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Thinking like a Black Belt

For the past five years or so I have been saying to my banking clients that they have to start to think like retailers, doing so will help them to really understand what customers want, how to be relevant and how to seamlessly integrate into their everyday lives.

Until recently, designing customer experiences tended to involve the compartmentalisation of channels. One group would be responsible for brand, one for digital and one for retail. This silo approach to developing experiences results in some connection, but not the kind of fluidity between channels that customers expect.

To win, I believe brands need to start thinking like ‘Black Belt’ martial artists. What do I mean by this?

When training to be a black belt, athletes learn and then practice moves, disciplined and centred, they practice and practice moves of varying complexity until such point as the moves come naturally and instinctively - they flow. A true martial arts master makes complexity look simple. He makes the right moves at the right time and delivers the right results at the right moment.

Now, if we take this analogy and use it to describe customer experience design we will see where the problems are. By designing experiences in silos brands create experiences that do not flow, are fragmented and confusing. By thinking ‘Digital’, ‘Retail’ and ‘Brand’, organisations are immediately creating a disconnect between their services and therefore in their ability to deliver the right experience at the right moment.

In the future, this must change. Organisations must realise that linear thinking needs to be replaced with agility, flexibility and flow. Here are my tips for creating connected customer experiences that flow and for thinking like a ‘Black Belt’:

  • Remove silos - work together, with multi-skilled teams who think creatively and conceive original joined-up solutions that are true to your brand

  • Be disciplined and remain focussed - creativity is wonderful and should be celebrated, but undisciplined creativity is a recipe for disaster.

  • Break it down - do not be satisfied with the first solution, keep breaking problems down, reinventing them

  • Define your moves based on customer and business need - ensure they flow seamlessly through all channels

  • Rapid incremental innovation - Accept that a service will never be completely right when you launch it. Prepare to constantly innovate, listen to your customers, be agile and improve your service in-line with customer feedback

  • Be fearless -Do not be afraid to change things - even if they are working, they could work better.

  • Customer Journey - build customer journeys around experiences and not around distribution channels

  • Consider every detail - No detail is too small to be considered. By carefully choreographing total experiences, your business and customer will benefit

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