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  • Saurabh Garg

Design Thinking - to understand client needs


Recently, we were called at UST Global, India Campus in Kerala, to deliver a Design Thinking workshop for their Internal Service team to make them understand client’s needs better. This is not new to us, as Design Thinker & Practitioners at Turianlabs, we have been applying Design Thinking to understand our own clients. We just had to communicate our learning to the UST team.

On reaching there, we realized that concerns were very similar to what most businesses are facing today. Business are having struggle in understanding the clear intent of the client. Often it happens that client themselves do not know what are they really looking for or how could they use the services of business to the fullest. As a result most of the times businesses waste a lot of time and money in delivering something which client did not even want. This puts both client and service provider at an very awkward situation. Clients’ expectations are not met and they are left unsatisfied while, service providers feel that they are being exploited. This situation is not very conducive for businesses economy.

Design Thinking as a philosophy has its roots in ‘understanding’ the user. We love to call it Empathy. Designers ‘empathize’ with the end user, keeps him at the center of the ecosystem, understand their concerns, expectations, definethe real problem or opportunity and then deliver multiple ideas before quickly building and testing them out with the user himself. Let us see how this can be used to understand client’s needs

1. Understanding brief:

Most RFP’s I have seen are usually collection of thoughts from the client. Businesses do a mistake of considering those RFP’s as set in stone. On one hand clients have a rough idea of what they need, its is our job to make sure that we ‘question’ and understand why do they have those requirements. A lot of times it happens that client himself is unable to identify the real requirement or they are disillusioned about the problems. This in no way mean that we should consider client as a novice, he knows his business better than anyone else in the world.

2. Redefine brief before proposal:

After understanding the client’s needs clearly, do not just give away a proposal. Its always better to redefine the brief & recreate the RFP as if you were the client and discuss that with them to make sure this is exactly what they are looking for. We need not show this ‘recreated RFP’ to client, but we should have it for ourselves to understand & discuss the requirements better.

3. Understanding client’s client (end user)

It never harms to go a step ahead to understand the actual user (in cases where client is not the end user). A little homework on knowing the end user is only going to make our case stronger. When we understand the end user, we will be in a better condition to deliver solutions which are better aligned with client’s business.

4. Involving clients in process

It is important to keep client involved in development process. Especially at early stages where project will be taking shape. What happens is that most businesses work in isolation after the project is approved and involve clients at final stages. Only to realise that in past, client might have already seen (or rejected) the solution that we are providing today. Involving client at an early stage also takes care of the ever changing brief.

5. Giving them an option to reject

As stupid as it might sound, build options for them to compare and reject, is one critical learning which businesses today need to learn from Design. This is the first thing that every design school teaches — build to reject. This is as critical as understanding the needs. But this needs to be done quickly. We can not afford to invest a lot in building wrong solutions, this is where ‘quick & dirty’ prototyping helps. Quickly build 3–4 iterations and present it to the client. This will help in making sure that we are on right track and helps in understanding the clients need further. In a way building prototypes for rejection also allows employees to experiment and try new things — which is critical for INNOVATION to happen.

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