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4 min read

Design Thinking & Customer Experience Design

4 min read

Design Thinking & Customer Experience Design

Nowadays, it has become a necessity to understand what are the objectives and problems faced by customers. Based on this, strategic decisions must be made to shape the organization. Nowadays, customer experience is an issue that has become important, and many companies have already started to look for a competitive advantage in it. Product quality is no longer enough to attract and retain customers, and the standard of service quality has increased thanks to competition and globalization.

Understanding how buyers' perceptions are affected is a complex task; situations are highly variable and challenging. However, some methodologies can help us find a way to improve our internal processes and thus provide a better service that puts us on the radar. This blog is about how you can use Design Thinking to improve the customer experience.


Why is customer experience so important?

Nowadays, we can search for solutions to our problems through the Internet. Whether it's information, a product, or a service, just by entering a few words into Google, we have access to everything we need. As customers, each of us has an expectation, and the better a business understands these expectations, the easier it will be to adapt to meet them.

On the other hand, the experience functions as an emotional response to the affective, cognitive, sensory, social, physical, and digital stimuli a brand can offer during the Customer Journey. But, with today's competitive marketplace, ordinary experiences are no longer enough.

It is now necessary to understand how to design our products, services, and processes to give the right stimuli at the right time and through the right channel, seeking to exceed expectations and generate a unique and extraordinary experience that allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. In other words, without the Customer Experience, our business is just one of a bunch.


How can Design Thinking help us?

Although it is known that customer experience is one of the most important variables when making a purchase decision, the truth is that today there are still three significant problems:

  • There are other variables besides customer experience that influence the decision.
  • Many factors that affect the customer experience are known, but it is only possible to know some of them. In addition, other factors come from individual situational contingencies, so they cannot be generalized.
  • Companies cannot control all the factors that affect the customer experience. For example, the influence of other people on the buyer or their buying motivations.

This is a big challenge, and the best we can do is focus on what we know and control. To do this, a methodology such as Design Thinking, whose usefulness is to help build innovative solutions to complex problems, is an excellent tool for understanding how to optimize our products and services.

How to apply Design Thinking in Customer Experience Design?

There are several frameworks for design thinking. At Imagineer Customer Experience, we adopt the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford (d.School), which consists of five stages: Empathy, problem definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing.

Each of these phases has a particular goal; however, during the application of the methodology, we can go back and forth between the previous stages to incorporate the findings and create a better solution.

The following describes how you can use each stage for Customer Experience Design.



1. Empathy

This stage consists of building empathy for the internal and external customers of the solution. The experience depends on both the business staff and the buyer, so it is vital to understand both parties' objectives, motivations, and expectations, as well as the barriers, pain points, and problems that most hinder the fulfillment of these expectations.

This is an exhaustive investigation, as it requires collecting the necessary information to visualize the context that encompasses the current situation. It is therefore essential to conduct interviews, surveys, "Gemba Walk," or other actions that increase the degree of familiarity with the current problem.

2. Defining the problem

Once the information has been collected, it must be grouped, organized, analyzed, and synthesized into findings. Process maps, flowcharts, empathy maps, stakeholder maps, affinity diagrams, Personas, Journey Maps, and Points of View (POV), among others, are recommended.

Each of these tools simplifies the information in a visual format that is easy to study and share so that a common language is generated where everyone can understand the situation. Thanks to this presentation, you can form multidisciplinary teams to analyze deliverables and identify opportunities for business improvement. Remember that the problem must be a function of internal and external customer pains so that it captures how the experience of either (or both) is affected.


3. Ideation

With a list of opportunities for improvement, people gather in group sessions to generate proposed solutions through methods such as brainstorming, mind maps, sketches, storyboards, analogies, and SCAMPER, among others.

During the sessions, no idea is discarded. Still, they are accumulated to have a list of potential solutions that will later be evaluated and classified according to their capacity to solve the problem, technical feasibility, economic viability, and client desirability. Finally, the best ideas are selected for implementation.

4. Prototyping

In this stage, the selected ideas are used to develop physical or digital support that allows one to see and interact with the potential solutions. The team can also build minimum viable products since the goal is to achieve a representation of the final product with few resources.

This is useful to evaluate if the solution feels adequate, lacks elements, is too complex, is functional, etc.


5. Testing

Once the physical prototype is in place, or a digital minimum viable product of a potential solution has been implemented, what remains is to implement it and take notes on how to take it to its final version. 

The idea is to design several hypotheses and experiments to retrieve information that will help identify which elements can or should be improved. This is achieved by testing it with a few customers, which involves discovering that some assumptions from the previous phases are incorrect or incomplete. At this point, it is not a matter of concern since it is easier to work on the known structure and correct errors without starting from scratch to implement quick adjustments.

A perfect version can't exist; however, it is possible to work under a philosophy of continuous improvement to keep our products, processes, and services up to date, always keeping in mind how they affect customers through empathy.

The Customer Experience is one of the essential variables when making a purchase decision; however, the factors that make it up are highly variable and situational, and not all are controllable. This means that designing a Journey, as well as the internal processes required to sustain a good experience or an extraordinary experience, becomes a complex task. For this reason, a methodology such as Design Thinking becomes a great tool that points the way to devise solutions creatively and innovatively. It should also be understood as a continuous improvement process since it is not linear but iterative. You must incorporate each learning to adjust the products to reach better versions of themselves.

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