This article is part of CMO.com’s October series about creativity and design-led thinking. Click here for more.
On April 15, 1912, talented naval architect Thomas Andrews stood on the deck of a ship he himself had designed: a 60,000-ton behemoth carrying 2,200 passengers from England’s to New York.
Like so many designers, he had begrudgingly come to terms with the various compromises that had been made between his original design and the final product.
For example, the final ship had half as many life boats than the amount provided for in the plans. His ideas for a double hull and watertight bulkheads had also not been adopted, nor had many structural details designed to prevent a ship from taking water.
All in all, though, the ship was a masterpiece, a modern marvel described as “a floating palace.” “Unsinkable,” as Andrews himself remarked, it was “as nearly perfect as human minds could make.”
It must have come as no small irony, therefore, that the designer of the Titanic found himself onboard the great ship when it sank.
Throughout history, we have marveled at the capacity of designers to reimagine the world around us. To transform the everyday things we see into the icons, products, and brands we love. Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized architecture. Saul Bass reimagined the corporate logo. Paul Rand showed us a new way to see graphic design.
Along with strong products, companies discovered designers could create something else: unparalleled competitive advantage. Well-designed products could charge a premium over their ordinary, commoditized cousins. And as this advantage spread, designers earned a “seat at the table.” No longer were designers considered second-class citizens in the world of business.
However, as the commoditization of products across industries becomes more prevalent and customer expectations continue to grow, it is no longer enough to have a great product. Customers expect, and in many cases, demand a great experience. This trend is set to continue.
- By the year 2020, customer experience is predicted to overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator.
- About 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% just four years ago.
- An estimated 50% of consumer product investments is expected to be redirected to customer experience innovations.
6 Keys To Success
So this raises an important question: Having earned a “seat at the table,” how can designers help the organizations they serve to design the customer experiences they need, without one day finding themselves standing at the bow of a sinking ship? Here are six keys to success:
1. Rally senior support: Lobby senior leadership to create digital education programs, including executive intervention sessions, customer journeys, and outside-in inspiration sessions.
2. Be flexible: Brand experiences must be able to keep up with (and ideally outpace) their constantly evolving customers. To accomplish this, build speed and agility into strategic planning, project approval, development, and delivery capabilities.
3. Turn your data into action: Invest in the people, processes, and technology needed to transform data into customer-centric insights.
4. Pick strategic partners, not vendors: Transactional vendor relationships aren’t the answer. You need a small set of trusted partners that you can work with—partners that can help co-create strategy, drive innovation, and scale execution.
5. Engage your customers: Too often transformation is driven by organizations using an inside-out approach. Involve customers directly into your design processes to gain critical insights that will help you solve existing issues and anticipate future needs.
6. Optimize KPIs: Capturing and reporting a wide variety of metrics can be helpful but also confusing. Deeply examine and understand your metric behaviors, interrelationships, and priorities to create a true scale that can measure overall CX success for your organization
Few passengers survived the design changes made to Thomas Andrews’ ill-fated ocean liner. However, it is worth noting that another of Andrews’ ships, the SS Nomadic—designed and built in 1911—is still in service to this day.
It’s a reminder that good design—much like the competitive advantage of a well-crafted customer experience—is extremely durable.
This article is part of the “2017 SoDA Report.”