’s point of view also helps the researchers develop a great deal of empathy for the customer. Getting acquainted with the product prototype or service model as a customer is very different from using it as a researcher or designer. Empathy allows the researchers to understand the customer’s perspective and initiate improvements to the product that they would have otherwise been oblivious.
As mentioned earlier, Be Your Customer can be applied to both digitals as well as non-digital scenarios where either the researcher uses a prototype or evaluates a journey to complete a transaction that leads to a successful or failed purchase decision.
Disadvantages of Be Your Customer
01 Experienced researcher
The method calls for an experienced and mature researcher to play the role of a customer to cover ground in terms of a physical or digital flow.
02 Researcher bias
If the same researcher who designs a solution is the one performing an activity as a customer, then the exercise may not prove to be as insightful as a new researcher would bring to the table. This may be the case because the researcher would know in-depth about the product for which the research is being conducted. The researcher may have pre-existing biases because of which it may be difficult for them to extract new insights from this method.
Think Design recommendation
Be Your Customer is a very informal way of judging your design yourself, role-playing as a customer (not a user). When we say customer, we mean that some kind of transaction is involved… playing the role of the customer allows you to ask yourself “is the value worth the pain”? Designers usually have a natural tendency to empathize with customers; however, there are situations when they do get carried away.
Use this method during your concept or design stages to informally/ casually analyze your design for the value it is bringing to the customer.