It’s one thing to say you are focusing on the customer experience, but it’s another thing entirely to genuinely understand it and ultimately inspire customer delight by transforming it. After joining Massage Envy in 2015, I went on a fact-finding mission where I did a bit of “undercover” work to better understand the challenges and the opportunities in the customer experience. It was eye-opening to step into that experience in several Massage Envy franchised locations. Observing, interviewing and just simply doing the work at the front desk of our stores were all part of plan to develop genuine empathy with our customers and employees.Empathy is the first step in the human-centered innovation approach known as design thinking, and it was a first step in taking a fresh, transformational look at our business. 

By definition, design thinking is easy to understand. Tim Brown, president and CEO of global design firm IDEO says it is “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Companies like Marriott, Steelcase and Capital One actively use Design Thinking to generate improve services and connect with customers who want seamless, intuitive experiences as they interact with a brand.  

What I ultimately found was that our existing technology platform was not helping us deliver on our brand promise to help people take care of themselves. One of the ways we’re using design thinking is to ensure that customers are matched with one of our wellness team members that can offer them the most favorable and healing experience. Using a specific algorithm we are working with Deloitte Digital to develop a technology solution that will pair customers with the most suitable wellness team member for them. This “matching engine” is being tested in one of our locations with the goal is to deploy it across our network later this year.

"CIOs and CTOs should view technology as a tool for innovation and how we can use it to dispel the thinking of how something has always been done and throw that mindset out of the door"

We’re designing a delightful customer experience by viewing our brand through the lenses of our customers and team members in the field.If we can arm and delight our teams with better technology, just imagine how well that will translate to our existing customers and attract new ones?

We have more than 1,100 locations across the U.S. and have just begun international expansion.  But the truth is that there will always be smaller competitors who can innovate faster than we can. It’s always a challenge to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and have to take a hard look at your product or service and identify potential shortcomings. But, when we use design thinking to do this, the end results – team satisfaction, customer loyalty and market leadership–are beyond worth it.

What’s spurring the exploration of design thinking within retailer circles? It all boils down to one word – competition. The world has grown increasingly competitive and one of the biggest factors in this is the constant evolution of technology and the skyrocketing number of “smart” devices.

Gartner estimates that by 2020, 21 billion Internet-connected devices will be in use. And in a recent report, it was found that mobile shopping-related searches increased 120 percent in the last year. For retailers, this means that customer experiences with their brands start wherever consumers and their devices happen to be. Though this statistic is revealing when it comes to understanding the influence of technology on our customers, the overall takeaway is that technology is a driver. And companies who want to stay connected with today’s constantly connected consumers need to strategically use it to engage consumers and stand out from the competition.

My career has been rooted in helping brands use technology to reinvent themselves and revamp their customers’ experiences. And design thinking has been a huge part of this transition for us.

CIOs and CTOs should view technology as a tool for innovation and how we can use it to dispel the thinking of how something has always been done and throw that mindset out of the door. What I used design thinking to understand is that we have an amazing opportunity to create a personalized customer experience that starts with our technology infrastructure.