The success of many customer experience projects has been limited due to a range of very complex challenges and problems. “Design thinking”, with its capacity to harness the creativity and experiences of numerous stakeholders, promises a panacea for these problems.
Over the last few decades design thinking has emerged as a framework for solving complex problems in a range of different contexts. The term originally emerged in the 1950s and 60s but didn’t really become popular until the 1990s and 2000s. At first it was it was applied to areas of architecture, civil engineering and urban design. It was then applied to the design of consumer goods and services.
More recently, design thinking principles have been applied to the process of designing customer experiences. Its problem-solving capacity has proven very effective in removing customer pain points as well as solving many of the CX (Customer Experience) challenges that organisations face.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a process, involving creative input and experiential insights from a range of stakeholders, for identifying and solving problems. It encourages organisations and design teams to focus on the people they’re creating for, which leads to better products, services and business processes. At its heart design thinking is a step-by-step process for solving problems:
- Problem Identification – For the whole process to work, the problem to be solved needs to be well articulated and understood by all relevant stakeholders. A measure for success must also be clearly established and a base-line measure set from which success can be measured.
- Ideation – refers to the range of methods and activities for generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. Ideation can involve individuals, organisations, or crowds to create, articulate and share solutions to the problem that needs to be solved.
- Prototyping and testing – A solution is developed which is revised and optimised through testing.
- Delivery – the solution that has been developed and tested goes live with customers.
These steps do not need to be strictly sequential. They will overlap and activities associated with one step can run in parallel to activities in another step. It’s a non-linear process. Prototyping and testing may provide further insights into the problem, which may entail the development of more ideas, feedback and solutions.
Design thinking CX
Design thinking is about making things work for people. CX is about making things work as easily and as simply as possible for customers. There’s an inherent synergy between the two concepts.
Many CX projects fail due the fact that the problem they were attempting to solve was not clearly articulated or defined nor were there clearly established metrics applied to measure the success of the project. Time to time, senior executives may come up with an idea, not articulate the problem it’s trying to solve, then go about implementing it and then expecting some form of change or improvement.
Of primary importance in applying design thinking to CX is the ability to define and articulate the problem or problems you are looking to solve. An example of a well-articulated problem in the insurance industry may be:
A company receives too many and repeat phone calls from customers while their insurance claims are being processed. As well as costing the company money to handle these calls, it also correlates with poor customer satisfaction results. Our claim processing procedures and online claim forms are difficult to understand and do not explain the claims processing procedures adequately. Customers are left wondering where their claims are at and when they can expect a resolution.
In developing CX projects, design thinking allows organisations to integrate the needs of the customer with the requirements and objectives of the business. Design thinking entails a human-centric framework for solving problems in way that can unify a diverse range of perspectives. Defining and designing solutions for CX problems should not be the exclusive responsibility of your CX design team. It requires input and collaboration from all teams within an organisation as well as customers and other relevant stakeholders.
A key CX challenge for most organisations is the ability to provide seamless and frictionless experiences for customers. As highlighted in a recent article in CIO review, design thinking allows your CX team to “walk a mile” in the shoes of your customers. It’s that lens into the needs and preferences of customers combined with design thinking’s capacity to innovate that will generate seamless experiences for customers.
What they want now vs what they want in the future
As most of us know customer expectations are constantly evolving. Design thinking not only allows companies to meet the everchanging expectations of customers, it can also help predict what those expectations will be.
By making use of customer surveys and big data analytics design thinking can give brands insights into the latent or hidden needs and desires of customers. This requires a mindset that emphasises empathy with the customer and their needs rather than viewing customers as target markets to sell products and services to. It’s about appreciating them as individuals who are on their own and specific customer journeys.