Customer Centricity By Design Thinking

Design Thinking | 17th Julho 2017

The Ever-increasing Speed Of Change

"The only thing that is constant is change” by Heraclitus seems such a cliché!

It is also a fundamental truth. The problem is that this is increasingly truthful. All things these days change at an exponentially faster rate. Let us recall how many years to reach 35M users took:

Source: United Nations Cybershoolbus Document, Apple, Facebook | Graph by Brand Nexus

Consumer Changes As Fast

Consumers change at an equal rate of the changes in the environment, adapting to survive, or to simply, live a better life. This has reduced the product lifecycle, in other words, the time that goes from launch to withdrawal of the product from the market*. (Footnote: *Author’s note: product is used throughout in this article in the wider possible sense, standing for product, service and augmented product). When presented with a new product that satisfies their needs, consumers change to the new and better alternative.

The changing environment and the consumer within are the reasons why organizations need to be in constant ‘alert mode’ monitoring the new technological advances that may help them meet customer needs in a profitable way. Organizations can either improve efficiency obtaining increased margins, or improve efficacy obtaining increased loyalty, or met latent needs that no other company can address creating a new market. You might already have guessed that what I am describing here is Incremental and Game-Changing Innovation. Aiming for either type, organizations must always start with consumer needs and then choose the technology or the business model that better address them.

A quick and critically important note, organizations or products will never create a need! At the most, they will address a need which the consumer could not previously articulate, but he had it in either an established or latent way in his ‘needs portfolio’. On the other hand, Consumer needs do not really change, although they may evolve. Needs are met in different ways by new products. A quick example: we 'need' to keep memories of the best moments we experience. That need, used to be met by the usage of photo cameras. Over time, most of us eventually ditch the photo cameras and start using our mobile phones which have a camera. We also ditch the Polaroid instant photos and substitute it for “.jpgs” in the cloud. They address the same need, but with a different product: camera versus mobile phones | photos versus jpgs | hardcopies versus digital files.

The ultimate KPI: profitable sales

Whatever companies do, the ultimate criteria for success is sales. Sales mean the Consumer paid a price for a product he understands will satisfy his needs - either better, cheaper, or in a new way he did not previously consider possible. In other words, the organization through the product created value that was acknowledged and paid a price by the Consumer.

Customer Centricity - Customer As The Holistic Focus

“Customer centricity is sometimes used as a catchall term for talking about customer feedback or customer satisfaction results, but making people happy is only one part of the equation. To have sustained success, companies must understand current customer needs and wants, and ensure that there are the right internal and customer-facing strategies, processes and marketing initiatives to satisfy them.”

Emilie Kroner

Customer Centricity is critical. It allows companies to stay relevant, and profit, from addressing the consumer’s needs, though staying in business for the long-run. As a concept, this is pretty much straightforward. Its implementation is the problem. From information in silos, to office politics, to personal egos, all play a role in diverging from focusing on the consumer.

Design Thinking – Human-centred

Execution is where Design Thinking can play a critical role. As a human-centred approach to problem-solving it is evident that DT can help companies solve consumer's problems. However, consumer focused organizations are, DT makes sure they do not forget to keep themselves updated when it comes to new tech, as well as the new ways businesses can address their challenges. But the Consumer is always the focus, the departure point for all organization’s initiatives.

Design Thinking – Holistic Approach To Customer Centricity

I would argue though, it is as a mindset, that DT can help companies become Customer centric. DT provides the cultural framework and philosophy that an organization needs to guide the change from a Product or Market to a Consumer focus. It provides the guidelines for the way things are to be done around the company in this new customer-centric stage.

A change management process needs support from an encompassing mindset, but it also needs a process to guide effective execution. DT will guide the organisation in both soft (culture) and in hard factors (process). This is the ‘holistic’ role DT can play in the customer centricity change management process.


Luís Madureira was invited by Hi INTERACTIVE to write this article.

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