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Design Thinking vs. Customer Experience

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Last week I called my bank, entered my account number into their automated system, then my pin, then my zip-code, then the last four numbers of my social security number.  Having properly identified myself as the real Curtis Bingham (or at least a sufficient facsimile), I proceeded to check my balance and then transfer a balance to another account. I realized that my car payment was being deducted twice. So I pressed “0” to speak with an agent.  The agent then asked me to provide all the same information, again. 

This is my biggest pet peeve in dealing with banks and their IVR systems:  despite having proven my identity enough to make payments on a loan or even completely zero out my account, every agent makes me provide the exact same information. Some want additional verification, some say they didn’t receive it from the IVR. Making customers provide the same information all over again creates friction. And how many times have you gone to a doctor’s office and been asked to fill out three forms, only to find that you have to enter in all the same information on all three. Or been stuck listening to an agent read, verbatim, a three-minute long legal disclaimer before confirming a change you’ve made to your life insurance plan?

Someone created these processes to meet a business need—to verify identity, get information, or fulfill regulatory requirements. But like many processes, they neglect the customer. You’re predisposing someone to be irritated with you before you even begin the human interaction. Too much friction creates dissatisfiers which, if left unchecked, can lead to churn.

Despite significant efforts to improve the customer experience, many NPS programs have plateaued and customers complain even louder on social media. Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) are stuck in groundhog day: dealing every day with an endless stream of apologies, billing statement credits, and service recovery efforts. The focus is on remedial efforts to reduce detractors. And they are often “lipsticking” bad processes—making inherently business-centric technology and processes more palatable to customers. But this only takes you so far.

The goal of many customer experience (CX) initiatives is to make many of these business processes more palatable to customers. The goal of design thinking is to determine how to do away with some of these processes altogether and recreate the rest on balance between customer tasks and business needs. The value and application of design thinking in the enterprise was described in the September 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review. This issue included a very good summary of how Pepsi applied design thinking not only to product design but also to culture and customer experience. Design thinking brings disparate stakeholders, disciplines, and expertise together to first listen and intimately understand the customer’s tasks to be completed. Instead of immediately converging on a solution from a narrow set of options, design thinking allows us to create new choices, explore new alternatives, create new options that didn’t exist before.

There are a couple of core principles of design thinking: 

  1. Begin with people, culture, and context: understand human needs deeply enough to know where to begin design—the biggest challenge is ensuring that you’re asking the right questions
  2. Rapid prototyping: learn rapidly by building, testing, failing, and honing 
  3. Engage: enable participation of disparate stakeholders including customers, process owners, and even those outside the domain to build upon ideas and remove artificial domain constraints
  4. Execute: change is hard—especially the type of transformative change realized with such a wholescale reimagining of the customer/company interface

What would your product/service/process look like if it were wholesale reimagined, not from an operational-efficiency perspective but from the perspective of the customer task to be performed? How much customer-company friction could be reduced? How might this decrease call volume? Or service recovery? How much more “easy to do business with” might you become? What would be the impact on churn? On revenue?

Design Thinking helps us go beyond the incremental to the transformative. Using design thinking we can examine products, processes, and experiences holistically from the outside in, starting from the customer’s work to be done/tasks to be performed and work backwards with few constraints to create fresh and transformative processes that actually solve real customer problems. In the near term, we want to minimize the friction in the customer interface. In the longer term we want to align the brand promise, business objectives, job functions, processes, around facilitating the customer tasks to be performed—balanced with critical business needs. 

Come join us at our April 12th Chief Customer Officer Council meeting, where we’re going to be discussing how the discipline of design thinking can help us go beyond the remedial, incremental improvements that many CX initiatives may provide and help us align the business to solve real customer problems. Jill Herriott, former CCO of CIGNA and current CMO/CXO of the American Marketing Association (AMA) will be sharing her remarkable journey applying design thinking to create powerful end-to-end customer experiences that customers loved—and that promise huge ROI. And you won’t want to miss her discussion of customer archetypes that create emotional attachment and far greater customer engagement.

Steve Mescon, CCO of Riot Games (90 million customers!) is sharing how he used design thinking to create a powerfully customer-focused culture that enables them to bring in 83% of new business from word of mouth.

I typically reserve a couple of seats for guests. If you’ve missed your invitation, please contact info@ccocouncil.org to request an invite. 

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn

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Categories: CCO Council | Chief Customer Officer | Customer Retention | Design Thinking

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