Tim Kobe Eight Inc

“Great customer service is everybody’s responsibility – yet it is nobody’s job,” says Tim Kobe, the founder of multidisciplinary firm Eight Inc, which has helped the likes of Apple, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Citibank poise their business for success through strategic design. “A Chief Experience Officer is as important as a CEO.”

(Related: 5 leadership tips from top executive coach to CEOs, Marshall Goldsmith)

For Kobe, design is the most important way for businesses to shape great experiences for (and hence provide great service to) their customers. It’s a form of communication and customer engagement that is critical to helping a company stay relevant. “The number of touchpoints a company has with consumers determines how much intelligence it can derive from them,” says Kobe. “Our client Xiaomi uses its fan base of 50 million as a focus group for new concepts and products. Given the rate of change today, a company’s risk of irrelevance will increase without dialogue.”

The results are quantifiable. For instance, his company helped Lincoln, the premium car brand by Ford Motor Company, exceed its expansion plans in China, with Eight Inc-designed dealerships becoming its top-performing dealerships worldwide within the first month of operation. The strategy was to fulfil their unmet needs and do away with undesirable experiences. By eliminating the notorious sales pressure in car dealerships and focusing on personalised hospitality, the dealerships built relationships with customers that drove sales.

(Related: How AirAsia’s Kathleen Tan conquered China with courage, charm and candour | 陈凯霖:以果敢魅力征服中国)