The secret of successful business design lies in gaining perspective.
When developing a new service or transforming a business model, usually a diverse set of stakeholders is involved. Whether it is C-level, marketing, business development or customers. Interestingly enough, those stakeholders actually dealing with customers on a daily basis are often left out in the crucial early stages of many innovation projects. Yet those employees at the “customer frontier” have the most profound insights about what their customers really need and where their pain points are – they can bring in perspective.

Customer-centricity starts with listening to those who know your customers best

Talking to the person selling the ice cream is worth talking to just as much as an ice cream lover (potential client). The seller is dealing with hundreds of customers every week – they know what certain types of customers are looking for in an ice cream and what they might be missing in your shop. They can tell you who your end-customers really are.

Hence, to generate valuable customer insights for business design, we need to institutionalize asking the right people about end-customer needs.

But: There are always at least two very different customers to design for

Nowadays, we are shifting more and more from product-oriented to solution-oriented design. Therefore, we are not just selling ice cream anymore, but an experience – in this case it may be a moment of pleasure, or maybe what feels like a short trip to the Adria.

To do so and really design for an excellent customer experience, generally the entire end to end service concept needs to be revisited, which is not just the product or flavor in this case, but the entire customer journey. You can imagine this journey as a horizontal process flow which brings your customer from the first peak of interest to the loyalty program of your company. But in business design, it is impossible to stay on that “horizontal level”. Any change here strongly impacts your vertical axis – the backend, which again includes your employee’s journeys.

So changing the frontend may involve serious changes in your employees’ daily business routines (and not just those employees at the “customer frontier”!). In fact, things they previously did manually may now be automated and new tasks may be of priority. Looking at our ice cream business example: We might have decided to introduce a new machine, which mixes flavors to the liking of the customer. Being able to operate and maintain that machine may now become a new key task of our employee, changing their daily work fundamentally.

This is why it is most important for any sustainable service or business model design, to allow for an inclusive design process. To integrate your employees’ valuable insights and listen to their needs and fears. To eventually come up with solutions to align both – customer and employee experience.

Resolving the apparent conflict between the needs of internal and external customers

Sometimes it may seem as if there is a contradiction between what your employee wants and what your customer needs. In fact, resolving this conflict may be the greatest challenge of all when it comes to creating sustainable and impactful innovation. 

This is one more reason to integrate your employees early on in business design processes. Enabling them to co-develop customer solutions and being listened to along the process is the best way to create both: sensitivity for customer satisfaction and acceptance for change. More than that, some employees may not just accept but turn to ambassadors of change, because of the deep understanding and convictions gained throughout the design process.

To wrap it up: sustainable and successful innovation must be designed for both, your employees, and your customers.


 Author: Cosima Geyer
PwC Digital Consulting