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Customer Centricity Vs Design Thinking – An Endeavor To Help You Understand the Key Differences

The performance of any business is measured mainly in terms of how customers feel. So, Customer Centricity is the key approach any business can follow to make customers feel good about its product or service. Let's understand the difference between Customer Centricity and Design Thinking. 

Differences between Design Thinking and Customer Centricity:
What Is Customer Centricity?

Customer Centricity is the ability of employees in an organization to understand customers. The employees can understand situations, expectations, and perceptions of customers. It is an approach that demands that customers should be the key point in all decisions made by an organization. The decisions particularly relate to experiences, services, and product delivery. In turn, it will be possible for the business to create advocacy, loyalty, and customer satisfaction.

Customer Centricity should never be confused with providing customers with the best service. Many companies have reached the position of being top performers these days. The reason is not because of their customer service alone. Yes, they have spent years creating a culture around the customers and what they need. They have succeeded because of their commitment to delivering value to customers genuinely.

The Customer Centric approach that an organization follows will motivate the employees. The motivation will be to make every decision with customers as the focal point. They think about how their decision will affect customer experience. This approach reduces churn in an organization. It helps with increasing existing customer value besides promoting new values.

What is Design Thinking?

When talking about Customer Centricity vs Design Thinking, you should know that the latter is also a process. It is related to Customer Centricity because it is actually a Customer Centric development process. It is different from the traditional focus of product designing on functions and features. The reason is that it designs products after understanding the problems that customers face. The very focus of this process is to develop solutions to issues that customers face. It is a collection of hands-on methods and it is a way of working and thinking as well.

The term Design Thinking is used for defining this process. However, it need not necessarily have to be design-specific. Like Customer Centricity, it entirely focuses on user-centricity. It understands people’s needs thoroughly to come with effective solutions to meet those needs. This is why Design Thinking is referred to as a solution-based approach to solving issues.

Phases of Customer Centricity and Design Thinking:

You wish to understand the key difference between Customer Centricity and Design Thinking. But, you might have understood that both these processes are user-centric. But, both of them cannot be implemented as such in any organization. The implementation should happen in a phased manner. To help you gain a better understanding, here are some details about the phases:

Customer Centricity:
First Stage: The Customer is ignored:

Most businesses follow the practice of receiving and processing customer complaints. They solve the issues too. However, the problem is that they do not take steps to address the root cause of the complaints. As against improving customer interactions, most businesses pay attention to streamlining processes. In the first phase, Customer Centricity has not gotten into the picture. But, there is a customer service motto in the mind.

Second Stage: Mild Attention is given to Customers:

In the second phase, businesses use the concept called customer research. Using this concept, they categorize their customer base. It will be possible for a company to comprehend the satisfaction of customers. However, this understanding will be in the context of the industry in which it operates. A business should get and even manage data on customer satisfaction. It should do this particularly when it intends to enter into Customer Centricity. The business can do this through regular market research and warehousing. It can even be done through satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping, and benchmarking. Using these techniques, they can collect details. However, the senior management team will not be ready to share these details with all members of the workforce. 

Customer experiences via methodical developments like the use of channel metrics. Nevertheless, in this stage, the initiatives are irregular. So, businesses can get uneven customer experience data. For instance, a bank might promise hassle-free account opening. Nevertheless, in reality, it takes a long time and is an arduous procedure. The customer will have to fill up endless forms with a lot of red tape.

Third Stage: Understanding of Customers:

When it reaches this stage, a business can start understanding the needs of customers. With this knowledge gained, it can start identifying new commercial chances. The company can discover customer behavior via sustained research. It should do it with attention to what drives its shopping choices. Further, at this stage, an existing customer service philosophy will begin to develop. The workforce will start to consider each other as clients. They will start working to provide the topmost service internally. Also, business performance will begin to be measured in terms of customer behavior and satisfaction.

The problem is that most companies do not cross this stage. However, businesses can make strategic decisions to improve their focus on customers. In turn, they can move on to the next stage.

Fourth Stage: Engaging Customers:

The goal of this stage is to feed actionable and real-time customer intelligence to all decision-makers in the business. In turn, it can be fed into the overall strategy of the business. As part of their performance rating, employees at this stage will also be measured on customer metrics.

Fifth Stage: Passionate Customers:

At this final stage of entering into Customer Centricity, a business can track communications. It can report all communications with customers. It can predict the outcome of future interactions. At this level, businesses would have already invested in systems that bring raw customer data. The data will come with real-time feedback from customers. Also, executives begin to actively monitor and respond to customer-focused indicators. They do this using a dedicated customer dashboard. 

Any company with a passionate customer base regularly involves them in driving the direction of the business. Even, they get help from customers in the development of new services and products. With a Customer Centric approach, many established businesses ensure that the top executives spend at least 15 days a year with customers. They do this with a view to understanding the culture of customers.

Design Thinking:

You are into understanding the difference between Customer Centricity and Design Thinking. So, it is better to learn about the stages involved in Design Thinking. Here are the five stages involved:

First Stage: Researching the User Needs:

The first step involves gaining an empathetic understanding of the issues that users face. In the human-centered design process, empathy is a crucial requirement. This step will help your business set aside its own assumptions. You can get real vision into users and their requirements.

Second Stage: Stating the Issues Faced by Users and Requirements:

Once a business reaches this stage, it is time to accumulate the information gathered in the previous stage. Then, the observation and analysis should take place. The observation should be fused to explain the core issues identified by your team. Before proceeding to the next stage, it is better to create personas to keep your efforts centered on humans.

Third Stage: Creation of Ideas and Challenging of Assumptions:

In this stage, the design team gets ready to generate ideas. Now, solid knowledge and background have been created with the first two stages. Now, the team can start the out-of-the-box thinking process. It means that they should instigate to look for alternative ways to see the problem. In turn, they will be in a position to develop innovative solutions. At this stage, brainstorming will be particularly helpful.

Fourth Stage – Beginning the Solution Creation:

This phase is actually an experimental phase. The objective is to recognize the best possible remedy for every issue found. At this stage, your team should produce some scaled-down and affordable versions of the product. This will help with the investigation of ideas that you have generated. You can carry out this phase with simple paper prototyping.

Fifth Stage – Trying the Solutions Out:

In this final stage of the Design Thinking process, your assessors will test the models. They will do this by giving attention to even tiny things. Of course, this is the last phase. However, the Design Thinking process is iterative. At this stage, your team can even redefine one or more further issues. When this happens, the team can return to the above stages again. When doing this, they can make further iterations, refinements, and even alterations, if any required. The goal is to rule out or find alternative solutions to issues.


When talking about Customer Centricity vs Design Thinking, the latter itself is a Customer Centric process. There are actually similarities between the two. The reason is that both of them aim at solving the issues faced by customers. When a business is Customer Centric, it will include a cautious Design Thinking process. The reason is that businesses know that Design Thinking will help them end up products that will resolve the issues faced by customers.

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Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.