The gear change required for business during COVID-19

Katja Forbes

Katja Forbes is an Australian pioneer in the field of experience design and all of its components – research, emerging technology as well as service design, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX). She is the managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand, a strategic design firm who work with ambitious brands to create high-impact products, services, systems and spaces – that people love. Katja is proud to be International Director on the Global Board of the Interaction Design Association Board (IxDA). Back in 2014, Katja founded syfte, a specialist business in research and experience design. In late 2018, her business was acquired by the international firm Wipro, and she was announced Australian Managing Director of Designit. Katja was also a co-founding member of IxDA Sydney. Together with Joe Ortenzi, she has built a community of over 1600 designers in Sydney, providing them with learning opportunities via lecture-based meetups that draw a crowd of 150 people each time, a mentoring program and workshops. One of Katja’s personal motivations is to inspire other women, especially in her industry, to reach toward their definition of professional success. She is a sought-after keynote speaker for various organisations and associations including Women In Design, Leaders in Heels, Women In Commerce, Code like a Girl (Melbourne Knowledge week), Inaugural CMO Conference 2017, Telstra and Macquarie Bank. Katja was recognised as one of the Top 10 Australian Women Entrepreneurs 2018 by My Entrepreneur Magazine and named one of the 100 Women of Influence by Westpac and the Australian Financial Review in 2016.

The current world pandemic, COVID-19, and its tragic effects has created different and challenging situations for nearly every business. Every business sector is affected differently, depending on the nature of what your place in the world, creating the most unique situation most of us have ever and will ever experience during our professional lives.

This has also carved out the most important opportunity for you to ensure you exercise excellent user experience at each touchpoint in your business. Now more so than ever before, your users will need the best experience possible. Because they, together with all of us, balance on the edge of the unknown and don’t have time, money or energy for any guesswork.

The way myself and others from Designit see it, there are two general areas of focus: Caring for your business; and caring for your people. Each is equally as important because you can’t have one without the other.  

Noam from Designit created a specific framework for business owners and leaders to frame the current situation within. Our mindsets can be organised into three different columns. Initially there is ‘React’ (the acute stage at first lasting between 1 – 4 weeks); then we have ‘Respond’ (the illness stage lasting 1 – 6 months); and finally ‘Rethink’ (our rehabilitation stage, which starts at around 6 months). Make a column for each of these three areas and then consider how you will care for your business and care for your people in each of those three core areas.

For example, in the acute stage, how can you keep your customers’ engaged while catering for your team’s wellbeing? When you are responding in the intermediate term, what are some customised digital services you can provide for customers and your team? And in the longer term, how can you pivot/add to your service offerings and retrain your team in the required different areas?

In the areas of immediate, short and long-term, look at some other frameworks. What will remain unchanged? What will you contract out? What parts of your business can grow? And what should change?

When planning for the longer term, you will need to be more creative and speculative because no one knows the future for sure. Furthermore, what mindsets should you adapt in terms of other industries? In what do you invest and where do you go for a survival mindset? The three columns you complete being the immediate, medium and long-term?

This unique time has also carved out the most important opportunity for you to ensure you exercise excellent user experience at each touch point in your business. For example, your website is one area that connects you with your clients and may also assist with engaging them in the meantime. You may need to reorganise budget allocations so you can shuffle some areas, like business development, to ensure it can happen. 

When we do reach the rehabilitation stage as a collective, there should be a great many businesses that have a greatly aligned service offering with the most effective user experience.

Tags: design thinking, customer experience management, coronavirus

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