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The signals of change planted in 2020 are now expanding in 2021. One of the most important shifts has involved delivering quality customer experience in a low or no touch economy. The second significant shift was the move from the office to remote work. This new online world has exposed some interesting opportunities for companies who wish to grow in the next economy. The series of interactions and touch points with customer experiences will improve if employee experience is evaluated with similar processes.

This tandem shift in the internal and external human components of organisations created an entirely new level of understanding of what creates quality interactions online. What are the learnings from this monumental shift? And how do organisations use this knowledge to manage positive interactions from an employee experience perspective and a customer experience perspective?

Looking at the relationship between employee and customer experience in a holistic sense will help businesses understand and improve all interactions and touchpoints in their service design in this remote and yet connected world.

The following trends will evolve in this emerging cultural shift:


Purpose Is Now Business Critical

As employees and customers interact less in person, their desire for connection will look for new outlets. In the transitioning world of business, both customers and employees are looking for ways to work for or support businesses that serve a larger purpose.

According to the Fjord Trends 2020 report, “Organisations must support individual customers’ and employees’ increasingly changeable desires and their pursuit of greater meaning in their lives.” 

The desire to work for or support businesses who are providing ethical services means that having a clear purpose will be critical to future growth. This opens doors for unlimited possibilities for new services and a new type of economy. At Echos we are experiencing an increase in the demand for Service Design. Corporations are both upskilling and hiring teams to work with customer experience. In addition to this many of these organisations are also designing new experiences for their remote workforces.

Either internally or externally the demand for purpose driven alignment around meaning is creating a sophisticated new approach to meeting employee and consumer demands. It is important to consider a values based approach that places importance on long term thinking and visions of the future.


Explore The Phygital

Phygital is the process of using technology to create a bridge between the digital world and the physical world with the purpose of providing a unique interactive experience for the user. Phygital has been growing in popularity for years, with demand accelerating for this approach in 2021.

With the growth of online shopping and remote work last year, the future of both customer and employee experiences will be phygital. While most employees have expressed interest in returning to the office in some capacity in 2021, the preference is for a hybrid model between remote and location based work. The same is true for consumer activities. The accelerated growth of online shopping has created a desire for easy access to products. This has shifted the primary purpose of a physical location from a place to make a purchase to a place to have a unique experience. 

The hybrid between physical and digital life is only going to continue to blur. And smart businesses will discover new ways to create unique experiences for their employees and customers. With greater accessibility of emerging technologies, what is possible will also expand. Moving forward the phygital will create personalised, visually engaging and constantly evolving services for both employees and customers.


Go Cashless

Once upon a time, banking meant going into a bank and waiting in a queue. Now it has evolved to self-service with online and mobile banking. But this is not the end, now many societies are going cashless. In China, mobile payments are now so common paying with cash is practically unheard of. Even street performers and taxi drivers taking online payments. 

Any discussion of a cashless society must include an examination of super apps. A super app is a complex marketplace of services and offerings, delivered via in-house technology and through 3rd party integrations. 

Super apps have become synonymous with the Chinese digital products, such as WeChat and Alipay. These online marketplaces allow users to book or pay for any product or service without ever leaving the app. This provides a seamless experience the concept of money completely out of the equation. And this expectation is growing not only within China but in markets around the world.

Understanding the changing relationship between cashless purchasing, customer expectations and employee desires is an interesting space to explore. As employees desire automatic online payments and transactions with organisations, it will be important to create transparent payments, wages and staff benefits systems. Providing systems that allow for transparent transfer options, fast payment structures and self-managed benefit schemes are value adds for all parties involved.


Designing Human Centric Experiences

The idea of becoming customer centric is not a new concept. Many organisations have practiced putting the customer at the center of their businesses for years. What has changed is the mindset of what it takes to become customer centric. Many companies call their customer experience teams, customer service. Of course, customer service is an important part of the overall customer experience, but true customer centricity is a much larger focus. Customer experience is a holistic mindset that must connect and engage with all areas of the company. 

The focus needs to shift from being customer centric to human centric. The experience a customer has is the collective result of the employees’ and stakeholders’ efforts. As Richard Brandson says “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers”. 

This is what it means to become a human centered organisation. It starts with listening to all employees. In particular, those who do not sit at the top of the power structure. Often employees with the least amounts of organisational influence spend the most time with customers. As such, they are most aware of the problem’s customers are having and the operational processes creating them. 

Designing a considered way to listen to employees and understand their experiences put them in a place of power. Not only do they feel valued, their collective knowledge will improve their own work experience and the customer’s experience. This two-pronged approach to creating value achieves improvements within every level of the organisation. Combined with a digital first approach this creates more data and touch points to learn from. 

This perspective also focuses on the valuable lived experiences of employees and customers. The gains from the new solutions designed with their knowledge creates a fantastic employee experience where they feel supported and valued. The flow on effect of this approach also creates happier customers who may also be able to provide additional insights for new solutions in the future. 


Sustainability Is Human Centered

Increasingly the effects of climate change have created a greater awareness of its impact on human life and all life on the planet. And yet many businesses have yet to join in this conversation. Sustainability should be the focus of any Human-Centered Design process. The objective should be to create solutions that are sustainable from a societal, economic and ecological perspective. Businesses who allow their customers and employees to support ethical practices are going to power ahead in the new economy. Every design opportunity should assess the whole system, understanding the sustainability opportunities within all touchpoints of the complete value-chain.


2021 and Beyond

The new world emerging in 2021 and beyond is a holistic place where the internal workings of an organisation should match the external behaviour. Employee and customer experience are intrinsically linked in this new ecosystem of values and ethics. We would like to encourage all organisations to review both as we move into the new year. Curious to evaluate your employee experience? Take our assessment here.



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Caroline Schmitz

Designer, specialist in Communication and Branding. With over 16 years of experience, she has worked in large retail companies, such as Colcci and Imaginarium.

After some experiences in the USA, Europe, China and Colombia, she went deeper into the Innovation ecosystem working in communities of startups and accelerators of social impact and focused on fintechs.

More recently, she was the leader of Design in the Customer Experience area at Grupon / Peixe Urbano and implemented the Service Design area at Zoly, where she led projects for companies such as Shell, Kroton, Claro, PUC-PR as Head of Service Design and Innovation.

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