Accelerate Digital Transformation and Enhance Deliverables through Design Thinking
As financial technology, or FinTech, is driving financial service innovation globally, Hong Kong’s financial sector has embarked on a journey of digital transformation that reached a new height in the past six months. Customers’ behaviours and habits are rapidly changing during the pandemic, and the rise of remote work has driven them to do everything online. Digital transformation is now a top priority for businesses. But what is the key to a successful transition? Peter Lau, Assistant Vice President of Experience Design at Sun Life Hong Kong, is an expert at design thinking with 20 years of design and user experience. He believes that design thinking helps businesses understand the feelings, behaviours and needs of customers and define the problems accurately, allowing them to reposition themselves and develop a clear goal and direction.
“The pandemic has changed customers’ needs and habits. They have now got used to staying at home and working remotely. These changes have spurred the demand for online services across all industries.” Peter thinks that design thinking is increasingly important than ever as it helps businesses identify the changing needs of customers and respond swiftly.
He sees design thinking as a tool to enhance the customer journey continuously. The human-centred approach allows companies to understand the needs and feelings of customers, and identify the challenges and pain points throughout the digital transformation process. Through developing, testing, and adjusting the prototype, they can make adjustments, adapt to and even anticipate the changing customer behaviours to enhance the service experience. However, he stresses that businesses should try to coordinate different workflows rather than focusing on a particular step.
Analyse Every Touch Point of Customer Journey and Show Empathy
Peter points out some common misunderstandings of digital transformation, “Many people think that they only need an app or a website. But digital transformation should start from changing the workflows so as to enhance efficiency. Design thinking is useful here as it helps us understand how both internal (colleagues) and external users (customers) feel, respond and think throughout the customer journey.”
Businesses can analyse every touch point by applying design thinking, and empathise with customers so as to define and truly understand their needs. Taking the digitalisation of the claims process as an example, Peter notes that as customers value a convenient application process, transparent approval and timely compensation, insurance companies may start with these needs. “By adopting design thinking, the team is able to understand and define customers’ needs and offer better and more considerate products and services.”
Create a Culture of Design Thinking through Talent Development and Promotion
The importance of digital transformation is highlighted by how mobile applications have disrupted the business models nowadays. However, lack of talent, capital and commitment will hinder the actual execution. In addition to developing their digital transformation plans according to the market trends, Peter believes that businesses may first identify the pain points from the customers’ perspective using design thinking. This tool is all about putting oneself in the customers’ shoes. It facilitates the designers to define and prioritise the problems, and guides the companies and their business units towards the clear goals without being distracted by a wrong focus. However, the pool of design thinking talents is still very small, and the training programmes designed by some organisations focus too much on theories. Many businesses, as a result, have to apply design thinking and provide internal training with the help of consultancy agencies.
Peter admits that unlike SMEs, financial and insurance companies have more resources, manpower and time to apply design thinking to digital transformation. “The financial sector now realises the importance of design thinking, which has a relatively higher coverage among the players, but their attitudes towards and familiarity with it may vary. The biggest challenge now is how to turn design thinking into a corporate culture instead of just raising people’s awareness.” According to Peter, it is difficult for financial institutions to adopt new tools like design thinking as they usually have standardised workflows, an inherent structure and well-developed culture.
The culture of design thinking is built upon the support and continuous practice of the management. Peter suggests that businesses may designate a team to work on a pilot design thinking project before building on the success and applying the idea to more projects. The team members may share their experience with other divisions, and eventually nurture a culture of design thinking. He adds that many companies now appoint an external consultant to offer guidance and advice on design thinking application, assisting in internal training and people development.