activity control

What activity control has to do with design

Do you really know what your customers want? According to an article published by McKinsey, this was never an easy question, but it is even harder to answer it nowadays. Multinationals such as Amazon, Apple and Google keep a strict activity control, based on offering more and more innovative services and products, and this increases the consumer’s expectations. Consequently, our customers require not only useful products and services, but also experiences that delight and makes them feel empowered. Here is where design takes place.

With the increasing competitiveness, leaders are already convinced that they need design in addition to performance in what their companies offer. This is, therefore, a tremendous opportunity for you to rethink the way your brand relates to your customers. While many executives know that the design should have a central role in the strategies of their business, they do not understand how to incorporate it. After all, it is not simply about hiring some general designers.


1. Start with the heart

The Design Thinking methodology can be your inspiration. The idea is that the creative process begins with a thorough understanding of emotions, desires, intentions and behaviors of consumers. Think you have to design to create a pleasant user experience. This will only happen once there is a profound knowledge, for example, of how people interact with their friends and strangers, and at when they are involved with technology. What new behaviors are emerging or can be stimulated?

Take the example of Virgin America, a U.S. low-cost airline. In order to stand out in an indifferent market, they focused the activity control in the mission of understanding the emotional connections of customers with pleasant experiences. The company began by asking the travelers what most bothered them during the experience of the trip. After building a model of a plane, it was possible to have a realistic sense of their sensations and think new ways to provide comfort and entertainment. From the company’s website to the soundtrack playing at check-in, from the lighting inside the aircraft in-seat ordering system, Virgin America has invested in design to create a memorable experience. In 2012 and 2013, they reached the 1st place in the Airline Quality Rating annual report.


2. Know who and what are shaping expectations

No, it is not enough to offer a superior experience than your direct competitor’s; you should also take into account your “experiential” competitors. When customers like what disruptors are delivering, that’s what they expect from every business. Some of the dominant trends that shape the expectations of consumers today are: Transparency (e.g. Uber tells you how many minutes are left for the driver to arrive); Real-time relevance (Google Now knows it’s time you go home from work or vice versa and tells how much time the path will take); and Connectedness (Nest is a smart thermostat that regulates your home’s climate).


3. Test, test again and test some more

The design process must be extremely repetitive, involving constant and rapid adjustments in real time, based on your actual customers’ behavior – which, by the way, are always likely to change their mind. Therefore, users should be part of the design process from the beginning, to help validate the concepts that your team come to and lead which steps will be taken. Your team must be open to experiment, take risks, learn quickly and, then, repeat. It is essential both to deliver results as soon as possible and to support business growth overtime. To test, more than one of the steps in the process, becomes a habit, a method of thinking.


4. Remember that money makes a lot of sense

The conclusion is that, to succeed in the pursuit for what makes the experience delightful to the customers, you need to add quite analytics to the design. While the design offers solutions that meet a need of the customer, the analysis will serve to define the needs of your company. Then, you may face a conflict, but do not forget that focusing on the customer is not enough to sustain a business. Create and analyze the scenarios in which there is a balance between the needs of your customers and the needs of your company. This is a prudent activity control.


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