By Ndonye Vincent Njoroge and Nathanial Peterson

Now, more than ever, the customer experience is the battleground upon which titans of industry will fall and new ones will emerge as highlighted by the COVID -19 pandemic. Our current situation has changed every aspect of how consumers interact with business, and business leaders have been forced to reimagine their business models.

What has become clear in our work this year is that, in these massively uncertain times, contextualized experience design is required to help consumers reorient themselves in the market.

For customer orientated organisations for the new decade, it is important to offer solutions that meet the markets’ current demands. In order to succeed, organisations will need to understand that the pre-COVID customer journey is largely obsolete.

‘The new normal’ is a pithy phrase that usually sounds trivial, but for most businesses this new environment will require nothing less than a complete reinvention of their businesses’ approaches to markets, especially how they interact with their customers.

Complicating matters, they also have to re-invent the way staff work together to deliver services. In this infectious era, customer ‘touchpoints’ take on a new scary image and require a rethinking of what customer contact means.

To address this, we must adopt a new model of customer experience, based on service design and optimized for behavioural tendencies, allowing companies to deeply understand the customer, map real customer journeys, and design products and services based on clear value propositions and human decision processes.

To start this development, organisations ought to leave behind demographic segmentation and embrace behavioural segmentation. For different levels of the economic pyramid, it is important to define personas based on how users understand and experience brands, products, and services.

Next, throw out your old customer journeys maps (if you even had them) and map new customer journey; these are not simply process maps and must be unique for each persona.

Empowering talent to re-think models of engagement is crucial as Richard Branson’s ‘employees come first’ takes on new meaning. Organisations should aim to create a culture of customer centricity by involving the entire business in customer journey mapping exercises and training in the new model of customer experience.

When it comes to technology, re-orient digital transformation (DT) programs by starting to re-imagining customer experience.

A lot of DT programs are technology-led and limited to merely digitizing existing processes and it is no wonder that customers respond unenthusiastically and employees end up with more to do and with less autonomy and creativity to support customers. We’ve fallen into the old trap of paving the goat-paths.

Lastly, seek partnerships that will accelerate your re-invention. Multi-disciplinary design firms that have specialized experience and service design are like turbo-chargers for your organization, supporting your teams with the tools and resources to conduct design research to define your personas, map customer journeys, and prototype solutions with users. Some organizations underestimate the effort that these activities need and make the miscalculation of hiring a single designer hoping to make some headway.

They never last a year. It is a false economy and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the challenge to be solved. External partners are often the best way to cut across departmental silos and remain above the political battles that too often entrap or envelope a new hire.

In 2019, the Central Bank of Kenya issued a forward-thinking Banking Sector Charter whose underlying goal was to help steer a stodgy, tradition-bound industry into a modern and responsive engine for a new Kenya and that served all Kenyans. The first pillar they identified was customer-centric business models.

In 2020 and living in a post-COVID-19 world now makes this pillar an undeniable imperative. For financial services providers this means re-designing the banking experience, while our lifestyle and fintech mobile-apps, which were once revolutionary, must be revised to meet future demands.

For all other organisations, in order to emerge stronger and more relevant to the market, engaging local design expertise and sourcing solutions that have been optimised by research and testing, will undoubtedly help steer you through these uncharted waters.

Ndonye Vincent Njoroge is the Managing Director of Marathon, an Experience & Service Design firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. Nathanial Peterson is the Vice President, Partnerships at The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics.


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