IBM: Customer Experience at its best

Re-defining the challenge to deliver even better results: IBM’s SUGAR team was committed to getting the most out of their challenge and delivering the best customer experience for IBM. All this was possible thanks to a strong and open connection within the interdisciplinary team – which is one of the main elements of the design thinking process they relied on (Hasso Plattner Institute, 2020).
But how did they realize that a re-definition was necessary in the first place, and how did they proceed?

Teambuilding with a paella cooking session

Setting the base

Every project starts with a challenge – but it also starts with the team, which consists of eight transdisciplinary and multicultural students from Aalto University in Helsinki and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. By creating a strong foundation from the beginning despite the prevailing situation, identifying the core values as a team and taking them to heart, they started working on the challenge with a strong cohesion that enabled them to work effectively and enthusiastically throughout the project. 

Challenging the status quo

Launched in 2017, the IBM Watson Center Munich is one of IBMs several client centers worldwide where IBM showcases its products and services to its customers. Each of IBM’s client centers has a specific thematic emphasis and usually addresses a specific customer segment or industry. The purpose of the Watson Center is to create unique experiences with inspiring showcases for visitors, convincing them that IBM is the right partner to work with in the future.  Still, the employees in the Watson Client Center in Munich desired to explore the full potential of the center, by challenging the status quo and reinvent the Watson Center to enchant diverse customers, attract business partners and startups and effectively support the IBM business. To develop an innovative solution, they decided to investigate this challenge with a Design Thinking approach in collaboration with the KIT.

Following the design thinking approach, the team conducted background research on customer experience and compared other customer experience centers. They also sought further feedback from several experts from industry and academia. Nevertheless – the overall feedback for the Watson Centre in Munich was rated as good and visitors said they had a very inspiring and pleasant experience. However, there were only a few requests from customers for follow-up projects and activities.

So did the centre not fully fulfil its function, even though it provided wonderful experiences?

The team was digging deeper – looking for a way to create an even better experience. A series of workshops with Watson Center staff and numerous meaningful conversations identified the untapped potential of the Watson Center and the true challenge: 

Working and testing in the SDT Loft

How might we enable the Watson Center employees to regularly re-invent the Watson Center according to the changing needs of its clients to ensure a value-adding and enchanting customer experience?

The team realized within their process, that there is not one exemplary experience they could design to serve all the different needs and requirements of the diversity of customers. Instead, the experience creation should be an evolving process that comes from inside the Watson Center, understood, approved and jointly addressed by all employees, in order to exploit the client center’s potential by applying the expertise and the perspectives of all employees.

Taking the opportunity

Building on one of the strengths of the Watson Center: the diversity and expertise of its people. 

Based on the gathered insights and the exploration of the re-defined challenge, the team developed a Watson Experience Toolbox, which enables the continuously improvement of the client experience. The toolbox consists of three elements:

  • Participatory Transformation Workshop,
  • Experience Goals,
  • and Experience Strategy Map.
Bildschirmfoto 2022-01-26 um 17.16.21
Watson Experience Toolbox

It aims to increase the exchange and collaboration of the individual teams within the Watson Center, not only to develop a common understanding of experience creation, but also to unlock undiscovered potential in collaboration within the teams and with customers in order to work together on the solutions of the future.

What's next?

After nine months of many zoom sessions, conducted interviews, important insights, many ideation sessions and new prototypes that could iteratively be tested and improved, the project came to an end. Looking back on a time full of ideation and fun sessions, prototypes, test interviews, and presentations, growing with this complex challenge the team gathered exceptional experiences and exciting perspectives thorughout their journey.

Through implementation of the mock-up into the IBM intranet and application of the Watson Experience Toolbox, continuous transformation and improvement at the Watson Center will be achieved. Envisioning a “Global Client Center Connection and Global Alignment” the Participatory Transformation approach lao not only has the power to reinvent the Watson Center, but every single client center of the IBM organisation. 

So – the transformation has already begun!