Customer Observations

By observing your customers and users in a situation relevant to your project, you can learn many things that would not come out in a conversation. Have a look at key elements and further instructions around customer observations on this page.

1. Overview

Social roles, workarounds, subconscious behaviors and emotions are often easier to observe than to enquire about. Observations help to reveal things your customers and users do subconsciously. Gaining a deep understanding of the situation you have observed will help you not only to come up with new ideas but also to evaluate any assumptions you have made about the current situation of your customers and users. Follow the steps described in the Discover Customers process to setup, conduct and review your research wisely.

Some research activities require a high level of reality and therefore invisible customer observations. Have a look at our article about Automated Tracking of User Behavior and learn how we apply this research method in Business Design sprints.

2. Key Elements




Describe the situation in general like location, date, time, persons involved, environment, room setup, tools available as well as your role (participatory/open/hidden observation).


Capture relevant demographic information about the person(s) you observe (e.g. age, role, clothing style, mood etc).

Customer journey

Take notes (plus pictures/videos if possible) of each step of the customer journey in the choosen situation on different observation levels:

  • Activities: What happens? Who is doing what? How long does it take? Who is saying what?

  • Environment: Who else is involved? What tools are used? Where exactly is the observed step taking place?

  • Emotions: What emotions are the observed persons showing? How do they express their emotions (body language, facial expressions, reactions, remarks)?

Try to combine a customer observation with a Customer Interview after the observation took place to discuss the observed behavior and emotions together. This helps you to understand reasons and motivations for a certain behavior. Furthermore, you can talk about observed emotions, identify the triggers for these emotions as well as the consequences the person is facing.

3. Usage Scenarios

  • Understanding customers & users to come up with new ideas in the Design Workshop

  • Explore antilogs from your Hypotheses & Experiments template about the behavior / emotions of your customers & users in a specific situation

4. Instruction for Coaches

  1. It's important that team members conduct the field study by their own. First-hand impressions help them to argue on behalf of their customers and users in the further Business Design Process.

  2. Help your team to prepare an observation guideline based on the key elements explained in this article. Make sure you define possible steps of the customer journey in advance for their guidance to reach the right level of concreteness of observational notes.

  3. Help your team to document the results of an observation in a visual way. In addition to pictures and videos so called Personas / Customer Cards are a great way to capture your results.

5. Q & A

  • I don’t have access to the situation where I want to observe our customers and users. What shall I do? Maybe you combine a Customer Interview with an observation to get access. Schedule an interview and ask to observe them, e.g. while using a product, before discussing the process (customer journey) in the main part of the interview.

  • How to find "golden nuggets"? Watch out for emotions! Emotions are usually your trigger to dig deeper. This is another reason why the combination of an observation and an Interview makes sense. It helps you to discuss observed emotions afterwards and understand the reasons for it.