November 30

Designing the Customer Experience

If your innovation ambitions stop at the product then I’m sorry but you are never going to build a truly innovative organisation. Sure, your product or service is important but unless you align product design and delivery to the customer experience you can have the greatest product in the world, but your customers will run a mile before they come back for more.

In my recent article, ‘innovation starts with people’ I started to look at the way in which building on the Next Generation Organisation attributes of intelligence, collaboration and adaptability can help organisations to build innovation capabilities which will drive real solutions. In this article I’m taking the next step, delving into the importance of designing the customer experience into every aspect of the organisation.

Let’s start with a quick example. Needing to take an early train and not wanting to rush in the morning, a colleague drove to their local station to pre-purchase a ticket. In theory, making self-service machines available at unmanned stations can save travellers the need to go out of their way to pre-purchase tickets or risk a potential fine from boarding a train without a ticket. So they are a good idea.

But when designing and implementing these machines, real customer needs were not taken into account. If they had been, then the designers wouldn’t have included a restriction which meant that next-day tickets couldn’t be purchased until after 3pm the previous day. That restriction left my colleague with a choice of going home, booking the tickets online, waiting for a couple of hours and going back collect them; going home and then coming back after 3pm; or taking a chance on being able to buy the tickets on the day. Either way, the initial journey was a wasted one, leaving my colleague feeling annoyed with the company.

Simply by designing the customer experience into the service, those in charge of commissioning and implementing the self-service machines could have provided an entirely different customer outcome. And if you think back over your interactions with organisations in the last week, it’s a fair bet that you could come up with similar examples; times when you were left feeling neutral or even dissatisfied with an experience which could have been so much better had the organisation thought a little about the needs of its users.

This idea of including customer experience in the design process is one which was also covered by a McKinsey & Company article in September 2015. Under the heading of ‘Building a design-driven culture’, the article commented that ‘customer experience is becoming a key source of competitive advantage as companies look to transform how they do business.’ Interestingly, the steps recommended in the article mirror some of the attributes of Next Generation Organisations. Really understanding the customer, bringing empathy to the organisation, designing in real-time and acting quickly can all add up to a positive customer experience.

But there is one caveat here which those looking to design a customer focused innovation strategy cannot afford to ignore. That is the importance of including everyone within the organisation in the customer focus mix. It’s not enough for your product design team, your marketing team and your customer facing people to put the customer at the heart of their workflow and thinking. People in your organisation who have no contact whatsoever with the customer can still influence the way in which the organisation interacts with its customers. Look at accounts, training, HR or IT; the processes which they impose on the organisation can have knock-on effects which will feed through to the customer experience.

So the message is simple; if you want to build a culture of innovation, if you want to differentiate through providing amazing customer experiences then everyone has to be involved and everyone has to take responsibility. When you’re designing the customer experience, take a holistic view; you’d be surprised where it could lead you.

Click here for more information on our upcoming book ‘Building a Culture of Innovation – A Practical Framework for Placing Innovation at the Core of Your Business’ Written by Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop and Jo Geraghty. Published 3rd December 2015, available for pre-order now.


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