6 October 2020
Susanne van Mulken
Susanne van Mulken

Five trends with a focus on values

Value-driven design is the next phase in customer experience. Five trends that show why it is smart to base your strategy on values.

Trend 1: The technological rat race

Big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotization, platform economy. Technological developments are hard to keep up with. As a company you obviously don’t want to miss the boat. The budget may be under pressure due to the crisis, but many companies realize that innovation is the way to emerge stronger from the crisis.

So there is a lot of “innovation”. But certainly not all new products and services are equally successful, although they have cost time, money and attention and sometimes also blood sweat and tears. We see that many companies struggle with selecting the right innovative ideas. Often, simply a new technology is the starting point: “What could we do with this?” This is one of the reasons why innovations fail.

The importance of values

Progressive companies take a different approach. They know very well why they are on earth (purpose) and know the deepest motivations of their customers or users. Their values-driven path helps teams prioritize what matters most to their customers and their strategy so that everyone in the organization agrees on what to prioritize when choices need to be made. By first looking at the needs and only then looking for the right technology, they can innovate in a more targeted way, thus delivering more value for people and organizations.

Customers are sometimes inscrutable. Source: Dirk Verschure.

Trend 2: Customer experience as a distinctive character

There is increasing pressure on companies to really get the customer experience in order. Customer experience has increasingly become a differentiator. Simply solid and user-friendly is not enough, we want to give the customer the best experience. Look at examples such as Coolblue and Picnic that go to extremes in terms of customer-friendliness. They set the bar very high for themselves and their competitors.

Customer experience down to the finest detail. Photo: Picnic account on Facebook.

The importance of values

To remain distinctive and to remain relevant to customers, you have to be really good at what you do, add real value for customers. The better you know what drives customers, the better you can focus and design your service accordingly.

But that’s not all. If everyone becomes good at discovering customer values, then you will receive more relevant services, but the distinctive character will disappear. The result is a uniformity of brands. You can no longer distinguish one organization from another. As an organization, you will therefore also have to know your own values through and through and – here comes the most difficult – succeed in translating these values from strategic to tactical and operational level. The values must resonate credibly in all facets of your services: in the design of your website, in “tone & voice”, UX elements, the attitude of your employees, and so on. Only then can you consistently show who you are as an organization or as a brand. Even if you remove the logo from your website, you will still be recognizable to your customers and employees.

Trend 3: “Stakeholder value” above “shareholder value”

A new wind is blowing among prominent leaders of the major corporates. There was a business roundtable in the US at the end of last year. Leaders from leading companies such as Apple and J.P. Morgan have come to the conclusion that a company can do more than just make a profit. After all, there is also such a thing as “the customer” and “your employees” and “society”. Forerunners in the market have shown a turnaround by weighing these interests in the activities that the company develops.

Sources: New York Times and De Volkskrant.

When even the top of business community has changed its course, you can expect more and more attention and space for a more nuanced view of “value”. After all, you have value (s) at all levels (economic but also emotional or significant) and does not necessarily have to be expressed financially.

Trend 4: The public role of companies

We have seen for a while that trust in traditional institutions, such as the press, church, banks, government, Europe, is relatively low (Edelman, 2020). New (private) parties set themselves up as parties of trust. Examples are Apple Pay for making payments and Mastercard, which wants to give people control over their identity information. Also think of Google, which positions itself with Google for Education as the great educational supporter or of Tony’s Chocolonely as the activist who wants to end modern slavery. The number of B-corps (‘benefit corporations’, i.e. companies seeking a balance between purpose and profit) in Europe is growing. Today there are already more than 3,000 companies that voluntarily pursue the highest ethical standards (NRC 2020). At the same time, we see that companies are increasingly called to account for their role in solving social problems. People expect companies to take the lead. Consider, for example, the energy transition, where we no longer automatically look at the government, but also expect innovations and investments from the business community.

The importance of values

The fact that trust in institutions is low does not mean that people’s needs have changed. People still attach importance to truth, justice, democracy, etc. They only seek the fulfillment of those needs from other parties, in this case private companies. This offers opportunities for companies to show what they stand for and to convince their customers by systematically delivering on their promise, namely meeting those customer needs in an ethically responsible manner.

Trust in institutions has been declining for years. Photo: phys.org.

Trend 5: GenZ, a new generation with different needs

GenZ is the generation born after 1994. Grown up with a smartphone in hand, in a world where services are available anytime and anywhere in a globalized market. Consultancies and research firms regularly research this generation. What characterizes GenZ is, among other things, a desire for authenticity, finding your true self, and last but not least: they find it important to choose those companies and organizations that stand for the same values as themselves.

The importance of values

This year 40% of the largest world markets will consist of GenZ. And GenZ is only one of the forerunners in this area; now 64% of consumers identify themselves as “belief-driven buyers” (Edelman, 2018). A good reason to investigate what those “beliefs” are. The better you know how to identify this as an organization, and the better you can address it with your products and services, the closer you can establish a bond with this target group.

And then? Value-driven design!

Knowing what you want and what you stand for is crucial if you want to innovate efficiently, but it shouldn’t stop there. You also have to apply it. How? Fortunately, designers are eager to translate deeper needs and values into the design of propositions and touchpoints. With this you communicate what you stand for and you deliver what you promise.


About the author

Susanne van Mulken (/susannevanmulken) is managing director Strategy & Delivery and responsible for the development and application of experience design models, methods and expertise. As senior C/UX strategist and service designer, she has more than 15 years of experience in strategic design of (digital) services in various industries, such as retail banking, insurance, telecom, climate control, and government. Before she joined Informaat, she worked on the development of intelligent user interfaces at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). She has a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology and a PhD in Cognitive Science.

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