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Seven Stages of Design Thinking; An Essential Tool for Customer Experience Manager

April 29, 2016 Amit Kachhawa

Design thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. It draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systematic reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be and to create desired outcomes that benefit the customer.

However, looking at the above elaborate definition, it is a great process for managers to adopt not just designers. In regards to a customer experience manager, the process allows you to think from the customers’ perspective. How is the customers’ life and how does he or she encounter the company.

The marketplace is customer-driven. Your products and services should create value and meet their needs. The only way to understand what they need, how they need it, when they need it and what is of value to them is to involve them in the product life cycle.

Here are the seven stages of design thinking

Stage 1: Understand the Customer

The first step is to understand the end user because they are the core of the design thinking process. Empathize to understand their experiences fully with your products and services.

Employ all possible means to comprehend their experiences from observing to interacting with them. Your aim should be to experience your products and services the same way they are.

Stage 2: Definition

You now know your customer and can define the problems they are facing. In this step, it is crucial to describe clearly the problems and identify the success factors. Otherwise, you will not know when you arrive at your destination.

A plainly defined problem will set the pace for the rest of the process.

Stage 3: Research

Do not leave any stones unturned, dig through previous work done in regards to solving those problems. Research helps you to understand the genesis of a particular problem and tried and tested solutions and the outcome. You need to make sense of everything you find out as you research.

However, if it is a new issue, then you have the opportunity to document it well.

Stage 4: Ideation

With the research findings in place, put your imagination and intuition to work. Conduct brainstorming meetings with other managers and employees to come up with possible solutions to resolve the identified issues.

Do not limit yourselves to the obvious ways, dig deeper into ideas that may seem unachievable. The goal at this stage is to have a broad range of ideas. Encourage each participant to float their idea and record all of them.

Stage 5: Prototype

Next, put your wide range of ideas to test. You need to expand them, combine some, refine others and reject others. Give them a physical form that moves them from un-achievable to realistic ideas. It will allow you to interact and experience the solutions before presenting them to the customers.

Remember; you are wearing the customers’ shoes, and you understand what they want from your organization.

Stage 6: Select and Implement

The above rigorous process will be futile if you do not get to apply the suitable solutions. Start with the most powerful solutions from the selected prototypes. Do not just focus on the practical ones, but on the ideas with the highest impact on the issue at hand.

As you implement the prototypes, record the results of customer experiences.

Stage 7: Learn

Finally yet importantly, learn from the users. Which solutions solved the problem fast? Which did not? Which ones needed improvement? Your aim is to refine your prototypes to be the best solutions.

After your review, do not leave the findings at that, improve the prototypes for the benefit of the customer.

In conclusion, design thinking can help you look at problems in a different way and discover solutions that would otherwise remain hidden. Using the above seven stages, you can revolutionize the way you develop customer experience strategies. Design thinking is your secret weapon to finding solutions to difficult customer issues.