Beyond Measurement: Designing Excellent Customer Experiences

Heli Ihamäki • Design Director

In the recent years, excellent Customer Experience has become a hot topic in boardrooms and even a strategic target. However, in many companies the activity around CX is mainly related to measuring it rather that systematically designing it. Also, research indicates, that the biggest challenges related to providing excellent CX lie in changing the organizational structures and processes to support the CX. Using Service Design tools enables the organization to manage their CX on deeper level than just measurement.

The elements of Customer Experience

Nowadays, larger and larger part of the customer’s interaction with the company’s products & services happens in digital channels. The customers do research and compare different options through search engines, marketing sites and social networks. They buy physical products in webshops and pay them using the digital channels and even when purchasing services, they often book them online. For many companies, digitals channels are already the primary contact point to their customers. Traditional UX and UI design focuses on designing these digital touchpoints.

However, as whole the Customer Experience consists of many other touchpoints beyond the digital channels and also the underlying organization, processes and organizational culture are key elements in building excellent CX. When talking about physical products, their sales and delivery packaging as well as the delivery process and related personnel are all part of the CX. Also background processes related to manufacturing the product can either support or break the intended excellent experience.

And if we talk about services, CX is greatly affected by the space where the service is provided, clothing, behavior and attitude of the customer facing personnel as well as physical products that may be consumed during the service. Also in this case all the related background processes and systems have a positive or a negative impact on the CX.

CX elements: touchpoints & background factors

The Service Design Process

Taking all the abovementioned factors into account makes CX design quite challenging, but this is where Service Design can help. In order to design and lead the Customer Experience, the actions of the organization need to be based on the company strategy but also on customer understanding and customer centric thinking throughout the organization and partner network. This is why Service Design process typically starts with current state analysis and gathering customer understanding. Based on these, it is possible to map the current Customer Journey, including all the touchpoints with the customer but also the underlying processes and systems. During the mapping, it is also possible to identify what is the Customer Experience in each touchpoint and what are the pain points.

Traditional UX and CX design often ends to the directly customer facing part of the product or servivce. However, this is not for optimizing the CX, because in order to provide great Customer Experiences the personnel needs to be motivated and to enjoy their job. This does not happen, if the digital & physical tools used by the personnel or the working environment are not optimal for the personnel. Also the organizational structure and organization culture can either support or hinder the customer centric thinking.

Service Design tools work well especially in environments, where the systems and processes are complex or the organization is siloed and culture is hierarchical.

Service Design tools work well especially in environments, where the systems and processes are complex or the organization is siloed and culture is hierarchical. In order to successfully lead the CX, it is essential that both the management and the rest of the personnel participate the SD process. Also, the whole organization needs to truly try to understand, what kind of tools, working environment, organization and culture would allow all the involved parties to do their part in providing the excellent CX. At the same time, it is useful to map the whole value stream and process of providing the products and services. This provides means to understand which parts of the value stream actually provide value either directly to the customer or to the personnel and it is possible to remove the tasks and side products, that don’t do either.

When current state is understood from the perspective of both customers and the personnel, the work to define the target state, related KPIs and the optimal Customer Journey can start. Based on the optimal Customer Journey it is then possible to re-design and optimize each customer touchpoint as well as the tools, processes and organizational models so essential to the employee experience in each of these touchpoints.

It is also essential to build marketing directly into the product and service experience i.e. think about the means how satisfied customer can spread the word about the product or service. Also customer that is not satisfied needs to have channels to express their dissatisfaction and the organizational structure and processes need to support quick reaction to this kind of feedback. Great Customer Experience can also be a result from facing the unsatisfied customer as a person, taking their feedback into account and fixing the unsuccessful experience as quickly as possible.

Co-creating the CX with customers and personnel and validating the plans with them in early phases of the project will bring cost savings, because it prevents the company from proceeding on a wrong path for too long. This is why different kind of product and service prototypes are key parts of the SD process. It is quite typical to prototype digital systems or physical products used by customers and personnel, but similarly it is possible to prototype spaces as well as service processes. Also different kind of organizational experiments are possible and recommended, even though slightly more difficult and time consuming to implement.

In all prototyping, it is essential to compare the results to the target state and to iterate the solution based on the feedback received from the prototypes and experiments. During prototyping, it is useful to keep in mind, that there may be some change resistance among both the customers and the personnel. Co-creating the experiences with both of these groups helps to ease the pain, but especially organizational experiments and changes to tools and work processes require enough time to be spent on evaluation. The longer the existing process or tool has been in use , the harder it is to unlearn to use them so the new tools or processes should not b etoo harshly evaluated based on imminent responses.

Continuous Service Design Process

Service Design is about continuous improvement

When the redesigned touchpoints and background processes have been published, the work isn’t still over. From this point onwards starts the traditional CX measurement, but also continuos iteration based on the measurement results. It is also essential for the organization to continously gather customer & market understanding to stay on top of the ever changing needs of their customers and the market trends. Whole industries may be revolutionarized at surprising speed, if a new player enters the market and radically changes the existing practises. Also, today’s customers are active consumers, who want to compare products and services and to make choices that suit their lifestyle. They quickly move to competing products and services, if they are unhappy. Therefore, in order to survive in the today’s fast paced market, continuosly gathering customer insights and refining that data through SD activities to improved products and services should become natural part of the organizations way of working.

The article was originally published in Finnish in issue 1/2016 of Sytyke magazine.

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