Creating great customer experiences in today’s world of multiple touchpoints and heightened customer expectations is increasingly difficult. In our data-driven world, we’re led to believe that we can understand the diversity of our customers’ experiences through quantitative data—biometrics being one form—but this is only part of the picture. Behind every click, swipe, and tap is a human being with unique needs, perspectives, emotions, reactions, and expectations. Biometric data can’t tell you why a customer chose to swipe here or tap more lightly or experience delight or frustrations. Biometrics are currently used to complement and provide more depth around data collected using existing UX research methods to provide deeper insight into how people interact with products or digital experiences. By pairing what people say and do—the qualitative data—and also measuring how their body is reacting to an experience, the thought is that we’ll better understand what people intended to do but didn’t; what they’re unable to articulate with words; and how they feel, to get a truer sense of what the interaction is like for them. For instance, eye tracking helps us to see what people are actually looking at—and for how long—as a means of measuring attention. Online marketers might use eye tracking to understand people’s reactions to different colors for banner ads as a means of selecting a color which will draw attention most effectively and offer the more enjoyable experience. Sometimes people will say something (qual data) but make a facial expression (quant or biometric data) that doesn’t match with the sentiment they’re expressing—they might say, “I understand the label here” slowly, but also might frown in confusion. Noting that mismatch in the pace of speech, facial expression, behavior, and words can direct attention to areas of opportunity for designers to create a more seamless experience. What’s more, Galvanic Skin Response (a measure of the electrical changes detected on the skin that represent the intensity of a person’s emotional state) can also be used in concert with heart rate monitoring to gauge emotional arousal and stress. Marketers might want to understand how people feel as they’re purchasing items online by collecting this quant data in tandem with eye tracking, screen capture, facial expressions, and voice recording to create a more holistic understanding of the experience. Identifying and targeting moments of stress, engagement, and surprise can help retailers to reduce friction and optimize the shopping experience. We’re just scratching the surface around what biometric data means, what good data is, and where it is appropriate to use it. However, to improve the customer experience across the entire customer journey, I recommend a pairing of quantitative biometric data with qualitative customer research. Only then can we capture both what a customer is doing and feeling, and the why behind every customer reaction.
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Lija is a Customer Experience Consultant at UserTesting. When she's not helping UserTesting customers understand the wide variety of topic areas they can cover using the platform, she teaches a usability research methods class to undergraduates at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.