The Modern Thinking Divide: How Successful Companies Boost the Customer User Experience

BrandPost By IDG Contributing Editor
Sep 14, 2017
IT Leadership

As customer expectations soar sky-high and companies dig deep to determine how to meet user needs, it’s clear that one of the biggest challenges facing today’s organizations is the move from being product-based to becoming customer and experience-focused

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Credit: Bet_Noire

As customer expectations soar sky-high and companies dig deep to determine how to meet user needs, it’s clear that one of the biggest challenges facing today’s organizations is the move from being product-based to becoming customer and experience-focused. At the core, this is a deeply-transformational effort that centers on creating memorable and unique experiences that drive loyalty, as opposed to creating products and pushing them through a particular channel.

For the companies that are most successful in this effort, maximizing internal digital capabilities translates into everything from new customers and increased customer satisfaction to improved customer retention, improved decision-making and increased profitability. All of these, say experts, require modern thinking about people and processes that are enabled by digital

The Modern Thinking Divide

“We talk to organizations that are trying to reinvent themselves by taking the things that make digital businesses successful and then applying them to traditional models and businesses,” says KPMG managing director Dave Wolf. “I wouldn’t say there is a digital divide, but a modern thinking divide between those who are successful and those who are not at thriving in this digital world we live in today — the manifestation of that happens to be the pressures brought on by digital and the changes that are enabled by digital.”

The fact is, consumer expectations have changed and evolved more rapidly than ever before, particularly around experiential design, adds Duncan Avis, principal, Customer & Digital Advisory at KPMG. “They expect to have these wonderful experiences, not comparing say, airline against airline, but against experiences in their daily lives,” he explains. “They might judge their experience with Delta with their experience with Capital One, or Amazon — how easy is it to pay my bills, or interact with customer service, or stream music. Higher bars have been set.”

In order to cope with change and boost the customer user experience, successful companies tend to maximize four internal digital capabilities:

Design Thinking: A powerful approach to strategic innovation that is as much about the value of “solving the right problem” as it is about “solving the problem right.” “Tools such as design thinking are very good at finding solutions to fuzzily defined problems that have nearly infinite solution steps,” says Wolf.                                           

Human-Centered Design: A concept built upon the empathetic understanding that people are not universally predictable, intuitive, or rational.  “Human-centered design takes advantage of people, not processes,” says Wolf. “It’s about what the experience needs to be like and then you can think about how to apply the technology and processes.”                                                                       

Agile/Lean: An approach to software development that emphasizes flexibility, response to change, and accelerated time-to-market. “Agility is all about delivering at velocity,” says Avis. “You don’t have time — if you try to boil the ocean, new competitors will have boiled a great cup of tea.”                                                              

Continuous Delivery: A philosophy that advocates for a tightly coordinated cycle of events aimed at delivering software with greater frequency, with emphasis on automaton where plausible. “In the modern world, you don’t just ship something and go have lunch,” says Avis. “There are always new technologies and expectations and companies have to constantly and vigorously refine the experience.”

The Biggest Challenges to Getting Customer User Experience Right 

With tremendous pressure to deliver at velocity, it’s no wonder that many organizations are tempted to just guess at the right solution and roll it out. Tools such as design thinking allow teams to stay in the problem longer, get to the right solution and build it accordingly. “But it can be very hard for organizations who are not used to thinking that way,” says Wolf.

Another challenge is that design thinking and agile/lean models tend to go against traditional business process methodologies where many executives may have spent their careers, adds Avis. “Design thinking makes you fundamentally change — almost left brain verse right brain — and it’s harder to keep companies galvanized around that,” he says. The question is how to bring the two together and almost retrain the brain, he explains: “We’re spending time with clients on applied design thinking — that is, bringing in the classic analytical approach and process reengineering and then tying it in with design thinking, so you have a unified process.”

The best person to lead the charge toward boosting internal digital capabilities to support modern thinking is the CEO, he adds. The question, however, is whether the CEO has the appetite to do that and the juice to make it happen. “The research is clear on who is best, but the question is how many CEOs are going to take on that mantle or whether he or she will delegate it down,” he explains. “And, if it is delegated down, who has the autonomy, the levers, to be successful?”

The New Model of Customer User Experience Excellence

Organizations are at a turning point when it comes to meeting and delivering on customer user expectations. When KPMG looked at key drivers of satisfaction and loyalty, it found CEOs are tuned into the  importance of the customer experience, but that there’s room for improvement: 56% say they can confidently articulate how they create value for customers, and almost half – 48% – say they have a growing responsibility to to represent the best interests of their customers. But 45% said they’re not leveraging digital as a way to connect with their customers.

Avis adds that organizations leading in delivering custom, excellent customer experiences achieve far greater growth than those who do not.  

By leveraging today’s most critical internal digital capabilities, with detailed roadmaps addressing the operational, financial, and talent requirements and impacts for each tool, companies can move beyond the traditional project-creation, channel-siloed operating model.  As a result, they can evolve to the modern thinking and delivery required of today’s fast-paced, competitive business environment.