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Setting up for CX success: Mike Wittenstein’s 7 core tips for nailing your customer experience design

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I had an amazing talk with Mike Wittenstein on my People&Digital podcast this week about the importance of CX design in your digital transformation. 

“When you really, really lean into your customers for market research, that’s great,” Mike, a CX expert and former e-visionary at IBM, told me. “But when you really, really lean into your customers – when you’re serving them, and when you’re designing experiences for them – it takes things to a whole different level.”

So why is design, that step between metrics and execution, so important in CX? Read the top takeaways from what Mike had to say below or listen to the full talk – brimming with tips and insights – on episode 24 of my People&Digital podcast. 

CX design shouldn’t be about ROI 

Find out why Mike believes companies should prioritise customer experience design before return on investment.

Think from the outside in 

Good customer service all starts from inside the company, Mike explains.

Be a catalyst for change

Get people on board through always talking about customer service. Don’t be afraid to tell stories to really pique their interest!

Push for a design approach 

Before you start a project, convince your boss to look at it from a whole CX design business strategy. The fact this will cost less, get you to market faster and is more inclusive should sway them.

Practise for perfection

Start small. You can use a practise project to introduce your team to CX design before tackling the real thing. 

Put an end to discovery 

We research too much, according to Mike, who recommends we sometimes need to “Stop asking so many damn questions and focus on the outcomes!”

Think outside the box

On the flipside, we do need to start talking to a bigger variety of people, Mike says – from actors to ballet dancers – to get a different perspective. 

1. CX design shouldn’t be about ROI 

Most people think customer experience is all about making more money. Companies put in chatbots or self-service machines and believe this is much better for their customers. But actually, you’re taking a service away and adding time and effort for the user. Self-service is really no service – so don’t kid yourself, Mike says. 

When it comes to customer experience, a really good design is one that creates value for your customer using the measures of value that they care about the most. 

We so often do things because it’s right for the company’s bottom line. But it’s the brands that use CX design to create value for their customers first – and then take a profit – that are the ones making more money. 

So the first thing you need to do is get away from calculating ROI. You’ve got to focus on design instead.

2. Think from the outside in

Start with the requirements of your customers and use those as design criteria. Bring them into your organisation so you can focus on the work that your customers really need you to do. 

Once you’ve got your customers’ needs down, start from inside the company. Build your communications capability, kick off conversations with your people, and find out what they need to deliver that future customer experience. 

You can change the front end of the business – the customer service, the marketing, the advertising, the branding – and you can change the back end (operations, process, governance, rules and technology). But if you only focus on one part, it usually limits the other. 

Maybe you have these great brand promises but your business can’t deliver? Or you have these cool technology capabilities but your frontline won’t adapt or your sales people won’t buy in? When you change both the front and back ends of the company at the same time, you can get tremendously fast, less painful and more profitable outcomes.

3. Be a catalyst for change

One of the first things that goes wrong in a company is that people don’t share their findings with everyone else. You need to rebuild your internal communications so that you start having a multiway dialogue. No one wants to change unless they understand what’s in it for them – so communication is key. 

How can you educate the people around you about customer experience? Talk about it. Be a role model. Teach other people about it; foster those conversations. You need to tell people a clear story about what the future holds. Those extra thousands of conversations that happen over the months is what actually makes a positive shift happen in a larger company.

4. Push for a design approach

Before you dig in to a new project, slow down and say to your manager, “Hey, you know, there are a couple ways we can do this. We can measure our way forward, we can push our way forward, we can negotiate against each other. Or we can take a design approach.”

This gives you the chance to influence and educate your leadership about the benefits of design – for example that it takes a little bit more time but costs less, gets you to market faster and is more inclusive. 

5. Practise for perfection

Before tackling a bigger CX design project at work, start on a smaller task that has nothing to do with your customer experience. Like, how do you get coworkers to take out the old food from the refrigerator and the break room? 

Using an example like this before kicking off a project shows people how design creates an employee-friendly process that generates results and creates those necessary conversations.

6. Put an end to discovery

Right now, research is more important than ever – and less valuable than ever. This is because we’re all marching into an uncertain, unclear, undefinable future. Who knows what’s going to happen in our government this afternoon at 3pm? 

How can you use yesterday’s information, which is made up of customers’ old desires and needs, to figure out what the future should be? You don’t have the right information, so at some point you have to say “stop the research”. 

And I don’t mean stop researching altogether. I mean stop asking so many damn questions and focus on the outcomes. 

7. Think outside the box 

Let’s say you work for a hotel brand and your boss wants 10% more sales. But everyone is working from home and they can’t travel. Who do you want to speak to first to get these results?

Well, how about an epidemiologist who could tell you about the real data around how safe it is to congregate? Or an architect? Maybe a real-estate investor? Or an analyst who could talk about the value of property and location? What about somebody from the travel business who can help you understand where to have meetings people can drive to rather than fly? 

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat, which you can listen to in full here. I’d love to hear how you get on if you use any of this advice. Just get in touch with any feedback or questions!

Amélie Beerens

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