Design Thinking brings in a new paradigm where the development team is in close touch with customers (or prospective customers) and most importantly end users of the applications. According to me, there are certain principles which have to be followed when we interact with the end users. These are principles which I derived from my experience in SAP for the last 11 years.
1. Customer interaction is required
Customer or end user interaction should be done with the right attitude. It is not a process step which has to set to "Done" but more a genuine way to get the real requirements from end users and develop software to meet those requirements. Meeting the end users with the right frame of mind is a key ingredient for the success of the Design Thinking process.
2. You represent the organization
When you meet end users from a different organization, it is very important to keep in mind that you represent the organization you work for. Right attitude and right temperament are the key to making an impression. Sometimes, the end users will not be very co-operative or friendly (because of many reasons) but it is always better to tackle the situation with a calm mind and avoid conflicts.
3. Take them out of their comfort zone
End users will most probably be comfortable with whatever tools or processes they are working with. Change is not easy and they know it as well. You might not get any meaningful insights if the end users feel that any issue they raise could possibly lead to a change. So it is important to bring the end user out of their comfort zone. It is posible to do this in a variety of ways - one possible way could be to introduce hypothetical but possible scenarios which cannot be handled by the current process or tools.
4. Balance between customer satisfaction and feasibility
Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal for any customer facing company. But in our zeal to satisfy customers, sometimes we bite more than what we can chew. It is always important to keep in mind the feasibility of the solution being proposed before making a commitment. It is in the best interest of both customers and the development team to have feasible commitments. Undelivered commitments can lead to more heartburns than communicated restrictions.
5. Be prepared
Preparation for a meeting looks very obvious but is mostly overlooked. The importance of preparation becomes much higher when we are meeting customer end users. From my experience, I have also seen that a well prepared meeting usually goes smooth and without any surprises. Preparation not only means the content of the meeting but also the meetings that happen before to set the agenda for the meeting. Planning to arrive at the meeting location (if it is not in the normal work premises) on time is also a component of preparation.
6. Be frank
Customers like a frank discussion. Whether it is about a product or about a specific feature of the product, it is always better to be frank and honest. If we are not honest, customers will anyway find out at a later point of time and it is definitely not a good situation to be in when we are asked questions about our earlier statements.
7. Be open to new ideas
Finally, keep an open mind. If we are in the development team, we tend to get very close and personal with our products and we tend to find an excuse or explanation for every issue or feature request which comes our way. Any feedback is good feedback and we should have an open mind when listening to end users. This will go a long way in keeping the communication open and getting valuable feedback.