Cultivating Customer Obsession – A Conversation with Soumee De

In this Talent Tales episode I had the honor to interview Soumee De, Head of HR for Consumer Banking Technology (EMEA/APAC) at Citi. Soumee is a self-described creative “artiste”, human professional, and technophile. Her creative superpower is bridging gaps - between technologists and those who are not that inclined, between business and HR, between the world of art and science.

In our conversation, Soumee describes how she discovered design thinking a few years ago through a workshop her company offered. To her surprise, she experienced herself struggling with applying the concept of empathy to our work. As HR professionals we get paid to pass judgement on people – when we interview them for a role, evaluate their performance, or assess their potential. Her personal takeaway was to unlearn some of the behaviors she’s honed in HR and apply more of an ethnographic research lens when trying to solve a people-related challenge.

I was fascinated by the way Soumee embraces the concept of “customer obsession” – a true care for the customer - and how we might apply it to the employee experience. An example for how HR can get closer to the customer is to spend some time on a regular basis with front line employees and observe their work, e.g. listen in on contact center calls. This provides the HR team with new ideas and takeaways for how they might support their employees. A Recruiter on Soumee’s team said she was now able to create better job descriptions because she truly came to understand what the job entails.

Since Soumee has started partnering with her business partners to apply design thinking she has seen an increase in employee engagement and social sharing of experiences and lessons learned – a great way to spread the word, especially when working in large, global organizations.

And here are some of Soumee’s tips for how to get started with design thinking in HR:

Just do it!

Start by identifying your own behaviors that you might need to unlearn and then conduct small initial experiments. Every iteration is a better version than the one before.

Measure success.

Focus not just on the outcomes, but also on how it changes behaviors and engagement. Encourage sharing of testimonials and lessons learned on internal collaboration platforms.

Don’t give up!

There will be stakeholders who might initially challenge the time and resources spent on design thinking efforts. Expect this, plan for it, and think through ways how you might overcome these objections.

Want to find out how you can jump start your creativity with Batman and Robin? Watch the entire interview on YouTube or listen to the Podcast. Note: I had some audio issues on this episode, but you can hear Soumee loud and clear. The audio gremlins have been tackled and future episodes will have better sound quality. Thanks for bearing with me as I prototype my way through this experience!