Design thinking is a human-centred, creative approach to defining and solving business problems. When businesses focus on the customer experience through their design approach, it allows them to differentiate in a more meaningful way.
It has been predicted that customer experience will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators by 2020. As such, the businesses that will triumph in the digital age are the ones who elevate their customer experience from ordinary to extraordinary.
We took the time to sit down and chat with three digital and design experts to discuss how your companies can use a design-led approach to deliver exceptional business results.
The relationship between design and customer experience
For a business to be successful, it needs to put the customer first, and this can be achieved through a design-led approach. A design-led company is one that uses a design mindset to support business principles and processes.
Andrew Miralles, Senior Product Designer at Objective, sees design as “the link between business and customer, building the vision for customer happiness.”
“The users today are more likely to prioritise the experience of buying and using a product over the performance of the product itself,” he says. “So it is of the utmost importance that we look to transform how we do business. It is also key to remember that the primary relationship the customer will have with a company is through the look and feel of their products.”
Design-led companies who want to craft a meaningful end-to-end customer experience will go far beyond understanding what users want and why they need it to seek out what motivates people and what irritates them. Those companies that take advantage of opportunities to deliver an amazing experience for their customers are more likely to produce a return on investment.
Harvard Business Review reports that 23% of customers who had a positive experience with a brand told 10 or more people about it. When businesses strive to create exceptional customer experiences, it leads to an increase in positive word-of-mouth recommendations, and helps build a steady foundation for the brand.
Pam Illidge, Agile Consultant at Cognizant, echos this sentiment: “Understanding the customer is critical for business success in the digital age as the customer is essentially the boss, with information at their fingertips and a plethora of devices and applications to choose from.”
Anthony Quinn, Head of Digital User Experience at Telstra, notes that a company can drive business success by:
Having a structured process or methodology in place
Asking and answering critical questions about who your customers are and their needs
Continuously testing and measuring whether you are meeting those needs
This will help determine if your design approach is enabling you to deliver value to your customers and for your organisation.
Enhancing the customer experience through design
While companies understand the importance of customer experience, many don’t know how to make improvements. That is where design comes in. Miralles at Objective shares his two-fold, hands-on design approach to delivering a world-class user experience for end-users:
Clearly defining the challenge
This involves going out and observing users in their day-to-day environments. Miralles also stresses that critical questions need to be asked and answered to deliver a detailed context analysis and decipher the inner workings of the user. Such questions include:
Who are we designing for?
What tasks do they need to complete?
What hardware do they have at their disposal?
Do they use dual monitors?
Do they have a disability?
Are they running Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome?
Empathise with the customer
Miralles notes that this involves “framing each of their unique problems in a human-centric ‘human readable’ way. It helps to think of this stage like a house, you don’t start on the roof. You first need to establish a plan and a solid foundation.”
Ideate all possibilities
This is the solution-generating part of design and the goal is always to make the end user’s life easier. Miralles notes: “We capture a testable hypothesis for each problem and we brainstorm on whiteboards, paper, and use design tools to create different solutions that might be useful to our users. Everyone works differently, the goal is always to make the end user’s life easier.”
Miralles adds, “I personally like to set some clear goals when I go through this process and aim to reduce cognitive load, remove any decisions that are not necessary for users to complete their required goal.”
Ideating with a diverse group of people leads to innovative solutions and the rapid development of high-value products and services, via an iterative cycle of rapid prototyping and customer feedback.
Miralles describes this stage as the “the good old healthy sanity check.” This is the time where you can test and turn your ideas into working prototypes that you can validate with those same users.
It’s important to note that even after the feature or product is released, designers still need to closely monitor/evaluate how successful it is. “Design is never finished, and this is one of the things I love most about it,” says Miralles. “Design can always be improved and is constantly evolving just like us human beings.”
In a rapidly changing global and local business environment, design thinking helps businesses counter the complexity of conditions with creative solutions. As such, investment in design is also an investment in innovative thinking. Design can enable companies to create value in terms of enhancing the customer experience, building customer trust and loyalty and gaining a competitive advantage.
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