Now more than ever, we as consumers, have a front-row seat to how certain brands are making strides to prioritize their customers first to reflect empathy and support in a time of uncertainty. And, to provide innovative new ways to connect, solve problems, and improve the overall customer experience.
Why does this matter? Because it’s critical for brands to differentiate, win, and retain customers as they prioritize the value provided from the product or service experience when choosing their loyalty for a brand. And, that is where customer-centric design comes into play.
What is Customer-Centric Design?
Customer-centric design is more than a process to be implemented, it is a catalyst to help drive change. By re-imagining how an organization operates, through the lens of real consumer challenges, needs, and experiences they crave, an iterative approach to building products, services, solutions, and experiences can be devised. In our work with clients, and in observing the marketplace, we see a common connection for those companies that are most successful – they have made a commitment to customer-centric experience design AND have prioritized innovation cycles that support the ongoing evolution of experiences.
Why then do many brands still struggle?
There are a few reasons why we believe that customer-centric design remains a pain point across organizations of all sizes, operating in a variety of industry verticals.
- Lack true dedication to the shift
- Customer-centric design requires a move away from product-driven marketing decisions. Even with a strong vision, old habits die hard when there’s a negative weekly comp sales report, or a soft ending to the quarter.
- Organizational Misalignment
- This is the hardest for large, established brands, as it means moving to more collaborative teams focused on the customer, not product or department silos.
- Risk Adverse Mindset
- Even with the best customer research and consulting, there is inherent risk in introducing new experiences and solutions. Change is always hard and getting the commitment to proceed must include as much risk mitigation as feasible, along with leadership support.
- No Dedicated Resources
- Making the case for continuous, iterative evolution is only half the battle. Then one must rationalize investments for resources (internally and external) to continuously keep a pulse on the needs of customers and respond with enhanced experience design solutions.
Lessons learned to drive change and make an impact
One of the many benefits to working with clients on end-to-end solutions is gaining a cumulative perspective for what drives success. Making an impactful shift is all about the approach. In working with one of our QSR clients with a global footprint, our approach was thoughtfully crafted to ensure innovative solutions were built around the customer and local operators’ needs, had enterprise alignment and a clear path for co-creation, implementation, measurement, and continuous iteration.
- An Integrated Team: A diverse, integrated team, infused across the entire process is the foundation for gaining the right mix of perspective, expertise, and an increased brain trust and tool set to build upon.
- Prioritize Enterprise Participation: Breakdown silos, whether internal or across disparate vendors and partners. A well-crafted journey design can be critical in bridging departments and various vendors together. The end result is alignment and accountability across the board. We’ve helped clients prioritize partnership, internally through:
- Well documented and prioritized customer motivations and need states (functional and emotional).
- Integrated workshops across leadership, team leads, and team catalysts to identify and plot actions to overcome barriers and roadblocks to meeting customer needs and align on the approach for a customer-centric experience design.
- Facilitating co-creation of a future state vision (north star) for customer experiences.
- Creating dedicated committees comprised of key stakeholders across departments and product owners who come together to craft a shared roadmap for success. Key milestones and defined success metrics are then shared with leadership to support accountability.
- Take A Top Down/Bottom Up Approach: A process that forces counter perspective to be brought to light utilizes top down and bottom up methodologies. This translates into macro level thinking with business-strategy application aligned across the unique experiences by customers across their lifecycle.
- Current state assessments and journey development, focused on diagnostics, benchmarking, and impact sizing across ALL aspects of the experience is where this approach can be seen in action. Think of it much like a service design blueprint but with quantifiable depth across gaps and friction points.
- Fuse both qualitative and quantitative analysis: When customer-centric design takes into account digital ethnographies, digital panels, predictive modeling, one is able to more clearly see differentiating “white space” opportunities based on the needs and behaviors of customers.
- Expansive research conducted at the macro level establishes a baseline for customer expectations across industry, local/community-centric businesses, modern loyalty, digital technology usage, and competitive sets.
- Digital Ethnography studies, with curated questions to receive quantitative responses, along with key customer mission exploration helps to uncover triggers, motivators, and needs across key segments and experience stages.
- Continuously Test and Refine: By working in a nimble fashion to allow ongoing testing and proof-of-concept (POC) testing, journey experiences can be validated before scaling. This is critical in helping clients navigate the ever-changing world, especially over the last few months. This, however, requires a more flexible approach to roadmap design with dynamic, experience-led roadmaps developed to ensure the vision and the needs of the customer are continuously a top priority. Note: A prioritization analysis can be used to identify components that would be critical to experience enablement immediately and in the long-term with workstreams for POCs, testing, future investment and scaling.
Success doesn’t come easy, but it can drive growth in a marketplace where it’s hard to differentiate. The most important step is making the decision to explore customer-centric design as a means of driving change within an organization. If we can be of help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.