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Design thinking: The revolution for customer service

Design thinking: The revolution for customer service

With customer demands constantly changing, companies are regularly looking for new ways to meet these requirements. In the process of innovation, however, there is a critical factor that is often overlooked: the customers themselves. Design thinking places the customer back in focus, ensuring optimum customer service.

For many companies, innovation means implementing new technologies such as chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) in their customer service. And these new technologies come with a number of benefits. But technology alone does not automatically lead to better customer service. Especially when the implementation of these new tools is planned in an ivory tower – with decision makers and managers neglecting to give due consideration to the views of their colleagues, employees and customers in particular.

In fact, studies conducted by McKinsey reveal that more than 40 percent of the surveyed companies don’t even speak with consumers when developing new ideas or products. Not only does this approach fail to offer a better customer experience; it can ultimately put customers off completely.

Focus on the user

Design thinking helps companies to implement new technologies, processes and ideas in a way that places the focus on the customer. This approach is not a new idea. It was developed in the 1990s by the design consulting firm IDEO. Rather than pursuing an individual idea or point of view, people from different disciplines work together in a group to jointly develop a solution to a problem.

The process consists of five phases:

1. Empathy.
This phase involves collecting as much information as possible about the target group. Conversations with customers, employees and colleagues provide a deeper understanding of the problem.

2. Definition.
The problem and the desired objective are clearly described.

3. Brainstorming.
People from throughout the company or the industry are brought together to share ideas and views from different disciplines.

4. Creation of a prototype.
A real example of the solution is created, which can be tried out on the target group.

5. Testing.
The product or service is actively tested in the targeted customer segment, and feedback is collected.

Benefits for many industries

The advantages of the design thinking approach are clear. Its focus lies largely on the consumer and ensures that the solution – or the product or service – actually works before it enters the market.

The design thinking approach can be implemented in numerous industries, ranging from insurance companies to private equity firms. And the healthcare industry in particular stands to benefit from it. The human-centric approach to problems can revolutionize the patient experience while also reducing costs for the supplier. The Harvard Business Review argues, for example, that the approach could resolve the problem of missed doctor’s appointments – a problem that costs multiple billions of dollars each year in the United States alone. With design thinking, doctors and executives are able to view issues through the eyes of patients – enabling them to consider factors that might never have crossed their minds before, such as patients’ difficulties in traveling to an appointment or emotional hindrances.


Relevance for customer service

A focus on the user makes design thinking relevant for customer service as well. And due to technological advancements, this approach that was devised 30 years ago is more relevant today than ever. Studies conducted by the International Data Corporation have recently shown that the worldwide expenditures for cognitive and AI systems will reach nearly USD 78 billion by the year 2022. This is driven in part by companies that are under pressure to remain a step ahead of the competition and to offer fast, high-quality and constantly available service across all business processes and across multiple channels.

However, many companies skip the potentially tedious design thinking processes and offer somewhat rash customer service, without considering its suitability for their purposes – that is, for their customers. But taking the time really pays off. McKinsey’s findings show that the most financially successful companies are those that focus on the user through the entire development process. Design thinking makes it possible to ascertain what really matters to customers and to find the right solution to a problem.

Future success factor

It can be advantageous to work with a qualified outsourcing provider in this process. Thanks to such providers’ experience and industry expertise, they know how to design outstanding customer experiences. Whether optimizing back office processes or customer service itself, an outsourcing provider partners with companies, works with them in implementing their design thinking, and ensures that the customer remains at the focus of their strategies.

If the customer does not remain in focus and feels neglected, misunderstood or mistreated, the consequences can be costly. A current report published by British cloud service company New Voice Media shows that US companies lose up to USD 75 billion each year as a result of bad customer service. When it comes to distinguishing features, customer service is just as important as cost – and it can make or break the relationship between companies and consumers. That’s why corporate strategies must focus on the continuous improvement of the customer journey. Design thinking plays a crucial role in this process and could be the key to success in the coming years.


Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.
Image: © REDPIXEL – AdobeStock

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