A conversation about establishing trust and meaningful connections inside a client organization with Amit Kiran, Director of Design Strategy, Bridgeable. He is also a workshop facilitator at the upcoming SDN Midwest Conference
Interview by Thomas Brandenburg and Twisha Shah-Brandenburg
“We build trust through strategic storytelling that emphasizes how service design can transform their entire organization to gain/maintain industry leadership. These conversations focus heavily on impact (qualitative and quantitative)…” —Amit Kiran
What are ways in which you establish trust with your client organizations so that you can create meaningful outcomes that go beyond your engagement?
It begins by approaching all of our client relationships as collaborative partnerships. Instead of coming in with all the answers, we believe in taking a more exploratory approach with our clients, which involves working side-by-side to deeply understand their challenge; understanding how their organization functions; and building a bespoke engagement plan that meets their needs. We then deepen our client’s faith in our abilities by going beyond the engagement plan to help them develop an internal strategy for gaining stakeholder buy-in and maintaining the momentum required to bring the engagement’s outcomes to life for end users.
What are the barriers or biases that stakeholders have that you have seen show up across different organizations?
When advocating for a service design approach in large organizations, we see the same barriers emerge time and again. For example, many clients think of their offerings as individual products as opposed to holistic services. Some clients underestimate the scale of change required across the organization to transform the way they deliver omnichannel service experiences (from breaking down silos to changing how success is measured). Others look to invest in short-term engagements that will help clients achieve “quick wins” and deliver immediate results.
Can you share with us your perspective on the dynamics of trust and decision making, (power) in the design process when working with stakeholders?
These dynamics change as we interact with stakeholders of varying seniority and decision making power. With project-level stakeholders (e.g., Associates), we build trust by taking the time to help them understand the details of our process and how it will impact their specific
challenge. We also work side-by-side to provide the tools and resources required to communicate upwards and help them tell engaging stories that tie our work back to their group/organization’s broader strategic objectives. With management-level stakeholders (e.g., Directors and VPs), we build trust by focusing our discussions more on the impact of our work on their group/organization and how we can enable them to become internal agents of this change. This often involves sharing best practices and learnings from our past change management efforts and how they can be applied to their specific division/organization. With strategic-level stakeholders (e.g., SVPs and C-Suite), we build trust through strategic storytelling that emphasizes how service design can transform their entire organization to gain/maintain industry leadership. These conversations focus heavily on impact (qualitative and quantitative), including case studies from past engagements, and display our deep expertise and knowledge of their industry.
“For a service design project, there are several signals we look out for from potential partners, including a willingness to challenge the status quo within their organization and be an agent of change to deliver better service experiences…” —Amit Kiran
In order to be effective what are signals that you pay attention to before accepting a new client/project?
For a service design project, there are several signals we look out for from potential partners, including a willingness to challenge the status quo within their organization and be an agent of change to deliver better service experiences; a dedication to working collaboratively with a partner and assigning the resources required to drive success; and an openness to the design process and working in a new way. This is important as it requires being comfortable with ambiguity, learning through iteration and prototyping, and working across silos in their organization.
As you think about the future of service design as a profession, what are norms that need to be established so that we can gain trust and momentum within the business community?
We need to establish norms around how we speak to and measure the impact of our work. This begins by shifting the service design narrative away from a focus on processes and tools towards one that highlights outcomes and business impact. Doing this well will require building a versatile vocabulary that resonates with different audiences in the business community. The final piece is establishing clear metrics and KPIs (both qualitative and quantitative) that can be consistently used to demonstrate the customer and business impact of a service design approach.
Interested in this topic? Register now to be part of a larger community at the SDN Midwest conference in Minneapolis, MN, June 15, 2018. For more info on conference programming visit here.
Learn more about Amit Kiran and his workshop at the conference