When people hear “design” their thoughts turn to logos, color schemes, and jingles; branding, as it were. In the customer experience discipline, design goes much further, and concerns every critical touchpoint across channels and over time, which inform customers’ thoughts and feelings about an organization.
A positive customer experience can result in increased share of wallet and repeat business. Moreover, competent design yields competitive advantage. The design discipline, therefore, should not be taken lightly. Firms must diligently design intended interactions, and consider emotions throughout the customer journey. It is truly a problem solving process that includes the needs of all stakeholders.
In order to achieve a competent design, a series of steps must be followed:
Step 1: Human-Centered Research
As the name implies, human-centered research involves individuals on a participatory level, and centers on the understanding of both the needs and motivations of firms’ customers. Perhaps not surprisingly, customers often struggle to communicate their needs, wants, and motivations. It’s for this reason that including actors from the entire customer experience ecosystem may help. For instance, frontline staff, who interact with customers on a regular basis, can shed light on common customer feedback and complaints. This principle — called “co-creation” — involves the inclusion of employees and external partners in human-centered research to synthesize data and ideate possible solutions from feedback received.
Step 2: Analysis
Following human-centered research in the customer experience design process is analysis. After synthesizing the collected research data, project teams often must reframe their research, motivated by the fact that the team’s findings yielded insights worthy of deeper inspection. High-functioning design teams will push themselves to tens, if not hundreds, of possible solutions through a mechanism called “ideation”.
Step 3: Prototyping
Prototyping follows analysis in the design process. Its importance stems from the fact that often major design issues cannot be seen on paper, but are obvious once implemented. Tarannum, a Consultant within SDLC’s User Experience team, agrees with this notion, stating, “With a prototype, the concept/design becomes real and allows the designers to evaluate the design better before it goes into production. It helps in preventing assumptions and overlooking any important details that weren’t noticeable on static images.” Central to the practice of prototyping practice is presentation of functioning models to real customers. In this fashion designers can refine prototypes iteratively, and ‘home in’ on an ideal to-be model. Be forewarned, however, that when solicited for feedback, customers often tell researchers what they think they want to hear: “That looks good.” Albeit counterintuitive, better feedback and more authentic responses correlate with the ‘roughness’ of the presented prototype.
Step 4: Design
Finally, after iterating and refining prototypes to distill them to their most essential human-centered components, organizations must design the solution. It’s at this stage that the to-be model of customer experience is introduced in the wild, typically through phased rollout, until it becomes the new current state.
Designing customer experiences is no small task. It requires investments of time, energy, and attention, and to be sure, a ‘leap of faith’ into new methods of customer interaction. Fortunately these exercises need not occur without the benefit of trusted advisors, such as those found in the User Experience and Content Strategy teams at SDLC Partners.
Once the design is implemented, it is only natural that one would ask, “How may we evaluate the efficacy of this discipline against its customer experience objectives?” Stay tuned for the next blog post in the CXM series in which we discuss the measurement discipline.
Ben Limegrover is a Consultant at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss Customer Experience Management.