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Expanding the C-suite: Why customers need a seat at the table

By Julia Gabel, Mon 2 Oct 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

In Australia, Google Trends shows that searches for the term ‘human-centred design’ began growing steadily from the start of 2016 and are continuing on an upward trend.

This is evidence of a development I’ve seen in recent months: human-centred design is starting to make its way out of the design industry, and into everyday business discussions.

Yet, as with everything conceptual, there are wide-ranging views of what human-centred design actually means, how to implement it, and how it can impact the outcomes of a business strategy.

One industry that has embraced this in Australia is financial services. The latest example of a long list of companies both big and small turning to design-led principles is ANZ bank, with the news of the appointment of a Chief Design Officer, Opher Yom-Tov.

The fact that Yom-Tov spent ten years at global design company IDEO before making the move into financial services in 2009 shows how seriously big corporates are taking the need to put good design principles at the heart of what they do.

But design experience isn’t the only skill that’s necessary to put human-centred design into practice today.

Ultimately, digital customer experience comes first, so IT teams and developers are very much on the front line of implementing this design revolution.

Visa and the RFi Group’s report, Driving Engagement and Differentiation and the Rise of the Digital Customer, reveals digital experience plays a bigger role in influencing consumer sentiment in banking compared to all other sectors (such as utilities, travel and retail).

When thinking of ‘their best digital experience’ with a bank, 56% of consumers said that ease of experience - typically defined as easy navigation, user-friendliness and a logical look and feel - was identified as the main differentiator.

These findings should be evidence enough for financial service providers and banks to prioritise perfecting the digital customer experience.

However, when a typical customer’s digital experience includes web, mobile app, digital banking products, customer service and so much more, it can be hard to ensure the reality lives up to expectations.

So who is responsible for the end-to-end customer experience for your organisation?

Perhaps it’s the sales and marketing teams, or even the C-Suite.

No matter who you ask within your company, the answer should be clear and unanimous – the Chief Experience Officer (CXO).

If the CXO isn’t a job title that currently exists within your organisation, someone else, such as the Chief Design Officer, Chief Digital Officer or Chief Marketing Officer, should have a clear remit in this area.

The person tasked with the end-to-end customer experience will be integral to providing the business with insights into exactly how to shift and adjust to customer needs.

This is likely to include creating new product features or interfaces, as well as changing which communications channels are used to engage with customers and the technology that supports these, such as AI.

The direction from the CXO then needs to filter down to individual teams to implement, much of which will involve web and app developers, system engineers and myriad more IT and digital experts.

The increased focus on human-centred design should be viewed as a positive shift and suggests that businesses are thinking about how a digital product or service will actually be used, rather than just whether it works or not.

However, if set up as a separate department or team, this focus on design tends to foster siloed thinking, rather than truly changing the way that the business delivers customer experience.

Case in point – ANZ bank where Yom-Tov will lead a team of specialists. If ANZ doesn’t also put in place flexible and agile organisational structures and processes, any investments into human-centred design are likely to cause more friction than anything else.

As the financial sector and other industries evolve to keep up with customer expectations and introduce ‘digital transformation’ initiatives, human-centred design processes must put digital experience at their core, and work across departments to deliver the best results.

Article by Kristen Vang, Director at Australian experience design studio, Hatchd

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