The Return on Investment of Design is Here: CX Design

Lily Olsson February 19, 2020

Do you ever wonder why it’s easier for us to remember a terrible customer experience over a great one? The markers of a great customer – or patient, or guest or employee – experience aren’t the moments that “spark joy,” educate or “delight” – rather, the greatest customer experiences are those that you don’t notice at all. And designing those experiences is an art form in and of itself. The worst of customer experiences (and we’ve all had them) are one of these two things: 1) moments that were not considered at all, or more common, 2) moments that were overthought, overdesigned, under-delivered and under coordinated with the brand’s KPIs.

The Not Considered. When we as customers take in the outside world, we use our senses, our intuition and what we’ve experienced before as a guiding principle. All of these senses culminate into our perspective – which is why it was so easy for Neo to notice a glitch in “The Matrix.” Those glitches are outcomes of different touchpoints being uncoordinated: a hotel having three different loyalty profiles for the same individual or a bank teller being unable to sign you up for a new bank account because the IT programs aren’t talking to one another.

The Overthought and Overdesigned. That scene from “Love Actually” where the shop clerk (yes, that’s Mr. Bean) is packaging a gift for Alan Rickman’s character is a simple, if hyperbolized, example of this. While retail executives in a C-suite might have thought that having three different containers of four different packaging materials—rosebuds, lavender flowers, a cinnamon stick and a sprig of holly—were critical for a “delightful” customer moment, in the end, it frustrated the customer, prolonged the otherwise efficient transaction and totally backfired. Here’s where the retailer did not consider the customer’s perspective or empower the associate to design the transaction as they see fit. While a 5-minute, over-the-top packaging experience may momentarily delight a few customers, an exchange where the associate actively listened, efficiently recommended the product and expediently packaged it might have been more successful.

The Under Coordinated and Under-Delivered. Most great CX Design work is born from a brand sharing across internal organizational verticals and working together from the perspective of the customer. Our job as CX Designers is facilitating (and sometimes translating) opening dialogues for IT to talk to Operations and Marketing to talk to Finance, for example. It’s our job to get these groups together to talk about what’s wrong and how to solve it, simply and intelligently, but most importantly, to get them together. If internal groups are working together to enable a “magical” customer experience, but then the customer has to wait in a 20-minute queue to check out because the IT department couldn’t get mobile POS ready in time. It negates all the efforts of the ops, marketing, brand and merchandising groups that worked to design an overall seamless omnichannel experience for the customer. Now, we’re not saying this is easy – it’s extremely difficult to coordinate every piece of the puzzle to work 100% of the time. But, that’s why we practice.

Practice Makes Effortlessness. Before a particular CX Design goes customer-facing, there are multiple practice rounds to flush out the great and the not-so-great hypotheses. This process is fueled by cross-channel experience (e.g. journey) mapping, live service scenario role-plays, low-fi UX prototyping, spatial mockups, testing, observation and customer insights – like segmentation, VoC, NPS, etc. – all at once. It’s a sprint– rather, it’s multiple sprints, over and over to identify the right balance of brand and service effort to deliver an effortless customer experience.

The Sweet Spot. Here’s where in CX Design, as with most design disciplines, we need to balance consumer needs or wants with commercial realities– or, as brands like to call them, KPIs (key performance indicators). It’s the marrying of these two often “at war” opponents: consumer v. bottom-line – or ♥ v. $ – that make the magic of CX Design so challenging and rewarding for the designers and the brand. With this marriage, we are able to produce a set of business case-backed recommendations: estimating financial investment, operational requirements, conversion opportunities and, most importantly, the return on brand engagement and/or revenue for implementing each CX design opportunity identified.

Cinnamon Sticks and Sprigs of Holly. There will always be brands looking to “delight” or “spark joy” in their customers, but in this growing age of convenience, data personalization and expediency, success does not come from a sparkly experience around a product or service. As a brand, you can provide more value to your customers by giving them minutes of their life back—and if you are going to take their time, at least make it as valuable as it is easy, simple and effortless.

Author Spotlight

Lily Olsson
Lily works with brands and retailers to choreograph meaningful and resonant cross channel customer experiences. With a background in retail as well as business, she collaborates across CRTKL’s disciplines and service lines and has become expert at creating personalized touchpoints and seamless journeys that are critical in today’s retail equation. She has worked with clients as diverse as Nike, SoulCycle, Sephora, Tesla, Bloomingdale’s, and Petco.