Perspective on the Human Experience Through Holistic Insights

Consumers, customers, or whatever else you call people you do business with are humans – meaning there’s more to them than a transactional behavior. And holistic insights can help us understand the human that our customer is.

“We need to start seeing each other as human beings again,” said Nikki Lavoie, EVP of Strategy and Innovation at Savanta, on an episode of the market research podcast “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “The moment we realize that you were someone’s baby and think that every person you bump into on the street was somebody’s baby, it changes my interaction with them. And if I think of this person who was super rude to me on the Metro, maybe they just lost their wife. So we really need to get back to humanizing each other.”

But how do we get to a holistic insights approach that keeps the human experience front and center? In this article, I discuss the following:

What is the human experience?

“Human experience is about that we go beyond thinking of people as users, customers or employees,” Nikki said. “Human experience considers some of the intersectional pieces of a person’s lived experiences.”

Take somebody’s interaction with a digital product. First, you likely look at what they are doing and then also need to look at why they are doing that specific action, including what other factors in their life currently are affecting them.

“Human experience integrates all the different whys,” Nikki said. “Human experience is also trying to understand what a person’s socio-economic status has to do with their impact when they are interacting with the user interface.”

The human experience has several layers.

For example, let’s say an app developer focuses on short-term engagement, which is going up. But the nonstop use of the app is driving users crazy over time.

“Now they throw the phone into the ocean and aren’t using your app at all,” Nikki said.

Understanding and valuing the human experience also keeps short-term goals and long-term impacts in perspective.

As Reggie Murphy, senior director, UX research at Zendesk, said, humans are complex and full of contradiction – another reason why it’s so important to look at the totality of their experiences.

“We say a lot of what we do, but when you look at what we actually do, it is often different,” he said, highlighting the importance of picking all the relevant research methods to get to the bottom of consumer behavior.

Read next: Human Connection: Why Customer Empathy Matters

What is the definition of holistic insights?

Holistic insights are about the overall experience involving a brand. That includes how customers interact with digital properties, customer service, and the employee experience.

It’s all intertwined, and the employee experience, for example, can impact the customer experience, Nikki explained.

“Holistic insights are about the triangulation between the different axes,” she said.

Ultimately, all those things – perception of the product and brand, personal experience, and even perception of employee experience and how that reflects on customers can impact the customer’s decision.

The traditional customer journey relates to how the customer makes decisions related to a company.

“But there’s so much before then and after that,” Nikki said. “Holistic insights are also talking about taking those things into consideration.”

Holistic insights also include the integration and impact of:

Even if a consumer no longer uses your product because they don’t need it, having a good perception of your product and company can still be helpful long term.

“You might have a higher NPS score, or they still refer you to friends,” Nikki said.

"If we only look at the consumer during the consideration set, we limit how much information we can collect."

Holistic insights help you understand what kind of impact you have on the consumer as a whole.

How to implement holistic insights

“We all know that if we could just crack the code to cross-functional, there would be greater learning,” Nikki said.

But different teams have different budgets, objectives, and ways to work. That can make that holistic approach difficult.

But it can be accomplished by working across an organization by:

“It would be easy for me to say, ‘Let’s just get everyone involved in insights around the table,'” Nikki said. “We all know that’s easier said than done. And even when you do that, it doesn’t necessarily present the solution.”

Try a company-wide scorecard

Come up with indexes and put the different goals and objectives into something resembling a company-wide scorecard, Nikki said. From there, the top priorities of the various departments should be viewed and measured against each other.

“It should inherently provide a more comprehensive roadmap,” she said.

Some of the needed information is likely already collected one way or another but needs to be analyzed and triangulated differently.

The need for ongoing research

And for what’s not yet known, Nikki recommends a mix of:

  • Foundational research – explores real human problems that hadn’t been researched.
  • Exploratory research – creates hypotheses versus testing them.
  • Ethnographic research – where researchers observe consumer behavior.

“There needs to be a company-wide commitment,” Nikki said. “The need is that we always need to understand how people’s behaviors are changing.”

And any company doing proactive research is likely to learn something. That something can be surprising and even be a game-changer for future product innovation.

“Even if you learned nothing,” Nikki added. “You learned that we are still on track. There’s no disruption that we need to be aware of.”

"Everyone who is a genius is probably observing all the time and then responds to the needs that they've identified."

Final thoughts

Understanding the totality of the human experience through holistic insights can help us understand our customers better and bring more value to their lives with our products – a goal worth going after.

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