How marketing can apply service design thinking to do KYC (know your customer)


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Service design thinking, Marketing and design thinking

As a marketer whenever we talk about marketing, what comes to our mind is “Target Audience, Customer, Campaign, ROI.”

However, customers often view us marketers as slimy or even evil – people who invisibly manipulate their insecurities, fears and weak moments in the pursuit of profits. And in the digital era, they don’t shy from voicing that perception and are always quicker to criticize than to appreciate, and it’s for the whole world to see.

That means our prospects, other customers, partners and competitors are watching how fast and how well we resolve their problems. By ensuring the individual customer’s satisfaction consistently, we also get the opportunity to provide a real-time advertisement for our business.

So, as marketers it’s critical to ask ourselves: “Why are they coming to us, and what is the experience we want to provide to win their confidence and loyalty, that will be good for them as well as for our brand?”

Dealing with reality

Today as marketers, we own the largest share of the customer journey, including customer service experience. New marketing technologies coupled with changing buying patterns and device usage, increasing buyer demands has placed a lot more on our plate than in the past. Moreover, a failed buying attempt on any one channel will be deemed a failure for the brand as a whole.

With customers now in control, they dictate us to shift our strategies – meaning that personalization and individualized attention to market our product/service and delivering relevant and engaging experiences is the need of the hour.

However, to do this, we need to understand the user and capture and customer data across touchpoints. It also forces us to deal with their experience of trying to gather information to solve their problem.

The question to ask ourselves is – How prepared are we to manage major service experience across critical touchpoints?

Shift in mindset

In the report titled, New Messaging Mandate, Shar VanBoskirk, Analyst, Forrester Research says – “The balance of power has tilted in favor of your customers, who are increasingly empowered in today’s digital environment. Only marketers who are customer-obsessed and adapt to consumers’ changing behaviors in real time will succeed.”

Our customers want help to fulfill their need or desire; they want to be communicated in real-time on issues that matter most to them and treated with respect.

“It’s also realizing; mature customer service experience is not about giving a fast response, it’s awareness of not only what the customers need at the moment, but what they need next.

It boils down to respecting their choices, how they want to reach out to us and their motivations. By showing empathy at every interaction across the different touchpoints, delivering content that will elicit a two-way conversation, customers are bound to respond to our personalized and genuine conversation. They will readily share their opinion, give constructive feedback, and this proves us with an excellent repository of fuel for crafting the best possible experiences that should be mined at all times.

I firmly believe that we have to be stripped away from our traditional thinking. When we think about marketing, let’s stop thinking about “the target” and start thinking about “the user,” and how are these different type of users directly or indirectly affected by our products/services.

FROM: Marketing is something that we do to promote, what we think our customers want

TO: Marketing is being in service to address our customer needs at each touchpoint, and have conversations that inspire them to change for the better.

I think that with this new mindset, we can dramatically change our results.

Setting the stage for ultimate service experience by applying service design thinking to do KYC

The Service Design Network defines service design as:

“… the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers.”

Briefly summarized, it’s a human-centered approach that provides us with a deeper understanding of our customers as individuals (user personas, touchpoints, empathy maps, journey mapping). It ensures that employees from various disciples are involved in framing the complex problem correctly, they don’t “leap-in’ and roll up their sleeves with the first possible solution.

Using convergent and divergent thinking and an outside-in approach it helps us zoom out to examine the complex problem in totality and with come up with new disruptive solutions. It usually includes one or more of the following approaches: observation, interviews (individual or group), brainstorming, prioritization, prototyping and testing.

Stealing some approaches from service design thinking provides us marketing folks a road map by stepping back and really thinking through the multiple touchpoints a customer might have with our brand. It also helps us ensure:

-every employee understands that they represent the voice of the company and customer care is an integral part of their job
-stay alert for any glitches, and when problems crop up, employees step up and make things right
-re-visit the experience we are providing on a frequent basis and keep iterating till we get it right.

Good service design can visualize trouble spots across different touchpoints, and it’s an opportunity for us to positively transform a user’s experience to one of excellent service.

1. For customers and prospects, our service is easy-to-use, reliable, timely, and meets their needs and expectations. It offers them the convenience of self-service, backed by the confidence of assistance and expertise from trained professionals at the counter or on the phone or web or social media when needed.
2. For frontline staff (sales, customer service, marketing), it means having the processes, autonomy and support to do their work both efficiently and (even more importantly) effectively, to make a real difference in the customers lives and to see how their own contribution makes our brand a better place.
3. For management and executives, an excellent service experience to customers achieves growth while being sustainable and using budgets and other resources responsibly, where employees have the mindset, tools, and training needed to deliver the service confidently.

Are you ready for ACTION?

Regardless of the channel, every organization today that wants to do KYC to deliver great user experiences. To make it a success, you have to take the time to educate your employees and relevant stakeholders at all levels and all touchpoints about what your company stands for, what it means to work here, and what kind of experiences you need to ensure for all users.

Great service design means you need to change your company’s internal mindset, for creating the experience the users want. Take it from me this can’t happen without a customer experience strategy, common goal, clear guidelines, and proper communication, and processes to continuously implement feedback and lots of practice to help improve your service and grow your business.

Here’s An Inspiring Action: Let marketing be the design thinking evangelists in your organization, as not doing it can cost you more in wasted effort and poor results. The return on investment for doing it right can be substantial.

Vidya Priya Rao
Vidya Priya Rao (PhD), is the Founder and Director of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP, a customer experience, design thinking and marketing consulting firm based in Mumbai, India. She is a design thinking/service design thinking decoder and promotes a proven approach to build a design-led innovation culture. She is also a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India. She is an Executive, Marketing & Sales Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker.


  1. Great points. So many companies are focusing on the Millennial and only the Millennial. They are missing out on the consumers with the most time and the most money. Understanding the customers that have the highest Life Time Value and trying to market to them at least short term while understanding future markets is much smarter for both short and long term profits.

  2. Really good article. You stated that companies need to “educate your employees…at all levels and all touchpoints about…what kind of experiences you need to ensure for all users” and I couldn’t agree more. Your employees must know how to adapt and provide the same level of service for every user, every time.

  3. Yes well said Valerie, it’s critical to identify the bread winning segments and focus on meeting their expectations, while exploring new possibilities in the future.


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