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Customer interactions with organizations are becoming increasingly digital and expectations are higher than ever. In this digital age, one thing is clear: exceptional ‘customer experience’ is synonymous with exceptional design.

Believe it or not, your competition isn’t just the digital leaders in your own industry. These days, you’re competing against the digital giants who are providing customers with unparalleled online experiences. Think Uber, Starbucks, and Airbnb. As customers grow accustomed to well-designed, thoughtful digital experiences, they won’t settle for anything less.

It’s common for organizations to fear being left behind. Many leaders are aware they need to make a change and transform their business but struggle with getting buy-in from leadership or knowing where to begin. Ultimately, it all boils down to one thing. Begin with the customer. Customer-centric organizations are leading the pack. This is where design comes in.

According to the December 2018 Forrester report, Elevate Your Design Practice To Differentiate Experiences, Experience Design is essential for a successful customer experience (CX) transformation. In order to deliver highly differentiated experiences, it’s crucial that design be elevated, prioritized, and scalable.

So, how exactly does an organization take steps to elevate its design practice to provide exceptional experiences? In this post, we discuss some of our takeaways from Forrester’s insights report that offer guidance for businesses making this shift in the digital age.

Designing end-to-end customer experiences

It’s wise for businesses with newer design practices to initially focus on one element of a customer experience. For example, a retailer might focus on redesigning the online checkout process. But as organizations grow, they must expand the scope of design to encompass the entire customer experience from start to finish, providing thoughtful, consistent experiences across multiple touch points (including both digital and in-store experiences).

As the former senior vice president of Citrix told Forrester: “With journey mapping, we realized we had a great product. But other parts of the experience, like web download and support, needed improvements, so we started working with other parts of the business to drive improvements across all touch points of the experience.”

Experience designers work to design the overall journey, mapping user flows, ensuring consistency, and testing with real users. By enlisting design to participate in the end-to-end experience, rather than just a fragment, you ensure that your customers have an exceptional experience on your website, in your store, and through ongoing communications.

Ensure organization-wide consistency

The most forward-thinking organizations empower cross-functional teams to act fast while still thinking long term. As design and customer experience become increasingly synonymous, steps must be taken to ensure design can scale across departments, providing consistent experiences from every possible area of the business.

Design Systems provide all members of an organization with the tools they need to build solutions without losing existing insights or reinventing the wheel.

A Design System enables a systematic approach to product development — complete with guidelines, research, principles, philosophies, and code. It shines a spotlight on how a team designs, making it a fantastic tool for scaling your design practice, reducing the need for hand-off and promoting more collaboration.

Many leading organizations partner with digital transformation consultants with extensive experience in building Design Systems to leverage the expertise of highly specialist design experts. By partnering on such a project, the outcome is a scalable, consistent, easily maintainable system that eliminates blockers and re-work.

Prioritize design as a strategic business accelerator

Design is not a ‘nice to have’, nor is it about aesthetics and color choices. True digital leaders are giving design a central role in the organization by leveraging design thinking when making strategic decisions. As organizations strive to break down silos and prioritize the needs of the customer, strategy as a design discipline has taken its rightful place at the table. Design emerges as a strategic business advantage.

Designers, user experience experts, act as advocates for the user. They can identify sources of friction in digital experience and find ways to anticipate the needs of the customer. The results make a true business impact. Frictionless online experience means happier customers with increased loyalty. This impacts the businesses’ bottom line by ultimately increasing conversions.

To truly use design as a strategic tool, you must be ready to focus on large-scale projects and empower the design practice to lead the charge. For example, GE enlisted its design team to revamp a marine product, investing $1 million. The changes involved no technology, solely design and generated $130 million in new sales.

Invest in specialized design experts

There are many varied types of designers in our digital age, from user interface designers, print and web, usability testers, researchers, information architects, and more. Forrester says: “To advance your design competency, you’ll need designers with deeper expertise in traditional and emerging design skill sets to influence decisions.”

Depending on where an organization is in its digital transformation, it may or may not be possible to stack the design team with highly specialized design leaders. When you’re establishing a design practice, it makes the most sense to hire for versatility, and partner with specialized experts on specific initiatives and projects.

For example, a leading Canadian retailer sought to transform their in-store experiences and align brick-and-mortar stores with improved online customer experiences. They partnered with Rangle to design these end-to-end experiences. Highly specialized Rangle designers worked alongside the organization’s internal design team members, assisting with experience design, service design, and usability testing. The result is a solution that empowers the customer and store associate to take advantage of the full range of services available through a delightful experience delivering higher value transactions.

Making design part of your organizational identity

As customers’ digital expectations are on the rise, it’s time to expand awareness and understanding of design companywide. Just as Design Systems help unite designers and developers to provide customer-centric experiences, educating the entire organization will help maintain momentum across the organization with frequent cross-functional connections.

We need to focus on the customer and providing delightful, innovative digital solutions, and to achieve this, we must have a working understanding of the customer journey, which means consistency through design thinking. Forrester suggests achieving this through internal workshops, mixed reporting relationships, physical colocation, and frequent check-ins. Partnering with an innovation leader who has experience in evangelizing design across organizations can be a powerful option for accelerating your customer experience transformation.  

Read more of what Forrester has to say about elevating your design practice.

Want to learn more about Design Systems? Check out Rangle's Design Systems blog to learn exactly what a Design System is and how it can help build the future of your business.