On 13th July 2023, we gathered leaders from Finance, Retail and Transport to discuss how to use data, AI, and design to accelerate customer experience (CX) transformation. The objective was to understand how better data, combined with human-centred design, might help sharpen business strategy and increase resilience in these disruptive times.

From the discussion, several insights emerged:

  1. Technology offers the ability to streamline and increase efficiencies and improve the customer experience. The challenge is how. This problem is not new and organisations have been trying to solve this for decades, but the current economic landscape makes the acceleration of this critical.
  2. From a data perspective, the possibilities of making sense of huge amounts of data offers organisations huge potential. Again, the question is how - particularly making this useful, usable, and valuable. For real impact to be made the technology must be seen as part of a wider solution. As always, to be effective, organisations need to start with the problem to be solved, as well as for whom, and tackle this in a holistic way that includes people, process, and technology.
  3. We’ve seen several waves of customer centricity ‘tech revolutions’ - with CRM programmes, then digital transformation initiatives. They’ve often failed to live up to the expectations and money spent. There’s a new opportunity emerging with AI and the potential of unstructured data, but it still relies on deploying an effective data strategy, data ownership, and governance.
  4. This time it does feel different with advancements in cloud computing and AI, the opportunity is there for even legacy businesses to drive transformation and capture real value from data. We need to take a step back and understand: what is just enough in terms of data, what is the right data, when is the right time to use it and for what value?

Despite the focus on data and the potential of recent technology advancements, the conversation often came back to the ‘so what’. What does this mean for my customers, for my employees and for my stakeholders? We discussed the recent obsession with C360 (a 360-degree view of the customer) and hyper-personalisation. While these things might have their appeal for niche organisations, we heard from a recent Gartner report that a pursuit of C360 could destroy your business and customers are pushing back on personalisation that feels invasive. The key questions here are:

  1. How do we identify the data we need to generate value? What is just enough?
  2. How do we get closer to our customers (and employees) to understand what is important to them, their needs and pain points?

By combining an understanding of these two things, we can then start to think about the focus areas of our business from a technology, process, and people perspective. Service Design offers an opportunity to bring these things together and create a Service Blueprint for how data can better support the end-to-end customer experience.

This more pragmatic approach seemed to resonate as many of the organisations present are still struggling to get to a base level of how they become more customer-centric and data-driven. A lot of the key issues of disconnected legacy systems remain. Changing a large organisation in motion is hard work. So, while everyone wants to get on to a more exciting future, there are some basics to fix.

And while we must fix them, there is an opportunity to start experimenting now with data and AI. This could be by taking specific use cases, such as customer services, and organising the data to generate value in terms of full automation or augmenting humans (your support team, for example). By taking a Lean, start-up approach to these challenges, you can create a compelling story of change to drive the wider data-driven CX transformation initiatives. A dual track approach is key: deliver early value but continue to understand the wider interdependencies in terms of data, technology and operations.

Finally, no gathering of technology, data, and design enthusiasts would be complete without a discussion on Generative AI (GenAI). Despite the hype, there is excitement about the possibilities, but with a word of caution. We discussed how we need to act responsibly when deploying the technology - we should be experimenting with GenAI and creating proof of concepts, but most organisations are not yet ready to roll it out into the wild with customers and have yet to define the guardrails to ensure responsible deployment. One area of opportunity to look at is how the technology might augment employees working on the front-line of customer service and support.

Moving forward responsibly was a key theme of discussion, both in terms of thinking about the unintended consequences of how we use data and the responsibility we have to our stakeholders to invest wisely this time around. Data and AI, combined with human-centred design, has the potential to generate new types of customer and business value. The key to unlocking this value is experimentation combined with a pragmatic look at your data and technology landscape in light of recent advances.

We plan to continue the conversation and build on the insight through a series of events and roundtables. Please get in touch if you’d like to take part and gain deeper insight into the challenges organisations like yours are facing.