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Designing for People

Release Date: November 10, 2020 • Episode #141

Customer experience is about people: your customers or clients, your employees and colleagues, your business partners – people make the experience. So, it goes without saying that designing any experience should include the perspective of those involved, and human-centered design can help inform that process. Host Steve Walker welcomes Seth Fritz, the manager of the Design Futures team at the Delta Faucets Company, for a discussion on human-centered design.

Seth Fritz

Seth Fritz
Delta Faucets
Connect with Seth

Highlights

What is “human-centered design”?

“Human centered design to me is is designing for how people live and work and explore life in a human centered design, is taking everything into account not only the beauty of an object, but the functionality of an object, the interaction with that object. And then it can even as go as far as to when that object reaches the end of its life, then what effect does it have? So at Delta, we think about all that from a human centered design perspective.”

Getting feedback

“One of the cornerstones of how we approach design is getting feedback from people that actually interact with our products. So I can talk about human centered design all I want, but if we don’t get feedback, if we’re not gathering data, if we’re not looking at video, if we’re not asking tough questions, if we’re not constantly evaluating how our products and people’s homes, not only from how they’re interacting with the product, but is it easy to install if you had any problems, was it easy to reach out to us and connect with us? And when you’re talking to somebody on the phone or through our website were they helpful, were the instructions given back to you to help solve your problems simple? And that’s something that the design team pays attention to.

Transcript

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Steve:
Companies today are always looking for that unique "something" in their customer experience that helps them stand apart from the competition, but they don't always know how to find it.

Seth:
When I discovered that the CX professionals in inside our building could give me data, could give me information to make me a better designer and a better creative, that's when I unlocked an entire new part of my career.

Steve:
Designing the customer experience from a human centered perspective on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast. And thank you for listening on The CX Leader Podcast. We explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. If there's anything you have learned from our previous 140 episodes of The CX Leader Podcast, it should be that customer experience is about people, your customers or clients, your employees and colleagues, your business partners: people make the experience. So it goes without saying that designing any experience should include the perspective of those involved and human centered design can help inform that process. My guest today has quite a bit of experience in human centered design. Seth Fritz is the manager of the Design Features Team at the Delta Faucets Company, one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of residential and commercial forces. Seth, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast.

Seth:
Hey, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to chat.

Steve:
Well, you know what? I'm delighted to have you on here, because design thinking is something that is really coming into customer experience. And I think I'm particularly fascinated with Delta. Actually. A couple stories: my daughter worked at an ad agency and so she was on the Brizo account. Then, you know, I've also been kind of fascinated the way that marketers have turned sort of like housewares into a fashion industry.

Seth:
Oh, yeah.

Steve:
You know, and and so I think this this whole concept of design thinking coming from somebody that actually makes products can really inform our customer experience. So, hey, thanks for coming on and be willing to do the podcast.

Seth:
Yeah, I appreciate that. Any time I get to talk about design and our approach to design and how it can affect people in their homes, know I'm happy to do it, why not?

Steve:
Just for the benefit of our listeners, give us just a little background on on your background and how you kind of got into this as a career.

Seth:
So I've been at Delta Faucet for almost 20 years now, so I was very fortunate to be a part of a program that it's a co-op program. So I did two years while I was in college, but while I was studying industrial design at Purdue University.

Steve:
Boiler up!

Seth:
Yeah, yeah. Boiler Up is right.

Steve:
2-0. When's that happened before?

Seth:
I know in that. Look at that go Big Ten. What a great start to the year! Early my career at Delta Force that I was involved in the co-op program. It really got me involved in the corporate environment, in true design for the real world, which is the difference for me between the educational route and then actually working. And what it did is it made me realize how people truly live. You know, at the center of what we do at Delta is paying attention to how people interact with everything in their lives, you know, not just water for us it's, you know, their commute to work or now lack of commute to work or, you know, how they got their morning routines, their evening routines. And I was very fortunate to be… For my eyes to be opened up to that very early in my career.

Steve:
So you do come at it from a design, more of a technical or I guess even artistic perspective than sort of more of the analytical or engineering side?

Seth:
Yeah, and I think that the beauty of industrial design is that's a little bit of both.

Steve:
Yeah, it is. It has to work, right?

Seth:
Yeah. Produced program is centered on product design, so it's a little bit of art, a little bit of science. So the programs in the liberal arts school. So you study a lot of art, art history, art principles, foundational principles of art. But then you work very closely with it, designing for manufacturing, designing for ergonomics, designing for, you know, interacting with products. So for me, it's how my brain is wired. And I realized that early on in my life that, you know, my brain was wired a little bit like a Rube Goldberg machine where it's complex and artistic, but fun and creative. Problem solving is at the center of everything, I think. And my parents encouraged that in me when I was very young and encouraged me to go to creative problem solve on my own and discover things. And it's at the root of what we do at Delta. And, you know, it's it's I was very fortunate to find Delta so early in my career because it's a perfect fit for how my brain works and where my passion lies.

Steve:
You know, I actually I'm one of the few people on Earth that knows I have very little in terms of artistic talent or taste. I'm totally wired the other way. I'm I'm huge like a data. I'm spatial. So I have such admiration for people that can actually, you know, like I can see something. I say, hey, that looks nice or that. And look nice, but I couldn't, like, come up with it, but one thing I learned early on, and it really goes back to my joy of of racing, all forms of racing, but one of the things that makes things beautiful is their functionality. So like a race car, it's because it's so good. Or a race horse, for example. You know, one of the things that makes them beautiful is that they're so they're so efficient, they're so functional that they make that work. So maybe you could talk about that just in terms of general, you know, what is human centered design? What is it that connects design to triggers that thing in our brain that says I want that or that? That one fits for me.

Seth:
Human centered design to me is is designing for how people live and work and explore life in a human centered design, is taking everything into account not only the beauty of an object, but the functionality of an object, the interaction with that object. And then it can even as go as far as to when that object reaches the end of its life, then what effect does it have? So at Delta, we think about all that from a human centered design perspective. We think about how are we producing this object? How is it going to interact with the environment around it? How are people going to use the object? How many times are they going to interact with the object? How does it enhance their environment from it? From a beauty perspective and from a functional perspective, if we involve technology in it, how can that enhance your ability to do everyday tasks better? Can we make a shower more enjoyable? Can we make a kitchen faucet, help you wash your dishes more efficiently? Can we in all that be conscientious of how much water we're using? So being a good steward of the planet and the precious resource of water that we're all so aware of. To me, human centered design is at the center of everything we do at Delta Faucet and we're constantly asking ourself those questions. Some people look at a faucet and think, oh gosh, is the thing that delivers water. What if it could do more? What if it could make a task easier? What if you could walk up to it and you smile? Or what if you don't have to touch it to wash your hands? Or what if I can touch it with my elbow and I'm doing a task in the kitchen because they don't want to cross contaminate just little things like that. Little simple innovations, simple thoughts are all centered in a human centered design.

Steve:
Yeah. And you think about it, you know, the if if if I think back to like when I was a kid, you know, we're just glad that, you know, in some ways we were only maybe 25 or 30 years away from indoor plumbing, you know, I mean, so early on it was very much about function. But today it's if anyone's tried to go sell their house and they've got kitchens and baths that are more than like ten years old, you know, people say, hey, these are these are out of fashion. You know, these are out of style. I'll have to change that. So it really is kind of a cool way that we've evolved. And then you bring in the kind of the concept of of the environmental stewardship that's involved there, too. And it really is it's really a lot different than it was, say, even a generation ago.

Seth:
Yeah. A generation ago, you saw good design. We were trying to find products that either lasted forever or products that looked completely different than everything else. Now, good design is everywhere. It's table stakes. So for us that what differentiates us, what we strive for daily is to combine great design with amazing manufacturing, with incredible technology. And then the ultimate that we're striving for is that experience. You know, how are we changing our lives? How are we impacting your lives? How are we connecting our products to you as a human? And that's that's what we strive for daily.

Steve:
Yeah. And let's take it to the business now a little more you is more of a design or an artistic and functional designer. How do you get feedback from the marketplace or from customers to inform what you guys do? How does that work at a company like Delta?

Seth:
Yeah, one of the cornerstones of how we approach design is getting feedback from people that actually interact with our products. So I can talk about human human centered design all I want. But if we don't get feedback, if we're not gathering data, if we're not looking at video, if we're not asking tough questions, if we're not constantly evaluating how our products and people's homes, not only from how they're interacting with the product, but is it easy to install if you had any problems, was it easy to reach out to us and connect with us? And when you're talking to somebody on the phone or through our website where they helpful, were the instructions given back to you to help solve your problems? Simple. And and that's something that the design team pays attention to. So, you know, an example of the our technology to install our product has changed significantly over the years based on customer feedback and not only customers in their homes, but also for plumbers and professionals that are installing our product. So what I love about Delta is that feedback from people that are interacting with our products at every level is the cornerstone of how we approach. So, you know, a good example. This is from our CX team. They are feeding data back to us constantly. It might be as simple as we're getting a lot of information, a lot of calls from the field on this one particular part. Here's the problem that kicks off a whole solutions team on problem solving efforts to help remedy that issue. A cornerstone of how we approach design and how we approach everything at Delta is that based on that customer feedback, it's really been a challenge during the COVID right now. And we have… I've been shocked at how innovative this company has been and the I've been shocked by the input we were getting back. So we are on Zoom calls every week with small groups, big groups. We had one two weeks ago, we had three hundred people on on calls where we're asking them for feedback. We're giving them info about our company. We're talking about our passion for what we do and the whole time getting feedback, answering questions. And it ranges from technical questions all the way to just how we approach things. And it's just it's foundational to how we how we approach everything.

Steve:
Well, I actually was going to bring up COVID, but I, I imagine based on what I understand, your business is pretty good right now, especially in the home.

Seth:
Yeah. Our business is is doing very well. But, you know, part of it is because we choose not to sit back when times get tough. We try to, you know, we evaluate our company. What can we do to help? The first thing we did and I'll tell the story real quick, the first thing we did is we took our voice IQ technology, which is a technology that enables you to use your your voice enabled device at home. And you can ask it commands and it'll deliver water, metered water, all these great things. Well, within 18 hours of some of the COVID shutdowns, our team created an update to our app with that that allowed a handwash mode so you could ask it as a delta that wash hands. It'll distribute enough water for you to get your hands wet. And it'll tell you soap hands in a wait 20 seconds and then it'll turn the water back on. You know, that's not based off of like let's see if this works. That's based off of people are kind of concerned about what is 20 seconds. We know hand washing is absolutely critical right now. And this was in March. We can actually, with our our software technology, give you 20 seconds and making sure that you're not running your water that entire time. So just little things like that. And that's based off of just how people are living their lives.

Steve:
My guest on the podcast this week is Seth Fritz, and he is the manager of Design Futures Team at the Delta Faucets Company. We're having a fascinating discussion about human centered design. So, Seth, I'm fascinated with this sort of the way you have figured out a solution to help people make sure that they're washing their hands right. And in fact, in my notes here from our writer, I've got these in capital letters, salmonella hands. So I can't wait I can't wait to hear the story behind this.

Seth:
So salmonella hands, that's a that's a famous story at Delta Faucet. So I'll tell it. It really is centered in human centered design and it explains our design philosophy and how we innovate. And at the core of what we're trying to do is meet those unmet needs. So, as I've said before, we do a lot of research at Delta and one of the forms of research we do is ethnographic research, which is observing people live their lives in their homes. And with permission, obviously, we set up cameras in people's homes and have them just interact in their kitchen. Twelve years ago, we set up an experiment in a kitchen just with the goal of just observing how people use water in our faucets in their kitchen. So day one family comes down their bacon and eggs and toast and everybody's dressed and hair's done and everybody's smiling. And, you know, you're kind of thinking, huh, this is odd. It's a bit like a movie. Well, fast forward to two weeks. You know, there's cereal being spilled. The you know, the kitchen sinks overflowing, the dogs jumping up on trying to steal bacon from the kids and their bags and homework are everywhere. And then you start to get excited because they've let their guard down. And that's one of the tricks to ethnographic research. You never do it one day or two days. You do it for a lengthy time. One of the tasks we ask them to do is cook dinner. You know, can't do it every night. Do it, do it a couple of nights. We just want to watch you cook dinner. We discover when people prepare chicken, it's you would think it's deadly toxins after they prepare it. So how they're doing is they would prepare the chicken and they would instantly stick their hands up in the air as if they were going into surgery. They absolutely refuse to touch anything. You could tell you could sense the anxiety in their bodies as they look at the faucet, knowing I have to wash my hands and then them trying to discover I don't know how I'm going to do this. And they're trying to use their elbow and they're trying to use their nose and their tray is sticking their foot up there and trying to turn the. On and on and again, this was 12 years ago. And for for us, for our R&D team, it was instantly there's a unmet need there. Well, at that time, that was when the iPhone had been out. That uses the technology that we could could use to it's a well known technology called capacitance technology uses the the energy in your body. And think of it kind of like static electricity. So you could we can turn a solenoid valve on and off with a touch. And for us, that enables you now all of a sudden, not only can you use less water, but with a touch of your elbow, your nose, your hand, your pinky, whatever, you can turn the water on and off. It's incredibly accurate. But with that, you also solved other issues as we're watching people just kind of live in their homes. The doorbell would ring and the water's running once we retested this. Now it's a simple touch on touch off and we solve those unmet needs. But yeah, the infamous salmonella hands story, [laughing] It all. It all came from human centered design approach. It all came from ethnographic research. And just if you ask someone what their problems are in an environment or with a faucet, they're not going to tell you, boy, if you could just develop a technology to touch on and touch off, you'd solve my my cross contamination problem. But if you watch people live, you can develop those those unmet needs and seek those out those insights and then solve for them.

Steve:
Could you give us any, like, anecdotes of where maybe the design team came up with something that maybe didn't work in the marketplace or alternatively where maybe there was sort of an unmet need that you couldn't exactly… the consumer didn't tell you exactly what what you're trying to solve, but you guys actually came up with the solution, because I think those kinds of examples are really helpful as we think about how do we do design thinking and customer experience.

Seth:
But I can tell you a real good story quickly about how we approach water conservation. So it's a very serious topic, something that is constantly in our minds. When we first came out with H2O Kinetics Technology, it was about water saving. So it's this little tiny piece of technology with no moving parts. It creates a vortex and an oscillation of water and it spreads water all over the place. It makes a huge drenching flow of water, but it doesn't require a lot of holes. So when you look up at the the showerhead, the very first one we launched had four holes in it. It was an amazing experience, but from a customer perspective, they were like, yeah, I'll pass. You know, you walk it, you walk into your local big box store and you look at that and you're like, that's not happening.

Steve:
No…

Seth:
So…

Steve:
…that's going to be a good experience.

Seth:
…we believe in the technology. We love this. OK, we've got to rethink this. Now, that's that's what the foundation one of our foundational technologies in our showering sector, we just realized we had to reform it. We had to change some of the water flow in the chip so that more of those H2O kinetic chips and I remember when it first launched, I was shocked because I'm just like, I don't get it. Like, the technology is awesome. Well, I wasn't testing the one that we ended up shipping and now we're shipping all these great ones that look more what customers want. They're beautifully designed. They have enough holes and enough features. But I won't go back to any normal shower experience because the technology was there, the attachment to humans and how they they want to see their showerhead. And then a beautiful design once we got it there. Now it's something like it's in all of our showers.

Steve:
You know, another thing that you mentioned kind of makes me think you reference that it's not just about the physical product, but it's also about the way the humans interact with it. So you talked about installers or stuff. Can you talk about human centered design as it comes to the service aspect of what you do? Because a lot of our listeners, they have a there's a product and service part of the experience. And in most businesses they do. And it's actually true in your your space, too, right?

Seth:
Yeah. So with with human centered design is as far as it goes to the service side of things. You know, we've put so much time and effort over the past 10 years growing our service sector of our business because it used to just be make a great product warranty and then just let it sit out there forever. Well, you know, we're learning now that that connection to our customers, you know, being available, adapting to digital technology, adapting to the homeowners needs, understanding that even though we we try we are so proud of our product, there's going to be issues. That's the biggest thing that I've seen is once we acknowledge that and then put efforts behind that. So we staffed up our call centers and retrained all of our our CX team. We have great leaders on that side of the business that understand that a belief in what we're doing from a company perspective, from our CX team tied into the rest of the company and how we're doing that as a entire group of people that that believe the same thing that we're ultimately delivering and experience from every level. From the second you open that box to the install to the the problem solving, the troubleshooting, the making sure that we're quickly responding and sending parts out if needed, or we're getting to that root cause as quick as possible. Some of the technology that we've we've enhanced as far as how we're able to track parts and then immediately identify what faucet that you have in your home so that we can quickly get to a remedy of the solution. When I think of all the outstanding companies in this world right now, the handful that have that connection from the customer support to the actual customer, those are the companies that are thriving right now.

Steve:
We've talked a lot about sort of how you do it. And our audience tends to be CX pros. So you have a CX team at your place that you interact with. But what kind of advice would you give to CX pros for just generally working with guys like you that are a little more creative or a little more interested in maybe not exactly how the customer is experiencing it, but also some of the things that the customer might not be able to appreciate. So what are some tips for working with the creative types inside of an organization?

Seth:
The biggest problem with creative types is we think we got it right. We think the design is there. Love it. It's perfect. And I can't believe customers are having issues or have anything bad to say about it. The best designers, the best creatives understand that without the information back to us from people that are actually using our products, you know, you're not going to be as good of a designer as you can be. So when I discovered that feedback loop from beyond just research from the actual people in their homes interacting with our products, when I discovered that power and discovered that a CX professionals in inside our building could give me data, could give me information to make me a better designer and a better creative, that's when I unlocked an entire new part of my career. As a young designer, I didn't really understand that because it's not taught to you, you're taught to go do your research, but you're being open to that. And the fact that Delta Faucet shares that information with everybody. I have access to that data whenever I want it. And we utilize that on our design team to make us better designers. So my advice would be, is share that data.

Steve:
Well, that's a great you know, and it's not just designers. It's engineers. It's salespeople. It's I mean, but but that speaks to the culture that's going on at Delta is that they've gotten some of those silos broken down so that the customer input is informing. And early in our conversation, you know, you talked about, you know, it's got to work for the work for the customer ultimately. All right, Seth Fritz, we've reached that point of our program where I ask each guest to give us their take home value. That's your best tip for our customer experience pros. You've been nice to share your expertize in human centered design. So, Seth Fritz, what is your best tip for our CX pros?

Seth:
My best tip really is when you make the decision to learn and explore. So for me, when I made the decision that I'm going to observe people, I'm going to remove my bias, I'm going to watch people live, I can be better at my my craft. So one of our goals is to master your craft, which I believe is a is a never ending pursuit for perfection. So with that, when I decided to learn, constantly, explore, constantly observe my surroundings and observe people live their lives, it helped me become a better creative.

Steve:
It's obvious you're a real pro. And we thank you for being on the program and sharing some of your expertize. I know our CX pros are going to get a lot out of this.

Seth:
Well, I really appreciate it's been a fun conversation and it's my pleasure to to talk about it.

Steve:
Seth Fritz is the manager of the Design Features Team at Delta Faucets Company, one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of residential and commercial faucets. Seth, if anybody would like to continue the conversation or learn more about Delta, do you want to just I see you're on LinkedIn. So it's Seth Fritz at Delta Faucets and then website or maybe any other contact information we want to share. Sure, you can.

Seth:
You can find all of my contact information on LinkedIn as well as you can email me. seth.fritz@deltafaucet.com. And I'm happy to answer questions or chat with anybody that's open to it. Like I've said before, I love to talk about design and human centered design and any contact is great.

Steve:
Thanks again, Seth, for being a guest on The CX Leader Podcast. We really appreciate it.

Seth:
Well, thank you. My pleasure.

Steve:
And if you want to talk about anything else you heard on this podcast or about how Walker can help your business's customer experience, feel free to email me at a podcast at Walkerinfo.com and be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com, to subscribe to the show and find all of our previous episodes, podcast series, and our contact information. You can even drop me a line and tell us how we're doing or suggest an idea for one of our future shows. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker, where an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at walkerinfo.com. Thank you for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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