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The art of design: Why Design Thinking can revolutionize customer service strategies

The art of design: Why Design Thinking can revolutionize customer service strategies

The concept of ‘Design Thinking’ means making sure that customers are at the core of all new ideas. Here Karsten Kraume, chief strategy officer at Arvato CRM Solutions, discusses the benefits of Design Thinking in customer service, and how the approach is now more relevant than ever before.

Innovation is always at the forefront of the business agenda, with companies constantly exploring new ways to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer.

For a lot of firms this means looking at how they can utilize new technologies in customer service such as chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). But, although the benefits of this new technology can be great, companies that don’t tailor their approach when implementing new plans could fail to achieve their overall objective – to improve services for their customers.

This is because many firms adopt, what I like to call, an ivory tower approach, where decision-makers and leaders push forward with ideas while failing to gather the views of their peers, colleagues and, most importantly, their customer base.

In fact, research from McKinsey has found that more than 40 per cent of businesses don’t even speak to the end user when developing new ideas or products – a move that could alienate customers rather than support them.

So, what is the best way for firms to implement new technology, processes or ideas in a way that has the customer at its core? That’s where the concept of Design Thinking comes into play.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is not a new idea. Developed in the 1990s by design consultancy IDEO, the process is billed as a method of creative action that encourages people to work as a group to develop a solution to a problem, rather than pushing forward with one single view or opinion.

A five-step process, Design Thinking suggests that when implementing a new strategy or creating an idea people go through the following stages:

1. Empathize – gather as much information as you can about the audience. Speak to customers, workers and colleagues to develop a deeper understanding of the problem or issue.
2. Define – clearly outline the problem and what you want to achieve.
3. Ideate – gather together people from across the company or industry to share ideas and views from across different disciplines.
4. Prototype – create a real-life example of the solution that can be tried on the target audience.
5. Test – actively test the product or service on the intended customer base and gather feedback.

The benefits of implementing this approach have been well recorded, as the focus is very much on the end user and making sure that the solution works before taking it to market.

It sounds simple, but a lot of firms often miss these crucial steps, even though research has revealed that the most financially successful businesses are the ones that place the user at the center of all their developments.

The Design Thinking approach can be applied across a wide range of sectors, with the benefits of the methodology being reported from insurance to private equity. Yet it is precisely the fact that it encompasses very specific circumstances, demands, touchpoints, personas, etc, that make it so effective. One sector where Design Thinking can have a significant impact is the healthcare industry. Taking a people-centric approach to problems can revolutionize the patient experience and potentially help providers to save a significant amount of money.

For example, an article on Harvard Business Review argues that using Design Thinking to address the complex issue of missed medical appointments could help to save the industry billions of dollars. This is because it encourages clinicians and business leaders to look at the issue through the patients’ eyes considering factors that may not have previously even crossed their minds, such as travel or emotional barriers.

So why is Design Thinking relevant to customer service now?

Although it was created 30 years ago, the advance of technology means that Design Thinking is now more relevant than ever before.

Research from the International Data Corporation recently found that spending on cognitive and AI systems will reach $77.6 billion dollars by 2022. This is partly due to the pressure for firms to stay ahead of their competitors, with the need to offer a fast, high-quality, always-on service across all business processes and multiple channels now a priority for many.

A lot of firms skip the Design Thinking process as it can be quite lengthy, rushing to offer a service to a customer without considering if it’s fit for purpose. But taking the time to follow the methodology can enable them to identify the right solution to a problem or help to reveal what really makes their customers tick.

Working with a skilled outsourcing provider as you go through the Design Thinking process can also be beneficial, as they understand what it takes to provide outstanding customer experience across a range of sectors. Whether it’s streamlining back-office processes or delivering direct customer service, they can work with companies to implement Design Thinking and ensure that the customer is always central to their strategies.

A recent report has found that businesses are losing up to $75 billion a year due to poor customer service, with consumers often feeling ignored or misunderstood by brands. But, customer service is now as important as a differentiator as price, and can make or break a business’ relationship with a consumer.

With this in mind, companies need to ensure that improving the customer journey is central to their strategy, and Design Thinking could be the key to their success in the coming years.

Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.

Read more about this topic at McKinsey Quarterly

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