How to Turn Reactive Change Into A Stronger Future
By Alexis Puchek, Executive Director of Design at frog, based out of Austin, Texas. Her 17+ year career has spanned in-house, advertising, and consultancy work helping clients across a variety of domains and industries achieve success. She has driven teams to action with an effective manner, focusing on accessibility, experience strategy, product design, and emerging technologies. She has spent her career connecting with individuals utilizing design thinking methodologies and human-centered design practices. Alexis is a teacher, mentor, and connector. She strives to lift people up and empower teams to produce exemplary, usable, and intentional solutions. Follow Alexis on LinkedIn and frog Design Mind.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on an immense amount of reactive change for almost every company around the globe. We’ve all had to re-evaluate everything about the way we work, whom we serve and how we deliver, often without the luxury of stopping to fully evaluate the implications of these changes. And as we continue to look toward a world that will likely stay relatively hybrid across all aspects of work, life, and play, experiential design—or as we call it at frog, convergent design – will play a huge role in doing so successfully. But in order to effectively utilize convergent design, we must also employ digital emotional intelligence when it comes to engaging with customers, colleagues, and communities alike.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions as well as recognizing, understanding, and influencing the emotions of others. This applies whether you’re a person or a machine. The reason EQ is so important when it comes to digital and hybrid experiences is that it adds another layer of decision-making that takes into account the people behind the product, experience or service.
Many companies have been familiar with CX (customer experience) for some time now in how they deliver their products or services, but in today’s landscape, we must enhance that thinking to evolve, change, and be iterative. We must hone our digital EQ to keep learning, growing, and adapting our processes to be more in tune with people’s changing lives and circumstances.
This idea of EQ is nothing new. People have been relying on EQ for ages to deliver accessible and universal design solutions, from the easy grip OXO peeler to Charlie AI — a ZeroUI financial assistant powered by AI and NLP to build emotional connections with individuals as they navigate the complex management of daily spending and saving. Designing with EQ in mind places the focus on humans over workflows, intentionality over efficiency. It’s about thinking through all the solutions to make sure we’ve come up with the right one. It’s considering many different cases or edge cases to make sure we’re thinking through all possible scenarios. It’s employing diverse teams to recognize any biases or assumptions being made and employing cross-functional, collaborative creation processes to combat them. It’s designing “with” communities and customers instead of “for” them.
Once the process of listening and learning is implemented, then you can begin to determine the right tools or tech to needed to deliver the best, most convergent experience. For instance, emerging technologies like blended intelligence and machine learning can help translate learnings from customer behaviors into insight, advice, recommendations, and personalization. Layering in natural language processing and natural language understanding helps the tech ‘become more human’ as we leverage and explore online tools, automated experiences, and Zero UI platforms to enhance these hybrid experiences. Finally, integrating behavioral science with qualitative research, quantitative research, and data science helps us understand the subject of human actions, behaviors, and how humans make decisions in the real world.
How will EQ drive the post-Covid future?
For years we’ve been told that companies need to be disruptive in order to stay competitive, that those who merely react will be left behind. But today’s consumers, employees, and communities want to be seen and heard. Which means brands have the opportunity to both show and tell people they are listening, learning, and delivering—however small or incremental those changes may be. The goal of employing hybrid experiences is to scale for the future while addressing the needs of the present. It takes constant learning, but incremental change is still change, and small moves that anticipate your customers’ needs and wants amid growing instability can still bring you closer to the future you want. We’ve already seen that many of the reactive shifts companies have made throughout the pandemic have actually served to be more flexible and accessible for the majority of people. As we always believe at frog, designing something to be more accessible makes it better for all, not just for some.
Ultimately, the success of a brand depends upon how people experience that brand. Because any brand is the sum of all experiences that customers have at every touchpoint—physical, human, digital, verbal, or visual. Good impressions build lasting relationships and keep customers engaged. However, customers expect a lot from an experience, and every interaction (no matter how seemingly small or insignificant) can affect their subconscious scoring of your brand promise. The most important thing is to listen and learn in order to ensure every aspect of your experience is delivering value and keeping people thoughtfully engaged and fulfilled.