Every day each of us experiences the impact of design – for good or ill – in our work and personal lives. At November’s Future of Service conference in London, hosted by Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners, we explored how we can all think about design differently to achieve better outcomes for our customers, our organizations and wider society. Here are some of the headlines from a packed day of insight and inspiration.

Why is it so important to focus on design? The answer lay in the keynote speech at the conference, given by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, House of Lords campaigner and former multiple-gold-medal-winning Paralympian. Her answer was that ultimately design can change the world for the better. She spoke about how – and why – thinking differently about design can help improve outcomes for everyone and drive societal change.

Baroness Grey-Thompson illustrated this with numerous examples from her own life and career. She spoke about how she and her fellow para-athletes sometimes had to break rules to ensure design changes in equipment could be adopted. She stressed the importance of planning and challenging ourselves to do better, and importantly, the need to design a world that’s inclusive for all of us.

Designing CX for a new world

Up next was Olivier Duha, co-founder and CEO of Webhelp. Olivier talked about the need to Think Human and harness the best of technology and people to drive genuine customer loyalty. His talk was infused with fascinating insights from his new book and focused on helping us put customers at the center of everything we do. Here are some of the highlights:

It should be all about the customer. The CX focus has moved from clients to end-customers, and consumers are now experts in assessing products and services using comparison services and available data. Consumers are influenced by recommendations from their peers and actively engaged with the brands they like.

Swap transactions for relationships. Transactional experiences have turned into relational experiences and brands need to make sure they’re there for more than problem resolution. For instance, agents should call customers when a purchase has just been made (and the customer is in a positive place) to check that everything is OK.

Everyone thinks they’re special. We all do. Don’t we? Consumers want to be treated as unique and demand personalization. In a customer’s mind, if a brand isn’t up to scratch: another one will be. Personalization is really about recognition, which is perceived positively by customers and Olivier spoke about how it’s the quality of a relationship which is the biggest measure of happiness. He talked about how CX can be designed to activate the brain’s “stratium” repeatedly in order to build connection and loyalty

Designing customer service for a major streaming company

The second session was an interactive Q&A with the Director of Customer Services, EMEA, of a major streaming service, facilitated by Jean-Baptiste Decaix, Chief Client Officer for Webhelp. They discussed the launch of the platform across EMEA, and how the complexities triggered by Covid-19 were overcome.

Of particular interest was how to model optimal operational footprints that balance cost and revenue (monetization) drivers, as well as the need to be creative when it comes to stimulating inactive subscriptions in order to maximize revenue and stickiness.

They also talked about the importance of giving agents, advocates and advisors a voice in how the customer journey is designed, because they have valuable feedback from the frontline. In a similar vein, it’s useful to get as close to the end-user as possible, by really understanding customer touchpoints and the voice of the customer. Working for a strong brand means that brand love can be leveraged to drive employee engagement and reduce employee attrition. Meanwhile, it’s important never to underestimate the importance of audience demographics, and align support and proactive comms accordingly around issues like parental controls.

Why the best designs are often counterintuitive

The third session of the day was from Rory Sutherland, a VP at Ogilvy UK ad agency. Rory delivered a highly informative and amusing talk, exploring the key reasons for design failures and why there’s often more than one right answer when it comes to solving problems.

Rory’s top tips included calling customers to check all is OK before the customer calls you with a complaint, and to always offer the customer some kind of deal (to make them feel they’re special and getting a personalized service). Brands should focus far more on rewarding longevity and creating ways to charm and delight customers by showing them that they’re valued, and that the organization genuinely cares. And when things go wrong? You can remove customer uncertainty through proactive communications (waiting times, service outages, etc.)

Rory repeatedly talked of the need to understand customer behavior and factor the ‘why’ into design as much as the ‘what’. Marketing might not be as precise as economic theory, but it allows room for the unexpected and magical to happen. For this to happen though, we need to stop thinking of business as primarily a dry  efficiency problem to be solved. If we want to drive perceived customer reward then SCARF matters (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness).

What does the future of service look like?

The fourth and final session of the conference was a panel discussion about the future of customer service between senior leaders from leading consumer brands, facilitated by Natasha Kaplinsky OBE, broadcaster and journalist. The panel talked about the need to focus on the ‘job to be done’ if you want to change customer behaviors. That designing from scratch is the fun part – although beware of over-designing – and that it’s preferable to redesigning, because you have legacy design to deal with rather than the blank page.

There was pragmatism on the panel as they reflected that you can’t always jump straight to the future of experience: sometimes you must go on the journey towards it with your customers so that the ultimate destination doesn’t feel alien.

There was agreement that the effectiveness of experience is more important than efficiency, and that soft skills like empathy, problem-solving and adaptability can help to differentiate and drive loyalty. Brands need to be brave, and empower teams to act with discretion because that drives loyalty.

The importance of being human

Having opened the conference, Mark Palmer, CEO of Gobeyond Partners, and Nora Boros, Chief Sector Growth Officer, Webhelp, also closed the day out. They talked about the need to think differently, and stop choosing efficiency over effectiveness. And to design the CX of the future, the way forward is both high-tech and ‘high-human’.

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