Why design should be a priority for consulting services

01 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Historically, design thinking hasn’t necessarily been a great priority in the consultancy world and a primary consideration in the boardroom. But it should be, says Lisa Campana, director of design at digital agency Wunderman.

Design isn’t just about making things ‘look pretty’. It’s as business-critical as customer experience, with which it is more tightly aligned than some might think. However, whether for physical products or services, design has become far too siloed within businesses and isn’t seen as a concern for senior management. In a perfect world, design should be a key consideration to be raised with the C-suite as a standard element of the business strategy. 

The recent McKinsey study ‘The business value of design’ attests to this. Ranking companies by their design credentials, McKinsey & Company discovered those with stronger design chops performed better overall. Across a five year period, the top quartile of brands secured 32 percent more revenue growth than competitors, and 56 percent more in total returns to shareholders. 

That tells us the end-to-end design and experience models of a business should be tracked and managed at the highest level, in the same way as finance and operations. Because when they are, it can dramatically boost a client’s performance and profits.

Don’t cut designers out of the loop

Consultancies know that any business operating in silos won’t reach its full potential. Unless designers understand strategic business objectives and KPIs, it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to meet the needs of both internal and external audiences. Therefore true design thinking means smashing the silos to collaborate across all departments. Why design should be a priority for consulting servicesPutting customers first lies at the very core of the design process. Understanding design thinking is therefore everyone’s responsibility, because it permeates every facet of the business. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

After all, a company’s brand is built on everything from the logo to the end product, the PR to the customer service – it’s all intrinsically linked, all affirming what the brand stands for to customers. Understanding what the brand is trying to communicate – the brand personality – is intrinsic to a successful end product. In fact, if the brand mission, vision and purpose don’t align with the end product there’s little chance the audience will connect with that brand as intended. There’s then a further risk that customers may then confer characteristics that do not sit well with the original proposition.  

Hence design and customer experience should be tackled hand in hand, delivering a company’s distinctive feel and identity across every possible touchpoint, so the end-to-end experience is a complete reflection of its brand. Consultancies increasingly advise companies on their brands and their customer experience, so design has to be a key part of that conversation, not left out in the cold.

Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 TED Talk nailed this thinking, implying we have two ‘selves’ in the way we experience things and form memories. For instance, take the experience of shopping online. You could have a good user experience, smooth transaction, and consider shopping on that site again. However, if your order was two weeks late, the item was damaged and the customer service team was rude, the memory you take from the overall shopping experience is negative and  it’s highly unlikely you’ll become a repeat customer. 

These factors will come to define your relationship with that brand, so the design experience should go beyond just the website. This is something many businesses still don’t get.

Design communicates how a business would like to be perceived

It’s integral to focus on the key touchpoint for a business – the thing it’s actually known for – rather than deliver a mediocre experience across all bases or fail in another area. Customer perceptions are everything, and this is the same for multinationals and local businesses – you’re obviously going to question the professional credentials of a solicitor’s office with a chaotic website offering legal advice in Comic Sans. 

This has a huge impact on where people take their custom and where design comes into its own: what the brand values should be, what makes customers engage with the brand and so on.

“Historically, design thinking hasn’t necessarily been a great priority in the consultancy world. But it should be.”
– Lisa Campana, Wunderman

With a private healthcare provider, for example, the design and feel should be trustworthy, knowledgeable, inviting, empathetic. That’s what customers will want from a brand that’s potentially saving their life, and it’s not just about the website’s interface. Again, it’s the end-to-end experience and design of the brand – customer service, the doctors themselves and so on.

The landscape has changed

Back in the day, businesses had carte blanche to set the agenda and customers would follow. But now, with price often trumping loyalty, people have a wealth of choice. A saturated market means businesses must listen to and work with their customers, in a constant feedback loop to improve services across the board. After all, we live in the call-out generation. People will let a business know, through a whole host of social media platforms, exactly what they think of it. Sometimes politely, sometimes… not so much. 

If lots of them are saying the same thing, the company needs to listen. It means that something in its end-to-end process isn’t right – it has the chance to make a change, but that has to come from an authentic place. It’s easy for businesses to dismiss social media as the herd mentality, whereas they should see it as the wisdom of the crowd. Often it’s up to the consultant to raise this as an objective party.

Embedding design thinking

As the McKinsey report showed, quantitative measurement and analytical rigour are not impossible when it comes to design. And so, consultancies should be looking at how to implement better practice in 2019 and beyond. There are a few simple steps to bear in mind:

  • Involve the design team from the beginning. My team and I are often involved in new business pitches to get a feel for the brand well before they’re on board. Consultancies can take a leaf from that book.
  • Encourage multiple departments to collaborate. Branding has to be 100%, from strategy to data to design. The C-Suite should be involved, yes, but not exclusively. Everyone plays their part.
  • Don’t start with the thinking, then make it ‘look nice’ afterwards. Businesses that think that way are doing the design – and the thinking – a disservice.

Design is so much more than whether a product looks appealing and if the box is easy to open. It encompasses services, business strategy and the entire customer experience, and should therefore be treated with the same level of consideration as any other business-critical process. Consultants and the C-suite alike would do well to take a step back and think about what design can really offer. 

Related: How design thinking can help build a successful strategy.

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Four ways digitalisation is transforming car brands and dealers

16 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

From changing expectations from the customer to new stakeholders entering the industry, the digital transformation of global automotive industry means it is facing the wholesale transformation of its business model. In a new white paper, global consulting partnership Cordence Worldwide has highlighted four major digital trends that are transforming the relationships between car brands and dealers with consumers.

With digital transformation drives booming across the industrial spectrum, automotive groups are no different in having commenced large digital transformation programmes to improve productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. Falling sales figures mean the automotive sector is facing an increasingly difficult road ahead, something which means companies in the market are even more hard pressed to find new ways to improve their bottom lines.

While it offers major opportunities, the industry’s move to digitalise is not without complications. It has triggered a series of major internal changes, which have presented automotive entities with the challenge of becoming a “customer-oriented” industry. A new report from Cordence Worldwide – a global management consulting partnership present in more than 20 countries – has explored how automotive companies are navigating the rapidly changing nature of digital business.

New business models

The level of change likely to be wrought on the automotive industry by digitalisation is hard to overstate. Automation could well lead to significant reductions in the number of accidents, higher vehicle utilisation and lower pollution levels, while leading to a $2.1 trillion change in traditional revenues, with up to $4.3 trillion in new revenue openings arising by 2030.

As a result of this colossal opportunity, it is easy to see why almost all automotive groups now have digital departments, with generally strong communication within the digital transformation and the customer approach. The changes to society which this may have are potentially distracting automotive firms from the change it is leading to in its own companies though, according to Cordence’s paper.

The automotive market is dead, long live the mobility market

Because of this, the sector’s business model is set to transform over the coming decades. With digitalisation speeding up the appearance of concepts such as car-sharing, a subscription package model will likely become more palatable. At the same time, car and ride-sharing models will cater to the sustainability criteria of millennials, who will rapidly become one of the automotive market’s leading consumer demographics in the coming years.

Antoine Glutron – a Managing Consultant with Cordence member Oresys, and the report’s author – said of the situation, “These ‘old school industries’ are now working on creating new opportunities, but in so-doing are facing challenges and threats: new jobs, new technologies, new ecosystem of partners, necessary reorganisation, different relationship with customers, and even new businesses. The customer approach topic is in fact a real challenge for car companies as it implies changing their business model and adjusting their mind-set to address the customer 4.0: from product-centric to customer-centric, from car manufacturer to service provider.”

Digital customer experience

In the hyper-competitive age of the internet, even top companies face an uphill challenge when it comes to holding onto customers through brand loyalty. Digital disruption has resulted in changes to consumer behaviour, which is forcing a range of marketing strategists to reconsider their old, possibly out-dated strategies. As modern customers wield an increasingly impressive array of digital tools and online databases, they and are now able to quickly and conveniently compare prices, check availability and read product reviews.

The automotive sector is no exception to this trend, according to the study. In order to adapt to the needs of the so-called ‘customer 4.0’, car companies will increasingly need to change their business model and move away from product-centric companies to customer-centric ones, from car manufacturers to service providers.

Glutron explained, “As an automotive company, you can no longer expect customer loyalty simply with good products; you must conquer and re-conquer a customer that “consumes” your service. The offer now has to be global, digital and personalised. Your offer has to be adapted to this customer’s needs at any given moment. A key issue related to data control is to build customer loyalty by creating a customer experience 'tailored' throughout the cycle of use of the 'car product': purchase, driving, maintenance and trade-in of the vehicle.”

One way in which the sector may be able to benefit from this desire for a tailored experience is via connectivity. Consumers are generally positive about new connective features for automobiles, and many are even willing to pay upfront for infotainment, emergency and maintenance services. Chinese consumers, where the connected car market is set to hit $216 billion, are already particularly interested in paying a little more for navigation and diagnostic features in their future new car. This can also enable automotive companies to exploit a rich vein of customer data, enabling them to rapidly tailor their offerings to consumer behaviour.

New automotive segments

Digital transformation has also brought with it the rise of completely new application areas. As mentioned earlier, the most well-known example is the autonomous or self-driving car, where the last steps forward were not taken by major automotive groups but by technology companies such as Tesla. While this may have given such firms the edge in the market briefly, a number of keystone automotive names will soon be set to take the plunge into the market themselves, leveraging their car manufacturing prowess and huge production capacities to their advantage.

Before companies rush to invest in this market, however, it is worth their while to remember that the readiness and uptake for such vehicles differs greatly geographically. For example, following a study published in 2018, 92% of Chinese would be ready to buy an autonomous car, compared with only around 35% of drivers in France, Germany and US. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of different nations will also be significantly less accommodating of the new technology.

Use digital for steering thr activity

Elsewhere, Cordence’s analysis has suggested that hooking the cars of tomorrow into the Internet of Things is also likely to see a rapid change in the business model for car maintenance, providing real-time diagnostics for problems. This presents chances for partnerships to improve the connectivity of cars, especially with tech companies; for example, PSA partnered with IBM for a global agreement on services in their vehicle. Meanwhile, data could also be sold to other parties with an interest in this data, such as the government, which could use it to manage traffic levels, or ensure that only adequately maintained vehicles take to the road.

Glutron added, “With the increase in the amount of client data and connected opportunities, the recommendation is to set up data-centric approaches. The value is now in the customer data. The general prerequisites are to rework the data model and the Enterprise Architecture and generally build up a data lake including data from all sources (internal and external, structured and unstructured).”

From automotive to mobility

Relating further to the idea of connectivity, the report claimed that automotive firms must now adjust their models in line with the provision of end-to-end mobility, rather than treating the sale of a car as an end point in their relationship with the customer. In order to realise this transformation, transformations are likely to become more and more important.

A network of partner companies means automotive firms can provide a global mobility experience. As the vehicle is increasingly connected to its environment, new partners can also be cities, governments, and other service providers within the global mobility services industry in which the car brands want to take part.

According to the study, the target is clear. Companies must look to a holistic transport service, offering to move customers from A to B in a unique and pleasant way – otherwise they might as well take public transport. At the same time, they should extend the services reachable “on-board” (especially the enhancement of the connectivity between the car and smartphones or other connected devices), and reach high standards in terms of user experience (online sales, online payment, customised experience during and after the use of the car).

Concluding the report, Glutron stated, “These mobility market transformations could be considered a threat for the car manufacturers. Quite the opposite: if they take up the challenge and review their business model so that they become the service provider – communicating no longer to a driver but to a ‘mobility customer’ – they can then take advantage of their expertise and their position as a historical player. The most convenient means of transport are cars, and building a car is highly-skilled work.”