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2008: Decision Year for RIAs - October 20-22, 2008 San Jose


Digital - Design Thinking = Status Quo | @ThingsExpo #DigitalTransformation
Today, every organization is spending millions on digital transformation initiatives - the future is digital

Every time I call up any customer support and hear the familiar 'all our representatives are busy dealing with other customers,' that my call is very important to them and from the more technologically advanced ones that I am 'fourth in the queue and my approximate wait time is 23 minutes,' I wonder why can't they simply call me back when they are free? They already have my contact number. Some of them actually play some music while I wait - which is still better than those who actually take that opportunity to inform me about their new products.

Have you realized that you might be flying an airline, staying in particular hotel chain or visiting a retailer for ages but unless you sign-up for their rewards / loyalty program you're actually invisible to them? I know there are customer privacy issues at play and a customer might be using different payment options every time but even then doesn't a customer leave enough footprint to enable them to keep track? Every time they ask me to sign-up and be given a fancy membership card, I want to ask them that 'doesn't your system tell you that I've been visiting you for the last year,  how much I've already spent on your products / services' and the fact I've even taken the trouble of filling up your feedback forms? Does anybody in your organization take the trouble of going through that data?

Two weeks back, on a sunny Sunday morning as I was returning home from the regular weekly provisions chore, my car suddenly died on me on a state highway. As I tried to pull to the side I realized that the road had no shoulder. Luckily there was nobody tailing me but I did see not-so-distant headlights in the rear view mirror (for those wondering, in the U.S. it is normal to have headlights on even on the sunniest days). I quickly came out and started waving at the cars speeding toward me so that they had time to move to the other lane safely.

Meanwhile, I also I realized that I needed to call my emergency roadside assistance provider. My cell phone being in the car, I quickly ran back, grabbed the phone, looked up their number and called them - without interrupting the constant waving action to ensure that I don't get buried under not only a pile of cars but probably also charges of criminal negligence.

The moment the call got connected, I quickly explained my situation and shared my exact location (luckily I knew). To my surprise, the first thing the lady at the other end asked me was my 16 digit membership number!  It took her 10 painful minutes - after I had shared my mobile number, last name, first name, mailing address - to identify me. All this in the middle of a highway with cars speeding toward me at 50 miles per hour! The lady also reminded me that I need to inform the police as I was blocking traffic, which I had hoped she would volunteer to do on my behalf. To be fair to her, AFTER she had identified me, a service car arrived within 30 minutes.

As I look back at these experiences and countless others, I realize that some of them could be due to technical limitations but my gut feeling is that the issue is deeper - a lack of appreciation of an actual customer experience - leading to missing use-cases. This suddenly made me pay more attention to a concept which has caught the popular imagination in the recent past - design thinking.

One popular and good case study of design thinking is the Danish 'good kitchen' story - a story of how the problem of malnourished elderly got solved by observing not only the behavior and emotional perspective of the subjects themselves but also those serving them. If you dig deeper you'll realize that it is less about 'what' solutions emerged (although they were remarkable for sure) and much more about 'how' they emerged. The whole practice of literally getting under the skin of the end users to view things from their perspective, removing the sequential process walls between data collection, analysis and solution building and taking a more concurrent approach, a much deeper involvement of the stakeholders themselves in the whole solution design process - all of these are a process approach to arrive at the elusive end goal of superior customer experience.

The whole function of customer support - providing multiple channels to customers to reach out and once they do - how to greet them, listen to them, understand them and their situation at the time of the call, anticipating their implicit needs and then respond to them - would benefit a lot with a generous dose of design thinking. Of course, it would benefit the product / service design function itself - but that's the bigger fish.

Today, every organization is spending millions on digital transformation initiatives - the future is digital. However, while the technologies driving us towards the promised land of digital nirvana might be new, the end objective is as old as business itself - that of enriching customer experience. That has always been the holy grail of every business - to be able to observe their customers so very minutely to be able to better anticipate what exhilarates or disappoints them. But technology alone won't deliver the goods - it never has. Without a more concerted effort to appreciate the customer journey and empathize with their experience, all these technologies might end up solving the wrong problems. I sincerely hope that all those digital evangelists embrace this simple to understand but difficult to implement 'design thinking' approach in their transformation roadmap. Otherwise, after the journey they'll realize that they've come back to the starting point.

About Sujoy Sen
Sujoy is a TOGAF Certified Enterprise Architect, a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Manager of Organizational Excellence from American Society for Quality, a PMP, a CISA, an Agile Coach, a Devops Evangelist and lately, a Digital enthusiast. With over 20 years of professional experience now, he has led multiple consulting engagements with Fortune 500 customers across the globe. He has a Masters Degree in Quality Management and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. He is based out of New Jersey.

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2008 SYS-CON TV Keynotes: Can We Fix the Web? By Douglas Crockford - by Douglas Crockford
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2008 SYS-CON TV Power Panel: The Business Value of RIAs
2008 SYS-CON TV Power Panel: What Lies Beyond AJAX
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