Analytics & Big Data
Dec 14, 2016

Design thinking to drive customer experience led transformation

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning" – Bill Gates

Customer needs are ever evolving in this digital age, with new channels being adopted to serve customers better including robotic IVRs, speech analytics, chat-bots, social media, mobile apps, IoT, etc. Today, the need of the customer is to get omnichannel, more personalized, and faster solutions involving minimal customer effort and resulting in best-in-class customer experiences.

Figure 1

Increasingly, a design-thinking approach is being applied to design superior customer experiences across industries. Facebook uses it immensely to offer innovative services to customers across the globe. With the decline in personal content being shared, Facebook's latest innovation is to make news feeds more “personal." The slideshow allows customers to automatically combine photos and videos with themed music and transitions to increase user engagement. The design-thinking capability with right-skilled customer experience designers can transform businesses by driving disruptive innovative solutions to solve for customer pain points and emerging needs.

The starting point requires stepping into the customer's shoes, empowering employees to engage with customers emphatically and connect with them emotionally. The front-line staff can unleash these “not so observed" latent needs by being observant to negative emotions and recognize unmet customer needs that have gone ignored. To align the whole organization and each employee to the inherent customer needs, an organization should design a customer experience strategy that integrates business functions and employees to one unified goal: delighting customers and transforming the organization into a more customer-centric one.

Figure 2

The next step in design thinking requires the organization to brainstorm, rethink, and reimagine possible solutions to customer problems by forming work-groups with key customers and employees across business functions including sales, marketing, product development, digital, finance, and legal. The possible solutions offered by participants can open up ideas for innovative solutions.

The payment industry today offers another example of how implementing design thinking can lead to innovative solutions. Players like PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and others have been trying to introduce easier and simpler ways to capture the payments market, but with limited success due to regulatory, privacy concerns, and stiff competition from financial institutions.

Innovative solutions can be prototyped and tested amongst a subset of customers, and the success of the solution should be evaluated from a customer lens. Gathering customer feedback through touch-point surveys across the end-to-end customer journey and key moments to truth can reveal more nuances to personalize and improve services across various customer segments. Hi-tech companies creating a wide range of technology solutions for customer segments take a design-thinking approach to create successful product stories. Microsoft uses design thinking to create software accessibility for the disabled, helping them realize their full potential through innovative technology products.

Touch-point and relationship surveys can help employees empathize with, and stay emotionally connected to, customer concerns, and potentially help convert passive and detracting customers into active, positive customers. Uber revolutionized the cab service industry through an open business model without fleet ownership and employment. It is an example of disruptive innovation that has created exceptional customer experiences by offering on-demand cab-hiring services. Uber gathers insights into customer experiences after every ride, empathizing and connecting with customers through surveys on the mobile app in order to understand customer sentiments and develop innovative solutions continuously.

Design thinking culture inculcates a habit to continuously stay in touch with customers, improve customer experience through innovative solutions leading to on-going business transformation and growth. Such transformation can potentially generate significant business impact in the following few ways.

  • Unravel new customer needs, better understand varied customer segments and offer innovative product designs/ solutions
  • Position a contact center to increase customer's share of wallet through up-sell/ cross sell initiatives
  • Enhance contact center performance by improving workforce productivity and skills to engage better with customers, Improve first call resolution rates
  • Add-on new digital channels to gather customer feedback like mobile app based surveys and improve customer satisfaction across various journey stages, reduce customer effort and thereby the customer service agent's effort though low cost and more engaging channels

The future of customer experience design would involve a plethora of disruptive, digital innovations in which offering consistent experience, and enhancing customer ease and comfort, would be essential. The design-thinking approach would help organizations identify the right digital strategy and solutions by keeping customer needs, preferences, and sentiments at the core, and thereby achieving greater customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.


Customer experience design in today's age requires an innovative approach—a blend of empathy, intuition, logical reasoning, and creativity—to redesign and reimagine customer journeys and surpass existing customer satisfaction levels. Design thinking, because it requires stepping into a customer's shoes and measuring success through a customer lens, can offer disruptive and innovative solutions. It can help organizations develop a unified customer experience, integrating multiple business functions, products, channels, and geographies. This leads to topline revenue growth, and increases in share of wallet, profitability, and ROI.

About the author

Nandita Chandra

Nandita Chandra

Assistant Vice President, Analytics & Research

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