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Ashok Pai

What is the hallmark of a successful company? The ones laser focused on the customer experience (CX). When you look at Apple and Amazon, these brands have set new benchmarks for the digital customer experience and act as the baseline for consumer expectation in their industry category and beyond. These companies demonstrate that a well-calibrated, orchestrated, integrated and contextualized CX strategy can give businesses the power to create a positive impact on consumers and create avenues for a differentiated proposition. 

In fact, the 2021 TCS Global Leadership Study shows that Leaders as identified in the survey ranked customer centricity as one of the most valued cultural traits. The question is: where is the starting point of building a superior online CX? It all begins with an empathy-driven, customer-centric culture.

Digital CX: The design-thinking approach

Digital CX is clearly one of the most critical components for delivering a highly superior customer experience and increased organizational customer centricity. The challenge is that digital CX transformations are often complex, with multiple dimensions to consider, all of which are needed to drive better outcomes. Such initiatives require careful planning and a robust roadmap for the right execution.

Given the high complexities involved in such transformations, following a design thinking-led approach that puts customers’ unique needs, pain points, and journeys at the forefront of such transformation initiatives, is a key ingredient for success.

An approach based on design thinking can be used across the entirety of a digital CX transformation and help maximize the impact of each component that is key to the transformation. It can help enterprise leadership answer questions around where to start and how to manage digital CX transformation projects.

Here are some considerations:

  • Encourage a fully human-centered approach
  • Focus on desired business and customer outcomes
  • Define the right problem to solve
  • Offer a wider range of potential solutions to meet user needs
  • Identify and customize customer journeys
  • Leverage customer behavioral data to predict CX at key milestones
  • Create modern industry benchmarks
  • Ensure that journeys are identified, monitored and CX is predicted across journey events

Using a design thinking strategy for CX enables you to monitor, analyze and track behaviors to deliver unique and valuable interactions to prospects and customers. Without customizing the experience, it’s a missed opportunity to build customer loyalty. However, findings from the 2019 TCS CMO Study uncovered that only 4% of companies (out of the 500+ surveyed) are personalizing all stages of the customer journey.

Case Studies: Successful design thinking CX scenarios
A leading UK utility provider leveraged artificial intelligence and analytics in its customer operations to predict the probability of potential escalation of complaints by identifying customers who have a high propensity to contact the energy regulator. The provider used pattern detection techniques to uncover patterns, trends, and correlations in data that human analysts were likely to overlook. The techniques provided greater insights into unstructured data and found anomalies or changing patterns to mitigate risks or identify new growth/improvement opportunities. 

Similarly, a leading Australian telecom operator faced the challenge of sustaining CX despite a forecast for substantial volumes escalation, a highly complex and people-intensive operating environment, fragmented customer connection experience, and repetitive, non-value-add activities. The enterprise engaged in a design thinking approach to completely redesign its order to activate service experience to meet CX expectations and minimize cost. 

The telecom operator was able to realize digital CX transformation by leveraging automation, process redesigning, channel optimization, AI, and analytics to drive proactive customer management. Redesigned services that created integrated and automated operations and adopted measures like prescriptive workflow, customer-journey centric NBA (next best action), and predictive fallout management eventually helped the operator improve CX significantly with a 40% reduction in the cost to deliver.  

5 essential design thinking elements for digital CX

To implement design thinking in the digital CX transformation journey, keep the following key elements in mind:

1. Empathize: Gain a deep understanding of customer perspective/pain points and the issues involved.

2. Define: Identify and define the core problems that need to be solved through digital CX and set clear objectives.

3. Ideate: Brainstorm ideas to solve potential problems while maintaining a human-centric approach, thus enabling the discovery of disruptive pathways when designing customer journeys.

4. Prototype: Identify the most suitable solutions to solve current challenges by building numerous solutions and test them internally in a controlled environment.

5. Test: Release the polished prototypes to a broader group of users to collect their feedback and capture critical information needed to revisit previous stages in the process.

Digital customer experience will be a key enterprise priority in the foreseeable future. Enterprises need to invest in digital CX capabilities that go beyond leveraging digital channels and incorporate an environment where various digital solutions work in harmony to create a superior, customized experience. A design thinking-led approach to digital CX transformation gives organizations a potent tool to make the entire customer journey smoother, more delightful and ultimately more impactful to the bottom line.

About the author

Ashok Pai
Ashok is Vice President & Global Head of Cognitive Business Operations at TCS. He helps organizations leverage digital technologies to reimagine their business models, products, processes, and services. He specializes in helping enterprises make major cost and operational improvements through digital transformation initiatives. Prior to this role, he headed TCS’ Business Process Services team and was responsible for more than 100 customers in North America, Asia Pacific, and other regions. He joined TCS more than 25 years ago, right after earning his Master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai.
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