Customer centricity: how Design Thinking delivers in the face of changing attitudes

At the end of March, Lendscape Live brought together a range of speakers for a daylong event focused on the future of the funding experience. Amongst our many guests was Richard Olver – Chief Operating Officer of Bibby Financial Services – who shared his thoughts on the importance of Design Thinking within financial services.

Design Thinking is an approach to problem-solving that focuses specifically on the end customer's needs and experiences. Olver notes that by embracing the principles of Design Thinking, Bibby has been able to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic, deliver tangible improvements to its customer experience, and even develop a stronger proposition for its employees.

In this article, we look at some of the highlights from his talk. 

Empathy defines everything 

Olver describes a five-stage process at the core of Bibby's approach to Design Thinking which helped them create and implement new ways of serving its customers. Arguably, the most critical aspect of that process would be the very first step: empathy. For Design Thinking to be truly effective, decisions need to be made with a deep understanding of a customer's experience – something that can require a major shift in mindset, in Olver’s opinion. 

While just about everyone can evaluate things from an 'Inside Out' perspective, he continued, Design Thinking requires a fundamental change in perspective to 'Outside In'. At the centre of that transition is the ability to think about solutions, not products, and allowing oneself to see your processes the same way that a real customer does. Taking the time to truly empathise with customers is crucial to successful Design Thinking. 

As well as looking at what  is changing, focus on why it is changing too

Design Thinking can serve several different purposes, but it is particularly effective to help navigate changing customer expectations. To illustrate this point, Olver referred to the gigantic shift in buying behaviours that has taken place across the financial services industry, with particular emphasis on new digital sales platforms and emerging entrepreneurs. 

He notes that how people consume products is increasingly important, as this will shape the way they want to buy them. As a result, Design Thinking can not only benefit the business in meeting the needs of its existing customer base but create a more attractive package and refined path to purchase for future buyers. 

One size does not fit all 

Building on the above thought, Olver stressed there can no longer be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to a customer journey. As different people want different things from your products, understanding their behavioural attributes – and responding to them appropriately – is now more crucial than ever. 

Doing that successfully, he continued, means using data effectively to find the unifying factors between your customers. Some may be extraordinarily cash hungry and focused on rapid growth, for instance; others may crave stability above all. But whatever their specific circumstances, they want a choice of how to buy and use your products. 

Mapping out those groups can add significant value to your Design Thinking process. Speaking to Bibby's own experiences, Olver noted that using customer personas had helped counter previous assumptions that buying and usage behaviours change between geographies. Across numerous European markets, Bibby found significant commonality through the overarching customer personas it identified. 

Bring your people on the journey with you 

Design Thinking is about putting the customer at the forefront of your decision making. At the same time, you need your own people to be able to deliver on the promises you make while doing so. An 'Outside In' approach can play a significant role here too, said Olver, with an emphasis on asking – rather than telling – people what they think the company should stand for and how it should serve its customers.

Olver stressed that this approach has helped Bibby effectively execute their Design Thinking vision and allowed them to build an improved and better-differentiated employee proposition.

The results of Design Thinking speak for themselves 

Based on its core principles, Design Thinking has a natural impact on the quality of the customer experience. Its true impact goes much further, argued Olver, with the benefits accumulating to deliver something truly transformational.

From greater colleague engagement to an uptick in Net Promoter Scores and a reduction in complaints through to greater buy-in to a company's future direction, Design Thinking creates a company-wide ecosystem of benefits. Critically, it can also make a tangible contribution to the bottom line – driving customer lifetime values up and attrition rates down. 

Realising those benefits, concluded Olver, means embracing Design Thinking as a strategic shift. It may require time and investment, but the value it can deliver makes that effort more than worthwhile. 

Our thanks go out to Richard for bringing Design Thinking to life in a clear and compelling way. For more from Lendscape Live 2022, check out our previous post with highlights from a session featuring Channel Capital's Daouii Abouchere. 

Article written by:

Iain Gomersall