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Hit the mark creatively

CPS - Using Creative Problem Solving processes to improve customer experience

Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is an excellent approach to finding innovative and imaginative solutions along the customer journey. Heiner Junker is a certified CPS facilitator and certified facilitator Design Thinking and explains what this method is all about. 

What is CPS?

The CPS process is a structured method for the development of effective and novel solutions to problems and challenges. The method has been around since the 1950s; Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes were the first who methodically described it. Today there are many different versions of CPS that all utilise a multitude of different creative techniques.

How does CPS work?

The version of the CPS process used by us is tailored to particularly tackle typical challenges in customer experience management. It consists of 7 stages (fig.: Creative Problem Solving Process), from determining the goal to developing ideas to “crash testing” ideas to planning specific actions. Especially noteworthy is the constant change between divergent (opening) and convergent (condensing) techniques. Not only does this alternating approach stimulate a creative mind-set of the participants, but it also ensures full advantage is taken of the solution space, while keeping emerging solutions useful and relevant.

What makes CPS so suitable for customer experience management?

Customer Experience Management requires constant change and optimisation. When it comes to making adjustments, it is sensible to focus on the touch-points, which are the truly important aspects here. As so-called Pain Points or Moments of Truth they have a significant impact on the customer experience. CPS is designed to identify the areas that really need improvement, and to help grasp relevant underlying challenges. Therefore, the techniques to explore those challenges play a particularly important role in CPS. At the start as well as during the course of the process, it is always a matter of answering the following question: “What is it that really matters?”

Which CPS techniques are particularly efficient?

There are no hard and fast rules about which creative techniques are the most effective. The choice of technique widely depends on the stage of the creative process where it is to be applied. Other important factors are the facilitator’s personal preferences as well as what is suitable for the participants. Furthermore, the respective situation needs to be taken into account. Even though a CPS process is always meticulously planned, the facilitator must be able to react flexibly and adjust techniques and his moderation according to the circumstances. Fig. 2 exemplarily shows several examples of effective and stimulating techniques that are used quite frequently.

What does the “crash test” of ideas entail?

During this stage of the process all the objections and disadvantages as well as barriers and negative emotions are documented which indicate that an idea might fail miserably. After this crash test, what is left of the idea’s original prototype is tallied up and used as the basis for improvement of the idea:

  • Eliminate everything redundant.
  • Improve or replace everything that won’t work.
  • Simplify everything that is not understood.
  • Strengthen the benefit, if it is not recognised.
  • Clarify originality.
  • Increase credibility.
  • Make the idea feasible.

These stages of criticism and optimisation are essential in order to turn an inspiring idea into a powerful innovation.

What is the outcome of a CPS process?

CPS focuses on solutions. Hence, it is all about finding very specific ideas to a particular challenge. It is important to us to meticulously describe every relevant idea that is intended to optimise customer interaction at a certain touch-point, so that a third party is able to understand every detail of it. In addition to the detailed description of each idea, we document the consumer needs and motives it addresses, its benefits and added benefits over the status quo, the barriers it overcomes, whether there are any objections and how to handle these. For each idea, the action plan defines those responsible, stakeholders, milestones and timings, as well as a project sponsor.

Of course, it is impossible to elaborate on each and every idea from a CPS process in the above detail. Hence, it is important to focus on promising ideas. However, it does make sense to screen every idea for its inspirational potential and feasibility, no matter how odd the idea may seem at first. After all, what is considered too crazy or infeasible today may trigger the next stage of innovation tomorrow.