Creating great Customer Experience can be hard….however, creating CX that is truly innovative can sometimes feel impossible.

Just keeping-up with competitors requires continuous improvement, doing something new in your industry requires herculean effort, and doing something innovative cross-industry is surely the preserve of only the FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Netflix) or plucky little start-ups!

The guardians of Customer Experience in many organisations have rightly turned to a set of design tools (and design thinking) to help them tackle these innovation challenges.

However, there is a dangerous side to these tools, which if not managed correctly can limit rather than inspire innovation in CX.

1. Customer research

“The only thing worse than talking to customers, is not talking to customers.”

My organisation runs thousands of customer interviews each year and employs a wide variety of research techniques, so I am a strong believer in integrating customer insight into the experience design process.

However, all too frequently, customer research can be an inhibitor to real innovation, rather than a catalyst, creating Customer Experience that is 10 percent better rather than a factor of 10 better. There are three main reasons:

Biases and leading questions mean that research only validates existing hypotheses.

Not enough time is left for exploring interesting tangents – opportunities to re-frame problems and identify new ideas are lost.

Customer insight overpowers the ideation and creative design process, narrowing thinking rather than expanding it.

A combination of approaches is needed to harness the best insights from customers without constraining innovation.

Using experienced, curious, and well-prepared design researchers prevents biases and leading questions.

Planning extra time to explore interesting conversations ensures innovation-provoking insights are not smothered.

Phasing research so that it does not stray too early into solutioning, and ensuring that customer insight is only one of many stimulants to the ideation and design processes, helps ensure that thinking is not narrowed too soon.

2. Journey mapping

“Focus on the destination, not the journey”

Journey maps are often the cornerstone of Customer Experience programmes. Their attractive graphics and intuitive layouts make them great at organising complex CX information, and they are easy for non-designers to pick-up and start using.

However, as with customer research, using customer journey mapping in the wrong way can quickly stifle CX innovation.

Mapping the current state journey constrains future state experience design by focusing too closely on fixing individual pain points, rather then re-imagining the entire experience.

The journey framework naturally restricts innovative thinking by forcing designers to think in individual journeys or journey steps too early in the creative process.

Journey maps can quickly become driven mostly by IT or business requirements rather than by an ambition to depict an ambitious and inspiring future state Customer Experience.

Avoiding these journey mapping pitfalls starts with project scoping and planning – ensuring that activities are scheduled and ordered in such a way so that the risks posed by constrained thinking are minimised.

For example, mapping the current state is often necessary to identify areas of greatest value for the organisation, but when moving on to the designing, the future the current state should temporarily be ‘forgotten’ during future state vision and ideation activities.

Before jumping into designing a future state journey, think first in terms of concepts or individual ‘moments’ of the experience – these can later be knitted to together in to coherent journeys.

Customer research and journey mapping can be useful tools for designing and implementing improved CX. However, to move beyond optimising what already exists in an organisation or an industry, a carefully planned experience design approach is required – with a delivery team that understands the nuances of how these, and other, design tools should and shouldn’t be used.

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