Client Gemba: try to put their shoes on

If you want to understand how your customers use the product or service you offer, the best way to do it is to go to Gemba. I’ll give you two examples: at the grocery store and on an online shopping website.
Going on Gemba to observe customers is always difficult, but it is the guarantee to understand how your customers use your products and services.

Notify the customer of your intentions

As with a Gemba in your organization, you will observe individuals. First and foremost, you need to let your customers know what you are going to do.

You can select customers, and invite them to participate in the observation activity, such as in a marketing research or focus group. The disadvantage is that you put them in a situation, so you don’t know if it’s the actual behavior or an adaptation.

It is better to go to the field, and ask them for permission to observe them, to understand how they use the product or service. Always follow the laws in your jurisdiction. However, if you don’t film, take photos or make notes that identify the clients, general information may be sufficient.

Gemba customer at the grocery store

You have two options:

  • Follow part of the process, such as checkout.
  • Follow the entire process.

When you don’t know the process the customer is going through, you should choose the second option.

If you look at part of the process, it’s the same questions as in the factory, except that instead of looking at the product, you’re going to look at the customer and their behavior. Which cash register does he choose and why? How does he place items on the conveyor belt, how does he stock his bags? What are its interactions with employees?

Watch the full process

If you follow the customer, you’ll start outside: how did he come? Where does it park? What does he take with him, does he have a list of things to buy, how is the list made, in order of the store, meals, is it paper or digital, does he use the store flyer?

Then, inside,how does he move around the store? He follows a path he knows, he follows his list, or on the contrary, he goes back for forgotten items? How does he organize his cart or basket? How does he choose his produce: does he touch the fruit to select its ripeness, or does he prefer pre-packaged vegetables? Does he look at the expiry dates, the weight of the meat? Does he look at ingredient lists on packages, or does he compare products? In that case, what does he compare?

Client Gemba customer on a e-commerce website

This kind of Gemba is always organized. Indeed, it is quite difficult to be next to the customer, when she decides to make her purchase online. You can use a variety of web indicators to try to determine its behavior, but the ideal is direct observation, at home.

After determining the time of the action you wish to observe, you will go to the client’s home in the time slot corresponding to her habit. She will of course do the task for you, but you will be as close as possible to the reality.

The majority of your Gemba will consist of observing the navigation of the site. Software can help with simulations, but it does not capture the physical behavior of the client: smile, irritation…

Observe step by step

Start by studying the environment and circumstances. When does the customer go to the e-commerce site? What device does she use, in what room? Is she in her couch on her cell phone, in her office, on a computer? Is she alone or accompanied? Does she listen to music, television?

Then, observe her behavior. How does she choose the items? Does she have a list, electronic or paper? Does she compare products with each other or with other sites, ask a family member for advice? Is she interrupted, and how does she react? How does she navigate the site, use the menus, the search function, the article suggestions? Did she identify herself on the site, or was she recognized? How does she finalize the order, make the payment?

These are just some ideas of questions to ask yourself to get the most information.