As consumers, when we have an issue with a product or service, we want quick, effective resolution. We expect companies to understand that our time is valuable, know what we’re going through, and fix our problem so we can go on to our next task.

However, when it comes to the customer experience, many organizations fall short. The key to providing excellent experiences, according to Eduardo Moraes, director of digital strategy and technology for Cylogy, is design thinking.

“Design thinking is about putting people first in the design process. It’s about getting inside the heads of consumers, understanding their expectations and knowing what needs to be done differently to meet them,” said Moraes. “It’s also about the art of the possible — rethinking processes and trying to bring new perspectives to old ways of doing business.”

Cylogy is a provider of digital experience consulting services based in San Francisco and is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s virtual Digital Experience Summit (DXS) Conference. During the conference, Moraes presented the session, “Human-Centered Design Thinking for NextGen Customer Service.” We spoke with him about how design thinking can help organizations provide the experiences their customers expect. 

Keeping Up with Evolving Customer Expectations

Simpler Media Group: What are some of the major trends you’re seeing in customer service today? 

Eduardo Moraes: What I’ve most recently noticed is that it’s increasingly important to deliver a tailored experience to your customers, and there are two big components here.

The first is context. When someone calls into a service desk or when they need to interact with a service provider in any particular way, customers expect the company to have their details at the ready and have some context about products they own, recent service requests and any potentially hot topics for this individual. 

The second theme is empowerment of front-line service workers. For example, when you book a trip and for some reason you need to change or cancel it, you expect customer service to be able to quickly find the details about your booking and be empowered to give you options that make sense according to your previously expressed preferences. 

Getting transferred multiple times and having to restate the issue is frustrating for customers, leads to customer churn, and is totally unacceptable to the modern consumer. Well-run organizations avoid this mess and drive faster resolutions with better integrated channels, an empowered front line and more thoughtfully constructed journeys.

SMG: Why do you believe organizations need to rethink the way they interact with and service their customers?

Moraes: Over the past two and a half years, the world has again changed significantly. Yes, we’ve seen even bigger changes in the past, like the advent of the Internet, digital services and mobile devices. But this most recent shift with the pandemic presents a new normal and sets a new bar for digital customer experiences.

Today, consumers expect easy online self-service, rapid online purchases and quick customer service resolutions. And, with the explosion of ecommerce over the last two years, consumers expect full lifecycle customer experiences. If you’re running your show like it’s still December 2019, you’re likely starting to look like a dinosaur in the eyes of an increasingly large percentage of your customers.

Post-pandemic thrivers are those who focus on cohesive cross-channel, cross-device customer experiences that are fast, relevant and reliable. And on the customer service side, thrivers are enabling and empowering the front line as top priorities. 

Put People First with Design Thinking

SMG: Why do you believe design thinking is the best approach to improving customer service in a digital world? What are the biggest benefits you’ve seen?

Moraes: I’ve worked with a number of ideation and design approaches in the past. The traditional way was always more process- and requirements-oriented. It was normally about the what and how, sometimes keeping it to a very narrow technical perspective.

Design thinking is about rethinking what we’re doing and why from a human perspective. It means putting yourself in different shoes, having different participants involved in the workshops and trying to bring new perspectives whenever possible. The biggest benefit here is breaking down the narrow, siloed view of what we do and setting new boundaries for what we could be doing. That’s why it’s one the best ways to evolve your products and services.

A human-centered approach, the design thinking techniques we use at Cylogy are all based on how customers, employees and anyone else interacting with a service will use that service. We strive to understand their top priorities and most common ways of getting things done. Ultimately, we focus on helping companies uncover the ideas and needs that lead to meaningful improvements in the customer experiences they’re delivering.

SMG: During your presentation, you discussed how you help companies better interact with their online communities, improve their content publishing processes and build more relevant digital experiences through design thinking. Can you give an overview of how design thinking can impact these three areas?

Moraes: In order to interact effectively with online communities, you need to understand your audience segments and what they’re looking for. We help our customers do this through exercises like defining personas and developing journey maps.

Content publishing processes are linked to these personas because they help us understand the nature of the content, the need triggers and consumption patterns for these different groups. At Cylogy, we walk customers through the different workflows and content planning tools that various platforms offer, as well as identify existing gaps in the technical environment.

Finally, building more relevant digital experiences has everything to do with personalization and how we deliver relevant content. Using design thinking tactics such as the “Creative Matrix” and “Alternative Worlds” can help us to imagine solutions from significantly different perspectives.

Learning Opportunities

SMG: Please walk us through an example of a customer project that used design thinking to create a project roadmap or solve a problem.

Moraes: At Cylogy, we used design thinking with a California-based group that was part of a large, international company. They wanted to put together a roadmap for the future of one of their most important marketing and customer engagement channels. And they wanted to completely rethink how they share information with their customers and partners.

Since creativity was essential for this client, our team guided them through a series of design thinking workshops that focused on broadening the idea landscape. The exercises we led helped them think beyond business as usual and their initial assumptions of scope and shape. A key part of this was facilitating collaboration between previously siloed groups.

The workshops created an environment of creativity and a safe place for a diverse set of participants to bring ideas forward and begin reimagining how the services might be shaped. Novelty was a key goal in this instance. And because we were successful in bringing the teams together in such a collaborative way, they were able to meaningfully reshape some core ideas and define a four-phase roadmap for the next generation of this channel.

Illustration that has Eduardo Moraes' headshot to bottom left. A DX Summit logo to the top left. Eduardo Moraes and Cylogy written on top right and this quote on bottom right: "In order to interact effectively with online communities, you need to understand your audience segments."

Remember: Experiences Are All About People 

SMG: What are some of the major challenges organizations face when using the design thinking approach, and how can they be overcome?

Moraes: The first big issue is not having the right people in the room. You need to make sure you have participants from different seniority levels and different areas of the organization, not just technical or business perspectives. The closer your audience is to the daily use and issues you’re discussing, the better. This creates a more productive set of outcomes from the workshops.

The second challenge is that leaders might not have the right facilitation skills for these workshops. Facilitators should be knowledgeable about the key topic being discussed and have the skills and training to run such workshops. The Luma Institute is one of the best organizations that offers this type of training. At Cylogy, we run our workshops with Certified Design Thinking Practitioners. 

SMG: What are your top recommendations for getting started with design thinking?

Moraes: Do your homework. Educate yourself on the process. Work with certified practitioners who have experience in your space. If necessary, look for a partner to help you to define the best exercises from the larger set of design thinking recipes aligned with your specific domain. 

SMG: What’s your vision of customer service in an ideal world? 

Moraes: As humans, we want to be respected and companies that understand this and provide service with a human-centered vision will lead the way. In many cases, this is as simple as respecting our time. The best-case scenario is providing quick resolutions via a channel the customer is most comfortable using.

For example, being able to talk to a real person as fast as possible after interacting with an automated system — whether a robot chat or entering numbers during a call center interaction — is important to most people. Research shows that nearly 90% of people prefer speaking to a live customer service agent on the phone. It doesn't matter how efficient the phone menu and its options are. Companies that understand this will provide a human approach in an ideal world.

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