How to transform your business with design and customer centricity.

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Customer driven transformation

Which company does not nowadays claim that customer orientation is its main concern? I wonder what they were thinking before.

What we see, in reality, is that the promise made to the client continues to grow, while the way in which the company organizes itself to keep it does not change, or only slightly. By stretching the elastic between the promise and the reality of the organization’s capabilities, it often ends up giving up and the client does of course see it.

A way to remedy this? A by the design approach. I mean the “real” design. Not the one who only makes beautiful things, but the one who makes things that work!

Indeed, the design approach starts, by definition, from the customer, but since it affects the way things work, it necessarily has an impact on the organization. It is also its strength and its limit: it makes it possible to transform the organization starting from the customer and precisely because it allows it can frighten companies that are content with a façade promise.

How to do it and get everyone involved in the adventure? Well, last summer, a book was published on the subject I wanted to talk to you about.

Who ?

Joe Heapy, Oliver King, James Samperi from Engine Design.

What ?

Customer-Driven Transformation: How Being Design-led Helps Companies Get the Right Services to Market

The Big Picture

It is simple: what makes a company successful is the way its customers experience the services it offers. Experience design and service design are not two things apart, they are one and the same thing.

So the whole idea of the book is about service design and how to align your organization to implement them correctly.

PS : for those who are uncomfortable with the notion of service design or think it doesn’t concern them, I just remind you that today everything is service. Even when a physical product is sold, it most often carries associated services. I will go even further, the way it is marketed, bought, consumed and the whole customer relationship must be thought of as a service. It is precisely when it is not the case that things start to go wrong and the gap between promise and execution can hurt a brand very badly.

Further in Detail

The book is organized around two axes: challenges and skills (both at the individual and organizational level).

Let’s start with the challenges.

• Start with the customer, only the customer.

What it means to be truly customer-centric. Many companies do not go through with the process because they refuse to be dictated their modus operandi by the customer, thinking that it is on the contrary up to the customer to adapt to the organization.

Two points are highlighted. First of all, the internal silos that prevent the company from providing a consistent experience, where the pursuit of its own interest by each silo is to the detriment of the customer. Then comes the difficult balance between the short term (profit) and the long term (experience), knowing that the customer experience is a long-term investment.

• Vision

While the idea of providing an exceptional customer experience is easy to articulate, it must also be translated into a vision that engages the entire company. And here people often confuse vision and objectives. The vision must also be expressed in terms of deadlines to become concrete. In short, you need something realistic, ambitious and that can be visualized and concretized by everyone in their job.

• Speed

If agility is becoming the norm everywhere, creating and managing a great experience requires the ability to move at two speeds at once. There are indeed some components that can follow the rules of agility, others that require time and that cannot be accelerated. On the other hand – and this is a bit of a vision issue – it is essential to solve a problem: that of different departments or silos that do not have the same idea of the speed at which the customer experience must be implemented.

• Emotions

Too often, companies focus on the functional aspect of things while neglecting the emotional component of the customer experience, especially since, to improve this experience, we tend to automate a large number of things. However, there are ways to “embed” an emotional component in a service, even a digital one, and even to measure and predict the client’s emotional response.

• Différenciation

A service must highlight the brand’s DNA, which makes it unique. In the end, two companies trying to provide an answer to the same problem can come up with two different solutions because they do not have the same DNA, this DNA will express itself differently in the design process and they will try to make the customer experience something different.

This is very important because what a brand says is marketing, what it does is a service proposal. One can be good at service and yet disappointing because the customer does not find the essence of the brand.

• Change

Not surprisingly, that’s the most important one.

Implementing such logic in a company is not easy. Each silo, each department can pursue its own interest and, in fact, your organization can work against you in the most natural way and without even being aware of it.

In addition to align with the vision, silos must collaborate with each other, allowing time so that progress can be made.

In addition, many employees must first change their perception of what can be achieved. It’s not that they don’t believe in the vision, it’s that they don’t think the business can execute it.

In short, according to the authors, it takes 3 to 5 years to move from a product-oriented organization to a customer-oriented one.

Then the skills.

• Create a compelling vision.

This may seem basic, not too technical, but if you don’t know how to do it, the whole project collapses.

You need an idea that appeals to people, facts and figures (competition, projections…) to establish your point and finally be able to make a storytelling. All this is followed by a realistic implementation plan.

• Design “beautiful” services

A “beautiful” service brings emotion to the customer, is genuine (looks like you), meets the needs of the market at that time (and not its future needs), must be as nice to see as to experience, works perfectly and in a way that the customer will love, works for all your customers and not just one segment of them.

• Build a use-case that demonstrates the value of the service

A good value case is the essential complement to your vision. It must present an indisputable reason why the change must happen, concrete benefits, quantify the necessary investment, answer the practical implementation questions that anyone can raise.

• Make the service executable

Those who design are not the ones who will execute. Nothing should leave room for a subjective interpretation, so you must document everything that has to happen and how it will happen in every detail.

• Create the conditions for success

It is imperative to create a sense of urgency, to sell the project well enough so that everyone wants to be part of it, not to forget the client at once because you are moving on to internal subjects, fight against the fear of the unknown by taking an experimental approach.

• Create engagement about the project

Make sure you have the right experts available at the right time, communicate only about the problems your project will solve, create a demonstration space in the company to show the progress, create a brand for your project, bring change and originality to the way people are used to doing things and…pay particular attention to the most senior sponsors and stakeholders.

• Think like a designer

It is of course essential because it will help you think in a more disruptive way, learn things that go beyond the scope of your profession, and make it easier to make your ideas tangible….

My opinion.

In my opinion, this book really addresses three crucial topics.

The first is customer orientation, the second is what it implies for an organization, the third is how to achieve it

In theory, in the end, you will have (if this is not already the case) understood that your brand is no longer what you say it is but what you make your customers experience and that making them experience something else means rethinking everything, from the product/service to the way you execute it and how you organize to execute it.

The second part, which is a bit like the user manual, finally recalls the fundamentals of what I would call “transformation by action”, to which are added specific elements of design thinking.

The most important part for me and it is logical that the authors come to it many times concerns the way in which the project is sold internally and how to create a dynamic around it. This is the only way to achieve a large-scale and sustainable change, to think beyond the project level and to root new ways of thinking and acting. Apart from the technicality of design thinking, it is therefore necessary to know how to be the salesman and the chief marketer of your project.

I will add one of the last points on the method, based on my personal experience. Many companies want to change and fail to do so because internal change is disconnected from an impact on the market, on the customer, which ruins many initiatives. Here we are precisely in the opposite hypothesis in terms of sensemaking.

I don’t know if this book will interest designers, who are already familiar with this kind of approach, or perhaps because of the variety of cases presented. However, it will be of interest to all other occupations that are looking for new approaches.

And don’t use the word “customer” in a too restrictive sense. Replace it with the candidate or employee and you have the roadmap for HR reinvention.

Have a good reading!