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Customer expectations will always grow. And so customer experience innovation should be a continuous process.
The only reason why your business exists is because you’re helping some customer somewhere to solve a problem.
Almost every business claims to be customer-centered out there.
But everyday the internet is loaded with expressions of frustration from customers. Just check social media, or customer review blogs.
On the other hand, most firms do actually work so hard to deliver great customer experience.
But it’s never enough because customer expectations keep rising as they interact with the brands that consistently deliver outstanding customer experience.
In this digital economy, your customers interact everyday with brands like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba and Netflix. And so they’re beginning to expect every firm to match the experience of these world giants.
And therefore, customer experience innovation should be a continuous process.
This innovation could be in form of improvements, or complete transformation.
And digital technologies are behind the success of most outstanding customer experiences delivered in the world today.
so, in this article, we’ll explore how you can use the design thinking process, and the capabilities provided by digital technologies to improve or completely transform your customer experience.
The Design Thinking Process for Innovation
Design thinking is a user-centered process that starts with user needs, creates possible solutions to address real and not imaginary user needs, and then test these solutions with real users.
In other words, this process investigates to understand the customer problems beyond what they say. And then innovates by exploring multiple avenues to address these needs.
It’s a problem-solving approach that consists of understanding customer needs, exploring solutions and materializing the chosen solution.
The process is iterative and has five steps plus one additional step for implementation.
Now, let’s see what you need to do at each step.
Step 1: Empathize
- Conduct research in order to understand what your users do, say, think, and feel about your service.
- Meet and talk to with actual users of your service.
- Observe what they, how they think, what they want, what motivates them, what discourages them.
- Pay attention to what they’re not telling you. If it’s an online service, you use customer analytics tools like Google Analytics to observe how they really interact with your app or website.
Step 2: Define
- Articulate your customers’ problems based on the research you did.
- Clearly write down the list of unfulfilled needs you identified in the previous step.
- Organize all your observations and group them around themes that summarize users’ current experiences.
- Capture the resulting problem statements in human-centered terms, and not business goals.
- Note where your product or service is performing well, and experiences you must enforce. At this stage, it’s common to start having ideas on how to make the experience better.
Step 3: Ideate
- Brainstorm a range of crazy, creative ideas that address the unmet user needs identified in the define step. Effective brainstorms take place in total freedom, so avoid judging any idea that comes in.
- Create a psychologically safe environment where all your team members can sketch out many different solution ideas.
- Encourage the team to share ideas with one another. They should be mixing, remixing, and building on each other’s ideas.
- Use your knowledge of digital technologies to imagine solution ideas.
Step 4: Prototype
- Get your ideas into physical form to gain feedback from the users
- Start with a low fidelity version of the intended solution and improve it over time based on feedback.
- Build real, tactile representations for a subset of your ideas to understand what components of your crazy ideas work and which do not.
Step 5: Test
- Let the users experience the different versions of your prototype.
- Talk to them, observe them and take note of what they do, and say. Does the solution meet their needs? Does it improve how users feel, how they think or how they use your service to solve problems.
- Observe users’ body language and reveal what they feel about the prototype
- Check usage statistics to see if there is any change in user spending or usage of the service after the modification?
And finally, Implement
- Shift from thinking to action.
- Implement the solution that worked well at the testing step.
- Ensure that the solution touches the lives of end users. As impactful as design thinking can be for an organization, it only leads to true innovation if the vision is executed. And this should change something in the end user’s life.
Note this: this innovation process is iterative. So you should definitely go back to previous step when necessary.
How digital technologies help in customer experience innovation
Digital technologies can help you at the ideation stage when you’re exploring possible and crazy ideas for solutions to the customer problems.
But to be able to do this, you must understand the underlying value that each technology brings to the table.
Let’s quickly review what value some of the popular digital technologies can bring to your customer experience innovation process.
- Artificial intelligence can help you automate some steps customers are finding difficult to accomplish. And it can also help you to personalize the experience each customer gets. You can check this article for more on artificial intelligence.
- The Internet of Things can help you to connect touch points where customers interact with your product or service, and enable you to give a smooth experience. Feel free to check this article for more on the internet of things.
- Blockchain can enable trusted customer-to-customer exchanges of digital assets without the need for an intermediary. Intermediaries between you and your customer may break the experience your customer gets. Blockchain can help you to overcome this. Feel free to check this article for details on Blockchain technology.
- Big Data technologies can also help you to store and process unstructured data generated by customers everywhere on the internet. Likewise you can leverage big data technologies to collect and analyze data in real time, to deliver an excellent experience to customers.
- Cloud technologies can help get your services to be available anywhere in the world. And so your customers can have a smooth experience, even when they travel to different countries. Also, cloud vendors work so hard to make sure your services are up and running every time.
Innovate at all levels of the customer journey
I advise you should sketch the customer journey and assess where each of these technologies can help transform the experience you’re giving to each customer.
In other words, we’re not only talking about the experience of using the product or service. The customer journey actually starts right from when the desire to solve a problem arises.
For instance, here’s a simplified customer journey you could adapt to your case.
- Desire. Here’s where the potential customer realizes a problem they need to solve. So you could think of strategies to help customers realize that they have a problem. For instance, how can you improve the advertising process?
- Shopping. Here the customer starts exploring the universe of solutions to the problem. They do this by searching online, talking to friends, or checking reviews about products and services that can help to solve the problem. So you could consider how to facilitate or completely transform the process by which the customer gets to know about your product or service.
- Purchasing. Here is where the customer actually buys your product of service. How is the buying experience? How do the products get to the customers after the purchase? Here also, you can identify opportunities to transform the experience with digital technologies.
- Consuming. Here the customer actually uses the product or service. Is the usage experience simple enough, or do customers need additional skills to use your product or service? And what can you improve at this stage?
- Reflection. After using your product or service, most customers will assess whether it really solves their problem. And this is where they go about giving testimonies, and writing reviews – that are positive or negative – depending on the experience they had throughout the journey. So how can you help customers to express their minds at places where you can see, so you can act on those insights to improve the experience?
And to Conclude…
Innovation can bring a significant improvement to the current experience, or completely transform the customer journey.
In fact, you can completely transform how the customer shops, how they purchase, and even how they consume and talk about your product, or service.
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