Office workers in meetingDesign.  It is important in everything we do, choices that we make, attention that we pay – in business and in personal life.  It affects products we sell, services we procure, magazines that we read, our own identity, and more.   So much so, that BusinessWeek has a cover story dedicated to it this week and a magazine section about innovating it.   Mashable has a category devoted to it. FastCompany has the CoDesign section.  WIRED has its space simply called: Design.  Stanford has the d.School helping people become innovators through and with design thinking. And Fortune has a piece in its February 4, 2013 issue titled: “How a CEO and a designer co-create” – featuring the design firm: Jawbone – responsible for creating products from Bluetooth headsets to health wristbands, and lotion bottles.

BusinessInsider recently said that Apple was getting one-upped by Google when it comes to design.  AdWeek says that top branding and design firm Pentagram is revamping New York City’s parking signs to become more understandable, and they are taking a page from the twitter playbook – the goal per sign – no more than 140 characters.

Customer Experience from a CMO, VP Sales or VP Customer Support’s perspective involves strategic selling, contextual marketing, or even customer care – and perhaps we need to use more of the designers’ parlance –  folding-in terms or concepts such as: treatments, environments, pop!, creativity, bold, and risk.  Jawbone calls this notion of design attainability: “Experience in your back pocket.”

What is the experience you want to manifest for your customer?  Some of the answers lie within the designer’s toolbox.  Designer Jeanne Gang says: “Effective design makes it possible for people to connect with each other.”  Making time to understand the customer or consumers’ rationale for why he needs to interact a certain way is in large part – the solution. For example: “to see and interpret body language of my customer when I’m working on a deal with them”, rather than purely the act of “deal closure” can change the game in creating engagement models for sales managers.

Can sales, marketing and customer service professionals think like designers and be more effective? Focusing on the customers’ rationale is a great start.  Stamen Design posits: “it’s about the questions that you ask – and what you do with the answers.”

For example: Stamen Design’s Eric Rodenbeck says that “The AHA! moment is often a place you weren’t expecting to be – a mistake!” When a customer flames you on twitter or blogs about a flaw in your product or service, this is an opportunity to go back and discover ways to improve the customer experience and even restate some of your assumptions.  It’s an iterative process, according to Rodenbeck – including: customer requirements – design – implementation – test – deliver– with a spectrum of variations in each phase for you to evaluate and see whether your design [of the customer experience] is working.

A piece of advice on delivery and design of the customer experience is: “Care.” A little bit of empathy goes a very long way.  Steve Duenes, graphic director for the NY Times says: “when you know it – you care about it”. Which brings us full circle: care about your customers’ experience, get to know it, empathize and present to your customer the “why” of their business outcomes.

You’ll design better refined engagements, more personalized experiences and supportive solutions.   A designer’s way of thinking is to empathize with the customer and imagine why your product or service fits his/her business.  Tailoring the right customer experience, “environment”, or “treatment” may just make your product or service POP!

posted originally on The Customer Edge.