design thinking in customer experience

Customer experience essentially is the impression of your brand that you leave with the customer at all stages of their journey. This impression shapes the perception of your brand. There are various touchpoints that contribute towards creating customer experience, such as:

  • Product: How happy customers are with your offering, and are they getting what they were promised 
  • People: A delightful support experience that solves customers’ problems empathetically and timely

Importance of Customer Experience

  • Customer experience holds critical value to sustain the growth of a business. Also, a good customer experience translates to brand loyalty and affinity. When customers become loyal they tend to endorse and evangelize products and services and bring in referrals. 
  • Another important aspect here is the customer reviews. In today’s e-shopping era, consumers look out for customer reviews before making their buying decisions. Positive customer reviews are important in this scenario, and they come out of good customer experiences. 
  • Word of mouth moves like wild-fire. It is important for businesses to be in the talks and only for good reasons. Customer satisfaction increases customer advocacy. It has been observed that more and more customers are not trusting adverts anymore. Therefore, customer advocacy is really important to get the word out in the market. 
  • Good customer experience can also help businesses to stand out from the competition. It develops trust and builds personal relationships between customers and the business which result in long fruitful associations.     
role of design thinking in customer experience

Design thinking in customer experience

Brands today are realising that there is something beyond just selling products and services, which is customer experience. Therefore, they are putting efforts to improve experience throughout the purchase cycle. Organisations are also implementing new ideas and methods to improve their existing level of service, and here design thinking comes into the picture. 

Now, the first question that comes to mind is:

What is Design Thinking Certification?

Design thinking is all about pursuing a solution-based approach to solve business problems. The process of design thinking involves understanding the user, challenge assumptions, and identify alternate strategies by redefining problems. This helps in coming up with the best possible solutions which might have not been apparent with an initial understanding of the problem.

The interest lies in deeply understanding the people or the user-base who are going to use the specific product or service. Hence, the process of design thinking is driven by constant questioning at each step and reiterating. It includes questioning the: 

  • Problem statement
  • Assumptions made
  • Implications drawn

This is the main reason design thinking is a highly efficient method to solve ill-defined and unknown problems. The three activities that form the base of design thinking are brainstorming sessions, prototyping, testing, and then repeating all of this until an optimum solution to the problem is achieved. The design thinking process is a continuous process of experimentation.

Application of design thinking in customer experience

The traditional approach of optimizing individual touchpoints does not provide a desired level of customer experience anymore. Focusing on individual channels such as in-store experience, social media, website, etc. does not reap any fruits if the overall experience is poor. 

This is where design thinking enters the discussion. 

role of design thinking in customer experience

Today, businesses are realizing the importance of creating a consumer-centric environment around their offerings. For example, brick and mortar retail stores are using AI and Virtual Reality to augment the shopping experience. The idea is to not just sell the product or service but to create delightful experiences for their customers with an aim to enrich their lives. Design thinking is the backbone of creating such consumer-centric ecosystems.

Let us have a look at some of the design-led companies who pioneered in improving their customer experience with the help of design thinking. 

IBM’s people for smarter cities initiative

This is a classic example of extending a marketing initiative to provide stellar customer experience. Under this initiative, IBM installed billboards that acted as ramps, rain shelters, and benches. The initiative put forth the idea of IBM’s smart cities, involving users through interesting experiences. A simple, yet effective idea!

GE Healthcare redesigned MRIs for children

After an engineer noticed the anxiety and fear children had about undergoing an MRI scan, GE Healthcare came up with an amazing CX solution to provide kids with a comfortable MRI experience. The fear of getting an MRI was so massive that around 80% of the children had to be sedated before the process. 

It was inferred that the noise from the machine and the overall environment was terrifying for children even though the machine was non-invasive. Hence, Doug Dietz, an industrial designer, created the ‘ Adventure series MRI machines’ to transform the horrifying experience into an enjoyable adventure for children.  

GE-Adventure Series - The Pirate Room

Here’s a video of one of these MRI machines for children installed at the Pittsburg Children’s hospital.

Common mistakes with Design Thinking to avoid

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid once you have decided to go ahead with applying design thinking for your CX initiatives. 

  • Do not follow the book blindly: There are no ‘one size fits all’ guidelines when it comes to design thinking. Every business has a different product and a different set of customers. Follow the basic ideology behind the design thinking concept and devise your own ways to move forward. This will depend on the type of business, your customers, and the problem you are handling. 
  • Do not implement design thinking as a formulaic process: Firstly, start by figuring out which touchpoints are missing a customer-centric approach. Then, assess the company’s culture and the capabilities to figure out a way forward towards initiating the design thinking process. Finally, implement internal changes that would reflect on the external services in a sustainable and scalable manner. 
  • Do not run away from collaborations: Companies which see collaborations as a burden rather than strength are surely not on the right track. Also, meaningful collaborations make the design thinking process fluid and propel progress. When the right set of minds come together to solve a problem, they bring with them the expertise specific domains. To ensure a consistent user experience, it is necessary to consider and simultaneously work on all touchpoints. This is a task that would be really tough to achieve without the right set of people from different functions inside and outside the organisation.  

The bigger picture

Customer experience is the major driver of the success of an organisation. Also, design thinking is the best possible way to implement a customer-centric ecosystem. For example, the innovation pioneers of the world like IBM, Apple, PepsiCo, and Coca Cola are all design-led companies and are innovating their processes efficiently and successfully.

To succeed, the newer organisations will have to adopt design thinking to continuously redesign and evolve their processes including customer experience.

Stanford Design Thinking Course is a well-structured program for those who are interested to pursue a career in design thinking. For more information on design thinking and how it is being implemented by organisations, follow the blog section of our website. 



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