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Realizing the value of strategic design thinking through co-creation with customers is far from revolutionary. Nor is that value foreign through co-creation methods with important stakeholders such as company directors. However, designers collaborating with other professionals within a client’s organization should also not get short shrift. Indeed, the diversity of thought from frontline employees can be a rich source of insight into the motivations, and pain points of product users and beyond.

It cannot be understated that all customer touchpoints should be evaluated to fully understand the user experience at each juncture. Designing with a client and involving them in the process can be an important aspect to gathering critical information on this progression. This usually involves meetings with high-level employees and senior management. There are a myriad of benefits to this cooperation but the approach should not stop there.  

An enormous area of complexity is the nuances in customer behaviors and pain points especially across markets. However, those at the highest levels may not always be best positioned to understand these elements given other demands and a focus on economics as opposed to empathy for the customer at the grassroots level. The same can sometimes be said of users whose experiences may be biased or anecdotal.

Gathering many people with different perspectives generates discussion about user needs in profound ways. Frontline workers may be well positioned to see the world as their customers do and identify trends. Working with these employees, designers and technologists can also bring up topics that might not appear through other methods of research. Other positive externalities are employees feeling motivated, sensing that they have a stake in the product and value to their organization.

How can we open up the design process to these experts? 

With client approval, devise timelines and methods to get access to frontline employees. Obtaining organization charts is a good start to get a sense of potential workers to include. This can involve customer service representatives, marketing personnel and others. It may not be possible to have collaborative workshops give consent, given budget and time constraints. Scheduling interviews is less difficult while including frontline employees in information-gathering and ethnography is a more complex proposition. Sourcing overall heuristic analyses and/or creating moodboards with workers is an easy way to create involvement as most everyone will have thoughts on the customer experience. Lastly, a key to co-creation lies in engaging, working with, and empowering people to generate ideas collaboratively. Team members must understand the 5 whys and how of what they will be undertaking. Structuring meetings and activities especially with capable moderators to get maximum value is equally critical. Designers on the other hand should accept a certain level of redundancy and accept that design aesthetics are not the only significant value. 

At Ignition72 we realize in-depth research is critical to our strategy-first model and a valuable investment in client time and focus. We have experience in co-creation methods at all levels of engagement and with all stakeholders. Connect with us to learn more and deliver against your customer vision.

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