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  • Writer's pictureJake Truemper

How Competitive is Your Organization’s Customer Experience Strategy?

Human-Centered Design Maturity Model

Delivering a solid product or service is no longer sufficient to ensure success. Customers are now demanding experiences that are engaging and emotionally satisfying. Most organizations believe that they provide a positive customer experience, but few realize how far they have left to go.

So how competitive is your organization’s customer experience strategy? Take the quiz below to assess your current human-centered maturity, or read further to learn more about the stages of Shift’s human-centered maturity model.

Inside-Out Graphic


This is the lowest level in the maturity model, representing businesses who have succumbed to their own paradigm of thinking, unaware of the customer need. As unlikely as it sounds, this is where the majority of companies fall. In trusting your own thinking, and not considering customer motivations, businesses often begin to think more about organizational efficiency, and less about advancing their product and service offerings, or exploring additional opportunities with customers.

If you fall in this category, it means that your business is highly at risk. Chances are you have competition that you may not even know of ready to take your market share. Whether that occurs through a startup like Netflix once was before dethroning Blockbuster, or if it happens through professional disruptors like Amazon and Google, you are in trouble.

This type of business will fail if behaviors are not altered immediately.

Aware Graphic


The “Aware” level is just barely above complete Inside-Out thinking, as it’s essentially self-delusion. You fall in the this category when you are aware of the importance of customer-centric thinking, but you don’t involve actual customers in your process. The result tends to be equally poor products and services, combined with a false sense of safety.

This is an easy trap to fall into, as stakeholders are often afraid to put unfinished product in front of users, or don’t want to commit the time or budget needed to truly begin operating “Outside-In.” Many vendors are also conflating the issue by claiming to have human-centered capability while performing no empathetic research. A recent Forrester survey showed that only one in four firms is even capable of performing simple ethnographic studies, a cornerstone of customer insights.

Businesses at this level are likely to have massive waste, and inconsistent successes.

Limited Graphic


The “Limited” level of the customer experience maturity model is the first truly “Outside-In” stage. In fact, this level of maturity is table stakes to even compete in most industries. At this stage your business recognizes the importance of customer experience, brings customers in for product assessments and even goes out into the field to gain customer insights.

These are all important and necessary activities, the problem, comes in however, when you recognize how isolated the teams that perform these activities are. There are two main ways businesses tend to isolate customer-centric thinking. One very common way is that a business will have a small Human-Centered Design team that is tucked away in their own organizational silo. These small teams are often only adopted by some project sponsors, leading to spotty application of human-centered principles. Another common way organizations isolate customer-centric thinking is in only applying human-centered methods to digital products, rather than the entire customer experience.

If your business is at this level of maturity, it’s a good start, but as companies have come to compete on experience, is rapidly becoming not good enough.

Embedded Graphic


At the “Embedded” level we’ve finally come to businesses that have a competitive advantage on experience. At this stage, customer-centricity is pervasive throughout an organization. No longer are human-centered methods isolated within small teams, but are practiced across the business. Rather than only applying customer-centric thinking to digital products, at this level we are also applying human-centered thinking in the crafting of services, including the human-to-human interactions that occur, the processes around those interactions, the physical environments, information flows, etc.

At this level human-centricity is also not just for customers, but for your employees. After all, how can you possibly expect to deliver on a great customer experience, if your workforce isn’t empowered to do so. By recognizing that you can’t have a perfect customer experience without building a healthy workforce experience, you’ll begin to be able to create organically healthy human-centered products and services.

At this level you will see much fewer wasted efforts, more innovative successes, and less risk of losing market share.


Finally, we come to the “Strategic” stage. At this level you are taking the positives from each of the “Limited” and “Embedded” stages, but are also applying human-centered methods much further up-stream in your corporate decisioning. No longer are business objectives based on the opinions of executives, but on true customer need.

This customer-driven process can help you craft your corporate vision, establish strategic objectives and alter budgeting decisions. At this stage you may be applying human-centered methods to craft a business model or inform expansion into adjacent fields.

By applying human-centered methods at this early stage you have created a human-centered organization at all levels, which has the organic health to grow substantially in the years to come.


Interested in learning more? Reach out to Shift to schedule a conversation, we’re always happy to chat.


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