Design Thinking: Getting started with the ultimate Customer Journey

19 November 2018, Retail, Wholesale, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Social Enterprise, 5 min leestijd

If your company wants to be truly relevant to consumers, you constantly have to base your reasoning on your customer's needs. Design Thinking can be of enormous help with that. Frank Koppen, Business Development Manager at Ctac, explains what this method involves and how Design Thinking contributes to creating the ultimate customer journey. Take a look at our approach. 

Design Thinking

Design Thinking puts people at the heart of coming up with smart solutions to problems. That might sound obvious – but it isn't. Products or services are often developed without understanding the needs and preferences of the end user. This can result in products, services or improvements that completely miss the target.

Design Thinking changes all that. Design Thinking applies methods and techniques from the design world to come up with creative, innovative solutions. Often, people only use the analytical left side of their brain when thinking up solutions, whereas Design Thinking also gets the creative right side involved. Frank Koppen: "In companies, we often find invisible boundaries that lead to fixed paradigms. Too often, people think in terms of the product or a particular department. It's important to look at challenges in a much more creative way. That's why we offer sessions that lead to new insights." It's an approach that pays off, in Koppen's experience. "We find that people start thinking about the ideal customer journey in a completely different way. It's about always defining problems in terms of human needs. That's why Design Thinking is so useful for solving complex problems, regardless of the type or size of the company."

Innovation Journey

Ctac has developed its own approach, which consists of six phases. The Design Thinking toolbox is put to extensive use in each phase of this Digital Innovation Journey. Koppen: "During the first phase, we map out the customer's needs. We work together to make an inventory of the themes that play a role in the company. To take the example of a supermarket: the queues at the checkout may be too long, or the shelves may be empty too often. We then start working on this topic in phase two. During a session lasting no more than half a day, we sit down together and think about possible solutions – without any prior knowledge or technical constraints. We do this with representatives from every level in the company. We ask ourselves and the customer: where is the biggest opportunity to contribute to a positive customer experience?"

Time after time, Koppen notices that these sessions have a very liberating effect. "There's not always much room for creativity during day-to-day work", says Koppen. "These sessions kick-start the creative process. We work with whiteboards, marker pens and coloured sticky notes. In this way, we make it possible to discuss bottlenecks and we generate all kinds of ideas to resolve them. The most creative solutions crop up. People are often amazed at themselves."


Next, all these ideas are distilled into themes: "In the case of the supermarket, we might come up with themes such as ease of payment, ease of ordering or the level of self-service – but this will be different for every sector and every organisation. We then classify all the ideas within these themes so that everything related or similar is grouped together. These topics become homework for the participants. We ask them to explore four or five solutions in depth. For each solution, we ask a number of questions. Is it technically feasible? Will it deliver value in the form of savings or additional profit? Will the solution lead to greater customer satisfaction or better reviews? We then ask ourselves the question: is this something that the organisation or the consumer is waiting for? Maybe customers aren't interested in scanning their own groceries. It might be a nice idea, but not in line with the customer's wishes."


In this way, the initial mountain of ideas is reduced to feasible solutions. Koppen: "Working with the same group, we plan another half day to flesh out the solution. We then think about what the solution might look like. To stick to the example of the supermarket: you might want to monitor your customers to get a better idea of when the shop is busy. The supermarket can then open additional checkouts at the right time. By equipping baskets and trolleys with RFID tags, we can determine customers' speed and the routes they follow, making it easy to manage queues effectively."

Getting the idea in working order

All kinds of people from the organisation are involved in brainstorming possible solutions. The more diverse the group, the better. Relevant Ctac coaches and experts will also join in, depending on the phase. "We practise Design Thinking with business consultants who step back from the technology to look at the possibilities, and with experts who think about the technical feasibility."

Ctac prefers not to organise these sessions on the customer's premises. "That environment is too familiar", explains Koppen. "We prefer to take the employees completely outside of their comfort zone and put them in a creative environment so that genuinely new ideas can be generated. We then meet over a short period of time to get the idea and the solution in working order." New solutions of this kind are not widely deployed straight away. Koppen: "First, we choose a pilot case and launch a mini version of the solution among a limited group of users. Only at the very end of the Digital Innovation Journey do we decide whether the new solution will actually be rolled out across the entire organisation, and what systems, processes and training are required."

Customer Journey

The goal is to position your company inside the customer journey. Koppen: "It's important to know how customers think and behave. Design Thinking and our Digital Innovation Journey allow us to map this out more clearly. For example, a kitchen supplier may find it important for the customer journey to begin before the customer actually reaches the showroom. Perhaps the customer wants to design and map out a 3D kitchen at home in their existing space. This results in a much richer discussion with the retailer. Things like this can arise from a Design Thinking session. But the customer journey can also take place in after-sales, allowing people to view their drawings on the customer portal after purchase, or track the production progress of their new kitchen."