Design, meet data: Unlocking design ROI

by Jennifer Kilian, Maxence Vancauwenberghe, Victor Brunetti, and Josh Weiner

Transforming the customer experience is a top priority for many if not most corporate leaders. But when it comes to improving the customer experience within and across touchpoints, many find themselves at loss. Sure, it’s relatively easy to identify and make incremental changes to improve some aspects of the experience. Tactics such as basic digital-interface improvements or upgrades to call-center scripts usually deliver some lift in customer satisfaction—but not much. Customers expect these fixes already, and the small-scale changes do little to create significant business impact.

On the other hand, grandly ambitious initiatives to reimagine the entire omnichannel experience usually run out of steam because projects are too broadly defined to translate into practical steps or require alignment and funding from too many disparate entities. Moreover, such initiatives, even if successfully executed, can take years from concept to implementation.

Fortunately, there’s a middle ground between low-impact tweaks and grandiose visions. We have found that companies can deliver significant business impact in roughly 24 weeks by applying a combination of advanced analytics and experience design to customer journeys—that is, to the set of interactions customers engage in to accomplish a specific task. We call this data + design methodology Quantified Experience Design (QED).

QED enables executives to prioritize which customer journeys to implement; identify which business value opportunities to focus on; precisely measure the impact of innovative ideas on customers and on the business; and sequence them for maximum business impact. The QED methodology also enables designers to focus on the full set of interactions and features that will create the most value for customers and for the business—different combinations of moments will generate different experiences and customer-satisfaction scores.

At a high level, here’s how it works. QED analysts start by identifying the journeys that will significantly improve customer satisfaction by precisely quantifying the potential impact associated with each journey, using quantitative customer surveys and internally sourced interaction and transactional data. Next, they map the behaviors of customers across each of those journeys, identify drivers of performance (using tools like ClickFox, develop qualitative insights into pain points, and design delightful interactions. They then use algorithms rooted in conjoint analysis to precisely assess the impact of improving specific aspects or moments of the journey. These algorithms allow QED analysts to eliminate the guesswork inherent in most common ethnographic research techniques, which are highly dependent on the interviewer’s ability to elicit accurate and useful customer intelligence—a shaky foundation for multimillion-dollar decisions. The algorithmically derived insights make it possible to create behavioral (not merely demographic) customer personas and map out what each persona’s ideal journey would look like, focusing on the areas that provide the highest lift to the business metrics. The best of the new ideas that emerge from mapping ideal journeys can also be tested for their business impact using data sourced from in-house client systems or ad hoc customer testing.

The result: out of a hundred or more new ideas generated, it is possible to identify with precision the ten that will yield the greatest upticks in customer satisfaction, digital adoption, cost savings, revenue, or some combination of the four. These analytics also allow the business to predict the expected improvement in satisfaction, support the business case for the overall project, and create the designs and roadmaps needed to implement the ideas accurately and efficiently. All of this occurs before designers even lift a finger or managers allocate a dime to IT development.

The QED approach to customer-journey experience design delivers measurable payoffs. One bank redesigned its customers’ bill-paying, card-replacement, and identity-verification journeys. These efforts generated a $2.3 billion lift in customers’ annual spend and a 28-percentage-point increase in customer satisfaction, propelling the client to the top three in customer satisfaction among ten leading global banks within three years.

In another case, a regional utility redesigned the payments journey, which cut costs by 35 percent and boosted customer satisfaction by eight points. By redesigning the prescription-refill journey, a major global pharma company increased patient adherence by 1 percent, enough to improve annual revenue by $10 million.

Whatever the specific application, QED derisks the decision process and ultimately delivers measurably higher returns on investment in design and agile resources.

Jennifer Kilian is a digital VP in McKinsey’s New York office, where Maxence Vancauwenberghe heads McKinsey’s ClickFox partnership.  Josh Weiner is a client-service manager and Victor Brunetti is an experience design director in the New York office.