Is human-centered design at the heart of your customer experience? It should be.

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Digital technologies are impacting every aspect of our lives, and companies have no choice but to transform and adapt. To earn customer loyalty and respect, we are expected to meet customers’ needs at every interaction. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult to innovate effectively to meet those needs in today’s complex and rapidly changing business environment. The ability to deliver depends on the extent to which customer centricity is embedded within every aspect of business, and in the way an organisation thinks.

So how can you embed a human-centered approach into your organisation’s DNA? And how can you integrate that approach into your customer experience?

Start with human-centered design: a sustainable, faster, and more cost-effective approach to innovation.

Human-centered design puts the focus on the end user or customer. This means you do business in a way that provides a positive customer experience — before and after the product or service is delivered — in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and, ultimately, profit.

But a customer-centric company offers more than good service. It puts the customer firmly in the driver’s seat and accepts the required changes in how relationships with potential and existing customers are built and nurtured. By putting the customer at the heart of the organisation, a company will experience an increase in customer lifetime value and a reduction in churn.

Start small, reap big benefits

Becoming a truly customer-centric organisation takes time, but you can start small. Here are three keys to success:

  • Prevent, protect and predict. To apply a human-centered design in the experience that you deliver to your customers, adopt a personalized “prevent, protect and predict” approach that analyzes, improves and optimizes every step in the journey.
    • The aim is to prevent your customers from having problems, questions, doubts, and so forth. For example, a page with FAQs or information updates can help reduce the need for customers to reach out for support.
    • In the case of vulnerable or unhappy customers, clear guidance can protect them by making sure they have an easy and understandable way to interact with your company.
    • You also need to analyze and predict customer behavior. By leveraging the data you already have about customers, you can better predict their next steps or any issues they might have. Pay close attention to and analyze all key touchpoints so you can better understand and act upon them, with an ultimate goal to discover the moment of truth and the moments that really matter to a customer, and to predict the next best action to take to improve the customer experience. This type of assessment is a great way to re-orient how your company thinks about and interacts with customers.
  • Personalize the experience. A decade ago, everything evolved around customer segmentation. Today, focusing sales and marketing on large groups of customers who were believed to have similar profiles, buying behaviours and needs is an outdated notion. Now the only segment that matters is the individual customer. Personalization has become key.

The vast rise of social media — which enables customers to compare products and services in real time and across multiple devices — has presented a huge challenge for many brands. A customer who has clearly stated his preferences expects you to take them into account. If you don’t, they won’t feel valued. A known customer should be remembered by name and history and should not have to provide data twice or fill out irrelevant information. This will only trigger frustration. But recommend something else they might like before they even think of it themselves, and they will feel appreciated.

  • Overcome roadblocks with outside-in thinking. Key challenges to becoming a customer-centric organisation include:
  • Functional silos preventing data sharing
  • Key technology platforms with an abundance of available customer data, but no way of using the data intelligently
  • Customer support not empowered to deal with customer issues

But most of all, the key reason for failing to achieve a customer-centric organisation is a wrong way of thinking.

You need to start with your customers, not your products or profit, and focus on what your customers want. As you transform the customer experience with next-generation digital technologies, it is important to apply outside-in thinking. Don’t apply your company’s view of the world. Instead, use empathy to design customer-centric solutions that hide technological complexity and demonstrate simplicity and value. A customer does not care about all the fancy technology working in the background. Customers have become so familiar with the Alexa/Uber/Siri type of experience that the technology has become transparent.

What matters to customers is that they are helped immediately, in the most efficient and correct way, and with the least amount of effort possible on their part. The customer is your crucial stakeholder in the innovation process, and they must be given a central role. If you ignore your customer, they will ignore you and what you’re offering. Businesses need a value proposition, a business case and ROI projections, but most of all they need satisfied and loyal customers.

Naturally, most of our thinking is inside-out, meaning that we start with an issue as we or others see it and then explore solutions within that initial mental frame. By contrast, outside-in thinking means that you look at your business from the customer’s perspective and subsequently make decisions and design processes, tools and products based on what’s best for the customer and what meets their needs:

 

INSIDE-OUT THINKING OUTSIDE-IN THINKING
Based on the idea that the capabilities of an organisation will make it successful Based on the idea that customer value is key to shareholder value
Systems, tools, processes, and products designed with the company in mind The result of listening to the customer, truly understanding their needs and helping them better than your competition
Seeing the efficient use of resources and talent as the most important driver for shareholder value

 

Looking at the organisation with the eyes of the customer

 

 

Know and engage your customer

Too many organisations focus on trying to deliver what they think is a world-class service or product – but are they really giving customers what they actually want? Nowadays, what a business thinks is innovative is often very different from what a customer thinks. Mobile phone apps or real-time status notifications, for example, might be challenging and innovative for a business to implement, but from a customer’s point of view, these are the bare minimum. Customer expectations today are at the next level.

The most effective customer experience solutions are designed with two core principles in mind: know and engage your customer. So be clear about your goals and desired outcomes, but avoid outside-in thinking. In short, the advice Steve Jobs gave a couple of decades ago is still relevant: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”


Els Van Hauwermeiren is a senior Customer Experience solution architect at DXC Technology. She has more than 15 years of experience in designing Customer Experience solutions for clients across various industries. She has worked in diverse roles in the contact center world, including start-up, implementation, operational management, improvement assessment and overall consultancy.

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