Is your organization extracting great insights from data analytics yet not achieving better outcomes? Maybe the human-element is missing …

Amid a two-year period of pandemic-induced digital transformation, organizations are apparently “drowning in data.”

Yet, according to two C-level executives of a “video-first human insight” firm, UserTesting, data alone cannot help leaders truly understand and empathize with customers.

For the latter to happen, organizations need to step beyond standard business metrics and infuse real human insight into every business decision and customer experience. They also need to do the following:

  • Learn how organizations can be obsessed with data but still remain disconnected from their customers—and understand why that is not sustainable
  • Find out how to capture human insight through experience testing; including how to find the right people, ask the right questions, and make sense of and act on all the insights uncovered
  • Study detailed playbooks of top brands’ approach to collect and scale human insight across many different functional teams in their organizations
  • Learn how to evangelize the power of human insight throughout their organizations, so every department can share a firsthand understanding of customer needs and create a culture of customer empathy

Human insight explained

According to the firm,  the world has access to more data than ever before. But analytics only tell us what people do; it does not explain why they do it, or what they are feeling. That is where human insight comes in.

Human insight is the process of understanding your customer by listening and observing with empathy. It enables organizations to connect the dots between what people think, feel, say and do.

Traditionally, human insight was acquired through market research, interviews, and focus groups, a process that can take weeks to months.

Today, modern teams need to get the empathy that comes with human insight in real time, and apply it to every business decision. Human insight makes an organization more customer savvy and helps it to create compelling customer experiences.

Evangelizing human insights

The ideas proposed here originate from the firm’s two chief evangelists: their CEO and Chief Insights Officer.

CEO, Andy MacMillan, UserTesting

According to CEO Andy MacMillan: “A massive chasm is growing between companies and their customers—made only wider by the disintermediation caused by digital transformation and the inability of traditional methods for gathering customer perspectives to keep up with the speed and scale of today’s business.” MacMillan believes that the “tried-and-true best practices” his firm has acquired can help anyone in any department “gather rich, viable human insight, so they can deliver better products, services, and experiences—and achieve greater business success.”

Chief Insights Officer, Estes Janelle, UserTesting

Noted MacMillan’s Chief Insights Officer, Estes Janelle: “No amount of data will take you inside your customers’ heads, help you see the world through their eyes, or let you experience what it’s really like to be your own customer,” so organizations need to tap not only data insights, but also human insights to “capture and apply the customer perspective at scale throughout their organizations.”

Putting human insights into practice

According to the firm’s website, merging data insights with human insights can be put into practice via four stages:

  1. Understanding customers as human, not data points
    — Know the current state of the ‘experience economy’
    — Know why and how human insight can power great experiences
  2. Plan customer-centric actions with human insight
    — Match a ‘User Test’ approach to the insights you wish to gain
    — Get access to the perspectives that matter
    — Capture & Analyze: sifting through the noise to ‘find the signal’
    —Take action on the gain human insight: decide where and how to apply
  3. Fit the identified human insight(s) into the business with a Playbook
    — Use insightful product development to create products people love
    — Use playbook strategies to get inside the heads of your customers
    — Create and optimize a ‘Holistic Customer Journey’ throughout the business
  4. Applying human insight at scale through a culture shift
    — Using a bottom up approach via a ‘Grassroots Movement’
    — Simultaneous top down approach: executives need to support and model change

This broad framework is supposed to empower both individual contributors and executives to adopt an approachable, pragmatic method for stepping beyond standard business metrics and infusing real human insight into every business decision and customer experience.

International organizations such as Microsoft, American Automobile Association and Notre Dame’s IDEA Center have been cited by the firm as real-world case studies of being able to “solidly connect with and elicit meaningful feedback from customers in friendlier, faster, and more direct ways.”

Industry comments

According to comments solicited from people who have learned to appreciate the importance of human insight via User Testing, even as data insights and analytics technologies gain momentum, organizations must never forget what matters most.

One Chief Customer Officer said: “While no business leader in their right mind would say that their company doesn’t prioritize their customers, many consumers feel misunderstood and unvalued.” This disconnect shows that organizations may not really know what their customers actually experience in spite of their off-the-shelf one-size-fits-all policies and plans.

Another comment came from a CEO who noted that It’s easy for companies to get distracted or overcomplicate how to have a real and empathetic understanding of customers,” and need to put the human element back into focus.

Finally, a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship commented that “the real magic to designing truly customer-centered products is less about understanding what people do, and much more about why they do it,” implying that the right tools, methodologies and mindset can help organizations “uncover the why behind the what.”