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Intro to Design Thinking in Customer Success

Updated: Mar 2

Design thinking, delicious pasta, and Customer Success are not as different as they seem. Lets start at the top - what is Design Thinking? Simply put, design thinking is solving many problems with a a single strategy. Perhaps without knowing it, you already use design thinking almost every day. Before jumping into why design thinking is essential for modern customer success orgs, lets illustrate with an example Lets imagine you're having some friends over for a dinner party. As you plan the menu, you have a few data points to keep in mind. 1. One couple is vegetarian (though, not the annoying kind that constantly reminds you).

2. The other couple includes your pregnant friend (who enjoys a good Pinot).

3. You're a carb-o-holic, and cant get enough pasta and garlic bread. 4. Your partner is more of a meat-and-potatoes type person. 5. You like white wine, your partner, a full bodied red or craft IPA. For most people, this may be enough to throw your hands up, and just order pizza or eat out. But, you're not most people.


No, no my friend. You're going to make a meal that would make Gordon Ramsey blush. As you continue thinking through the menu, you add a few more data points. 6. Its going to be hot the day of the party; 98 degrees, says the weatherman. 7. Your meyer lemon tree is in full of delicious, semi-sweet lemons.

8. Your ambitious friend, currently training for Crossfit Games, is also attending. 9. You want to cook, but also need enough time to play host. So lets get to it; here's your menu, and the points they solve for.


1. Start with a caprese for hors d'oeuvres. It's vegetarian, light yet filling, and can be prepped before everyone arrives (1, 6, 8, 9) 2. For cocktails, you opt for a strawberry-lemon spritzer, with optional gin and aperol. Your pregnant and athletic friends can drink a mocktails, and you'll appeal to your partners snobby craft beverage side (2,5,6,7,8) 3. Entree will be a meyer lemon-butter pasta with oven-roasted brussel sprouts and baked Italian sausage. Easy, fast, delicious, and fresh (1,3,4,6,7,8,9) With a few moves, you solve for each of your guests needs and wants, and create a memorable meal. Thats design thinking in action. There are simpler examples in everyday life. Anytime you make Saturday plans, or pick out a Netflix to watch with a friend, or negotiate with a young child, you're using design thinking to solve for each stakeholders problems. So, what does this have to do with success? CSMs serve a handful of internal and external stakeholders. 1. Customers want value fast, that they can understand and easily scale. 2. Your executive team and investors want sustainable growth and high retention. 3. Your product team wants to see adoption, and identify targets for roadmap. 4. You want to renew and grow accounts, and drive metrics like NPS and CSAT.

This leads us to our "design thinking questions" for customer success; 1. How can you tailor each interaction to build wins for each of these buckets? 2. How can you do this at scale? 3.How can you measure and track progress, and attribute actions to outcomes? Will leave it there for now, Im hungry, and I have some leftover meyer lemon-butter pasta calling my name.

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