The ongoing pandemic has made inevitable, the need for organizations to reimagine customer experience journeys. Now, more than ever, organizations must spotlight the changing customer needs and have predictive processes for how the needs will evolve.
The differentiation today can no longer be about incremental addition of features or brand slogans aligned to a current-day fad. Differentiation henceforth will come through an authentic attempt to curate the product and service to the real customer need.
Design thinking, therefore, has the greatest relevance in these unprecedented times and changes in customer needs – no longer just aspirational but mandated because of the distinctive environment.
Design thinking, an ideology as well as a process concerned with solving complex problems in a highly customer-centric manner, is a powerful “way of life” for organizations to sustain and thrive during this time. It is a process that revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the customer and helps organizations to develop products, services, and experiences that resonate with customers.
In this article, we will explore the 5 steps of the design thinking process that enable organizations to come up with impactful solutions for the real problems of their customers and reimagine customer experience All these steps are steeped in a deep belief that the customer should be at the heart of all decision-making.
Step #1: Feel- Research your customers’ needs.
This step focuses on gaining an empathetic understanding of the problem that one is trying to solve. This involves consulting experts to find out more about the area of concern, engaging and empathizing with customers to understand their experiences, as well as immersing oneself in the physical environment to gain a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved.
For example, video communication app ‘Zoom’ quickly analyzed the needs of its customers & worked hard to make the app more customer-friendly by introducing features like ‘blur the background/use customized backgrounds’ to make video chats comfortable for them in the new work from home environment.
Empathy plays a very crucial role throughout this process because it allows us to set aside one’s own assumptions about the world and gain real insights into the customers and their needs.
Step #2: Frame- State your customers’ needs and problems.
This step involves analyzing the information gained through the ‘feel’ step and synthesizing it to define the core problem. Herein, the focus is on defining the problem as a problem statement in a customer-centric manner.
For example, instead of defining the problem based on the need of the company- ‘We need to increase our food-product market share among young teenage girls by 10%.’, the problem is framed from the customer’s perspective- ‘Teenage girls need to eat nutritious food to thrive, be healthy and grow.”
Something like this is beneficial because it ensures that the customer remains the focal point during the entire process.
Step #3: Dream- Challenge assumptions and create ideas.
The solid background of knowledge obtained from the first two steps can help one to start to ‘think outside the box, look for alternative ways to view the problem, and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement that has been created. In other words, it can be said that the dream step marks the transition from identifying customers’ problems to exploring solutions for them.
For example, the above-mentioned company could start thinking that how can they encourage teenage girls to perform an action that benefits them and at the same time also helps the company to enhance its productivity levels.
Techniques like brainstorming and worst possible idea sessions are quite useful during this step because they help to stimulate free thinking and expand the problem space which further aids in providing an optimal solution to the customer’s problem.
Step #4: Build- Start to create solutions.
This is an experimental phase wherein the aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the identified customer problems. All the solutions proposed are implemented within prototypes- which are essentially a scaled-down version of a product or feature- be it a paper model or a more interactive digital representation.
These prototypes are critical because they help to convert the ideas into something tangible which can then be tested on the real customers. Once these prototypes are developed, they are investigated, and either accepted, improved, and re-examined, or rejected based on the customers’ experiences.
Step #5: Test- Try your solutions out.
During this step, the focus is on rigorously testing the prototypes by exposing them to real customers and then noting their reactions and experiences towards it.
This entire process of gathering feedback from the customers’ aids in obtaining a more lucid view of how they would think, behave, and feel when interacting with the end product. It also ensures that the final design solves the customers’ problem and is a delight to use!
In order for the 5 steps stated above, to yield authentic results and not be limited to a tick in the box process, Step 0 is non-negotiable.
Step # 0:
An authentic desire and vision from the leader of the organisation and his team to solve / fulfil a fundamental customer need empathetically. Without this being the driving force Design thinking can be limited to being just another fad.
Finally, it is important to understand that the design thinking process is iterative and non-linear. Therefore, the results generated during the test step are often used to redefine one or more problems and inform the understanding of the customers. This understanding is then used to make further refinements and create that winning prototype.
To help you and your teammates understand these 5 steps of design thinking in greater detail, InspireOne, which has been doing a lot of work in customer experience for the past two decades, has launched a new solution ‘Design Thinking for Customer Experience’.
This program typically focuses on equipping the participants with the concept, tools & techniques of design thinking which will then enable them to create innovative journeys for their customers.
If you would like to know more about our current customer experience offering, feel free to contact us!