Katja Forbes: Pioneering change in customer experience management

People are the ‘north star’ and centre of design-thinking for business

Photography by Felicity Ieraci
Photography by Felicity Ieraci

CMO: Why are companies slow to adopt the service design mentality?

It is really hard. It is not a specialist skillset the majority of companies have. Australia has a limited number of people who have a really true and strong skillset in this. When companies seek support, they are not sure who to go to.

Number one is companies don’t know that they need to do it or could do it. But know that there is a benefit to doing it. Once you make them aware of that, it is really hard to first get that customer lens and understand what they are trying to do and then figure out everything you need to put in place to support it and the way to put it in place so the customer experience is frictionless. And that’s difficult. There is an investment that is required.

CMO: What advice can to give to others - particularly women - who want to pursue this field of study?

Back yourself. It is so important women who are wanting to go forward in business, do so as confidently as possible. There are always going to be times when you are unsure. Seek a mentor either inside or outside of your field who can guide you and advise at the times that you are unsure.

I believe success in this industry, and business in general, is dependent upon creating positive relationships with co-workers, industry and other change makers. Women who believe in themselves find that they can achieve these relationships relatively effectively, despite an environment in which gender bias, pay gaps and sexism often exist.

CMO: What is next on your bucket list?

I am looking for all sorts of opportunities where I can use my business and the influence that I have to further women in business. I run the Sydney chapter of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), which is a global organisation. As local leader, I plan and facilitate all the events run by the Sydney chapter of IxDA with the Steering Committee. So using all of these channels I have now to see what I can do to further women in business, giving women confidence to run their own businesses and take up these sorts of senior challenges.
I am particularly inspired to reach out to women with a disadvantage of some sort. For example, myself and industry colleague Lisa Harrison are currently collaborating with Enactus UNSW to find a way to teach women in prison how to code. I am also a mentor for Remarkable, an innovation incubator for people who have ideas for products that deliver to the disability community.

CMO: What is your final thought or key takeaway?

Any company not paying attention to customer experience, what’s going on in that landscape and the activity, is going to get left behind. And they're going to get left behind badly if they don’t seek to understand it and seek how it can be applied to their businesses. Companies need to deeply understand the people that you have working for you, and who are serving your customers. It is a cost-benefit to any organisation. It is mad not to do it.

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