With the need to stand out amongst the competition to provide a stellar customer experience, agile companies should look to implement Design Thinking.

What is Design Thinking?

The Interaction Design Foundation defines “Design Thinking” as an “iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.” In other words…

Design Thinking champions the effort of challenging presumptions and tackling customer issues based on raw data derived from post conversation or post sales surveys.

At the end of the day, we could consider Design Thinking to be a hyper-developed form of “thinking outside of the box.” Only, instead of random thoughts and insights, there is a method involved that leads to action.

The Foundation further drills down the process of applying Design Thinking to five phases:

    1. Empathize – the first phase is to have empathy with the customer.
    1. Define – determine a customer’s needs and thoughts along with the company’s solution(s).
    1. Ideate – challenge assumptions and develop innovative strategies.
    1. Prototype – incorporate the strategies from ideation into actionable solutions.
  1. Test – roll out the solutions created from the process and document the success and/or challenges.

When applying Design Thinking, it is important to note that the above phases may not always fall in sequential order. For instance, ideation can lead to the discovery of empathy points that may have not been realized before.

Where Does Design Thinking Fit in Customer Journey Mapping?

One of the most powerful benefits of Design Thinking is that it can remove possible customer pain points along the customer journey.

According to this guide to Design Thinking by Stanford University, the process requires the ability to “elicit stories from the people you talk to, and always ask ‘Why?’ to uncover deeper meaning.”

One of the tenets of Design Thinking is to forgo pre-drawn conclusions and assumptions and to mine the data field available to identify areas that require attention. In the world of CX, this means incorporating data from sources like after-sale and after-interaction surveys to truly nail down the customer’s thoughts and issues.

The results of this research can allow for implementation of each of the phases in Design Thinking. Customer Journey architects can define and then empathize with pain points that are revealed in customer surveys. These points of empathy can be used to creatively ideate solutions as well as providing a roadmap for developing prototypes that can be tested.

What Are the Benefits of Using Design Thinking in CX?

The best way to answer this question is to take note of companies that have successfully implemented Design Thinking in their customer experience strategy.

General Electric did an internal audit and found that while releasing hundreds of products across many different business lines, they didn’t really have a customer experience design in place. As a result, they had little to no customer consistency and were losing touch with their users.

They applied Design Thinking (as described in the phases above) to create an empathetic, customer-centric experience. They were able to identify pain points, which required them to pivot their journey construction from “how do we make money?” to “Let’s identify pain points like Average Handle Time and effortless guest resolution journeys.

After making this adjustment, the company found that they were saving 15 million dollars in development costs alone.

IBM developed an entire department for Design Thinking. They have 30 studio spaces set aside as think tanks where their principles are to follow your user, measure success, and stay curious.

Infosys, a global technology consulting firm, also uses Design Thinking. Pramod Prakash Panda, the company’s head of education, feels that the approach “offers the most efficient and effective model to harness the creative power and potential of the enterprise.”

Infosys uses Design Thinking to increase innovation and optimize employees’ ability to solve customer problems.

Gathering data based on customer voice is inherent within a Design Thinking approach to CX, but how is that data operationalized?

In a recent Glia podcast, Scott Dille, the Director of Client and Partner Experience at Northern Trust, said that their customer feedback technology sends the company a notification within 15 minutes of a customer reaching out to customer feedback channels with an issue non-anonymously.

The Customer Relationship Manager associated with the client’s account, operating under a service agreement, contacts the client to resolve the issue within 24 hours. According to Dille, it “tends to surprise the client in a positive way.” He states that the company has not received any negative feedback on the approach.

In Conclusion

With Design Thinking, what used to be a buzz phrase is now becoming the norm when it comes to structuring a customer journey.

Empathy and defining customer pain points can lead to insights regarding the customer experience. The companies that will thrive with Design Thinking will take measures to ideate, prototype, and implement solutions based data gathered from customer’s voices without drawing conclusions or making assumptions.