CEX: Goodbye Process-Thinking. Hello Design-Thinking


Share on LinkedIn

I have noticed a recent change in how Customer Experiences (CEX) are designed. A change for the better.

In the past CEX design was often the domain of the B-school trained consultant or manager. They used a logical, touchpoint-driven approach. Process design (using a variety of process mapping methods) was a big part of this approach. But the results of their work has been mixed at best. Despite a few well publicised successes, most of their CEX designs failed to deliver value to customers in the way they, customers, want it.

More recently, I have seen service design agencies get more and more involved in CEX design. These D-school trained people use a broad range of tools and techniques (including the servicescaping process-mapping method) to create superior CEX designs. Designs that pull the logical, emotional and aesthetic value levers that customers are looking for in a CEX. That create satisfaction, preference and maybe even loyalty.

If I was advising a client today on who are the best CEX designers, I would be pointing them to design agencies like Design Thinkers, live|work or Engine Service Design, not to the CEX consultancies that I might have used only a few years ago.

How things change. We must change with them. It is time to cast off monolithic process-thinking and to embrace holistic design-thinking. Your customers will thank you for it using their cheque books.

What do you think? Are you using design-thinking to create superior customer experiences? Or isn’t customer experience that important to your business?

Graham Hill
Customer-centric Innovator, Customer Value Manager, or simply, Design Thinker
Follow me on Twitter

Further Reading:

Design Thinkers


Engine Service Design

Journey to the Interface

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


  1. Graham,

    Society (and the businesses that serve it) always seem to over-correct. Your post is insightful, but I sense across the blogosphere an underlying tone that says “the old is bad” – “the new is good”. In this case, the greatest benefit might be to align an amazing customer experience with back end processes that support its growth and development.

    While some may be able to transition to a totally new paradigm, the total abandonment of old thinking would leave some companies totally confused.

    Thanks for your ever insightful posts.

    Best regards,

    Brian (@CRMStrategies)

  2. Hu Brian

    Thanks for your comment. It is much appreciated, (as is our recent twitterversation).

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not in favour of simply replacing the old with the new, just because it is new. Only if the new is demonstrably better than the old. I have been involved in business process improvement for over 15 years. During that time the process-thinking tools I used have evolved from simple workflows, to SADT/IDEF0, to Kingman-Brundage’s servicescaping all the way to experiencescaping. Today, I find myself using more design-thinking tools to gain a much broader view of what customers value, how to co-create it with them and as you quite rightly pointed out, how to arrange the whole organisation (and partners) so that they are aligned in support of value co-creation. This is real customer-centricity.

    The single biggest influences on my evolution in thinking have been consulting for and then running CRM for Toyota which showed me how to see value-streams from the supplier’s supplier to the customer’s customer. Strategyn’s approach to Outcome-driven Innovation which showed me how to really understand what customers value. Vargo & Lusch’s Service-Dominant Logic which showed me how to enable companies to co-create value with customers. And world-class work in CEX design by the best service design agencies which showed that I wasn’t alone in my thinking. All of these brought different parts to the bigger jigsaw of CEX design.

    As I said at the beginning, I don’t believe in throwing out the old simply to replace it with shiny new stuff. Unless the new is significantly better than the old. Design-thinking is significantly better than process-thinking. That’s why I have adopted it across all my CEX design work.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

    Further Reading:

    Jones & Womack, Seeing the Whole

    Tony Ulwick, What is Outcome-driven Innovation

    Vargo & Lusch, Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing

    Demos, The Journey to the Interface

  3. Given that (value-driven) process design is the core of any successful organization, I am a little concerned to find you bidding good-bye to Process Thinking and welcoming Design Thinking as a replacement.

    It may be that your use of the word ‘design’ in this fashion is too generic. A good DESIGN will bring user-centric interface design, user-friendly information architecture and customer-value-driven business processes together into a rewarding experience for the customer – and a profitable transaction for the business. Process thinking (from a customer’s viewpoint) is key.

  4. We can also look at things from another ‘meta’ design perspective. Eg. I am a service design and customer engagement consultant, but my background (20 years)is in service business operations and marketing and I have an MBA focussed on change and open innovation not a design degree. When I approach clients it’s with a ‘strategy first’ perspective not a design perspective – design and process comes next. So anyone involved in service design must understand commercial business strategy, business models, what a blance sheet and cash flow look like and how they function, because what you do will have an impact on all these critical parts of the business.

    And you can be sure as day turns to night that the bright sparks in the big consultancies are looking at sevice design as a new ‘product’ to sell to their clients, given much of the rest of their business has dried up.

  5. Hi Gagan

    Thanks for your comment. It is much appreciated. And thanks for blogging your questions at your own blog.

    Design Thinking provides a broad variety of tools, techniques and a structured process to create, e.g. customer experiences, that are specifically designed to meet customers’ needs. It obviously includes product, service, experience design for external customers. But it also includes capability design (the next evolutionary stage beyond the 16 core processes described by the BPI Institute and referenced in your blog post) and business model design for internal customers too.

    As I mentioned in the blog post, I have drawn from the best in traditional BPR, the Toyota Way, Outcome-Driven Innovation, Service-Dominant Logic and Service Design in coming to the conclusions I have. Processes obviously play an important part in Design Thinking, but only as a component in value-delivering capabilities and not the traditional process-thinking I grew up with.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

    Further Reading:

    Gagan Saxena, Rethinking Business Processes

    BPI Institute, The Business Architecture, Value Streams and Value Chains

  6. Dick Lee – Graham, what we’re seeing is a convergance of what you term CEX and the leading edge of business process, “outside-in” process, which starts with the customer. “Outside-in” process progresses from aligning strategy to customers, to aligning process to strategy, to (in the case of HYM’s Visual Workflow) aligning technology with process. It doesn’t intend to design the customer experience, just drive the desired experience all the way through the company so what happens “inside” supports what’s desired outside.

    I just posted a bit about GM up here that goes further into the concept.

  7. Hi David

    Your point about strategy is well taken. Strategy, (or at least a strategic intent), should be one of the inputs into design work in general. But strategy formulation needs to extend outside of its traditional focus, to include a fundamantal understanding of customer needs, of the company’s dynamic capabilities that deliver them and then, of how doing so creates value in terms of cashflow. Sadly, I still see too many strategies that are heavy on financial models, but light on understanding the factors that drive them.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here