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The client has led the hearing health market for decades as a holistic provider of devices, diagnostics, and support services. With the threat from new competitors emerging from adjacent categories, and shifts in regulation and technology, the client needed to be at the forefront of innovation to ensure its future position in the category.

Service Design Award 2020/21 Winner - Best Commercial Project

CX transformation for hearing care - by Smart Design

Category: Professional Commercial

Client: Amplifon

Location: USA


The client has led the global hearing health market for decades as a holistic provider of devices, diagnostics, and support services. With the threat from new competitors emerging from adjacent categories, and shifts in regulation and technology, the client needed to be at the forefront of innovation to ensure its future position in the category.

The retail hearing care market is still characterized by a relatively low penetration. Approximately 15% of the world’s adult population has some level of hearing loss, out of which only 37% adopt a hearing solution. It takes an average of seven years for a person to recognize and act on a hearing loss issue. Untreated hearing loss is linked to loneliness and isolation for seniors and increases the risk of dementia by 50% and depression by 40%.

Because hearing health is a complex and emotional problem, the client needed to address the stigma associated with the hearing loss by creating ways for people to seek help sooner, and live better, fuller lives.

Hearing aids are often associated with aging and disability and these preconceptions can prevent people from addressing this health issue. The adoption journey is different for different people, so by addressing a variety of learning styles we were able to create a variety of products and services to assist in decision-making and support.


The client partnered with the consultant to create a global customer experience strategy and roadmap of initiatives to address unmet customer needs and increase the value of their services to drive sustained business growth and provide greater consistency across the store network which has grown by acquisition. With more than 11,000 stores in 28 countries, the client needed to unify the brand experience across locations and franchises.

The consultant’s cross-functional team took a human-centered design approach, meeting with 160 people in five countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy) to understand their pain points and motivations. By shadowing staff, audiologists, and customers, the consultant team analyzed customer value perception across the entire hearing care journey and identified key moments where there were major gaps in customers’ expectations, as well as the greatest opportunities for innovation.

The consultant utilized ethnographic and co-creation methodologies to truly understand the customers and potential customers, gathering deep and meaningful insights about their current pain-points and their ideal experience in the future (image 1). This extensive research resulted in a customer journey map that outlines and summarizes the current experience for customers across Europe and the U.S. (image 2).

Key “Moments of Truth” along the current CX

  1. The moment you realize you have a problem
  2. The moment you decide to do something
  3. The moment you get that reality check
  4. The moment you make sense of the options
  5. The first moment you are alone with your HA
  6. The moment you experience your first problem
  7. The first moment you consider upgrading

The value perception journey maps the customers' view on the value of the client’s service across their experience. It is low when they think they are paying more than what they feel it’s worth to them and it’s high when they feel they are paying what it’s worth. Above the line shows perception of
good value for money and below the line shows perception of bad value for money.

High-level customer insights that span the journey:

  1. Misaligned expectations are driving avoidance, disappointment, and abandonment.
  2. The hearing aid purchase decision is overloaded, leading to customer anxiety and resulting in reduced productivity and conversion.
  3. Value doesn't grow with customers, resulting in higher churn.
  4. One size does not fit all; and results in an inability to properly serve and capture different profiles.
  5. The relationship is fragmented between customers, touchpoints, and the client’s brand, increasing cost to serve and eroding loyalty.

Previously, the client looked at customers mostly through the sales funnel and applied the same experience to everyone. Through research, the consultant discovered more complex, but globally comparable dimensions that identify customers that require a shift from a target focus to a persona focus. The consultant identified three core persona types. Each has a very different level of motivation and approach to problem solving:

  1. Trusted Guidance Seeker: They are motivated to find a solution, which stems from a combination of what it will mean for themselves as well as what it will mean for others.
  2. Do-it-yourself-er: They are personally motivated to find a solution, as it is driven from a personal, internalized drive to own the process for achieving quality of life.
  3. The Detached: They are unmotivated to find a solution for their hearing loss and may be pushed through the process by others.

Through consumer research and working with client stakeholders, the consultant identified five core opportunity areas against which they ideated quick wins, incremental innovation and disruptive innovation ideas. These were then filtered using co-created prioritization criteria of business goals, operational feasibility, and local considerations.

All high-impact ideas were placed along the customer journey as ways to elevate the value perception. These same ideas were then presented to 14 participants in Italy, and 13 participants in France, to provide feedback. This helped the team to select the strongest ideas that would not only have the biggest impact in elevating the value perception, but that also met user needs and business goals.


Working with stakeholders from across the client’s corporate and franchisee organizations, the consultant delivered a CX transformation toolkit containing:

  • Detailed design recommendations corresponding to each of the five macro innovation themes.
  • A service blueprint linking the recommendations together into an overall experience.
  • A global CX transformation roadmap of initiatives for the organization to rollout over a number of years, including a recommended piloting approach to test and learn during the rollout.

Innovation themes

Five macro innovation streams were identified as opportunities for creating CX transformation to increase market penetration, loyalty and average selling price.

  1. Value equation reframe: Articulate the value in a relevant manner aligning with the brand and deliver consistently across touchpoints.
  2. Omnichannel audiological protocol: Use current patented protocol throughout the CX to capture data about customers and personalize the experience across the channels.
  3. Product experience: Create a more engaging, consistent and transparent way to merchandise product both offline and online.
  4. Loyalty framework: Define a program to engage with customers pre- and post-purchase to develop a lasting, ongoing relationship.
  5. Store experience: Update the store experience to increase service efficiency and conversion while ensuring stores reflect the brand and CX strategy.

Service blueprint

The service blueprint shows each of the five innovation themes mapped onto the four stages of the customer journey. It illustrates what touchpoints are used to enable that theme to happen, when they are used, and by whom.

Underpinning the service blueprint is the development of a digital ecosystem that enables the client to personalize the customer experience for different customer types (such as those who require more or less guidance) leading to improved operational efficiency, customer loyalty, and adherence.

The resulting holistic experience guides customers through understanding their hearing loss, finding the right hearing aid, adjusting to wearing a hearing aid, supporting their everyday lives and discovering new products based on their usage patterns.

Global CX transformation roadmap

The CX transformation roadmap was built through a global approach because the client faces many of the same challenges and opportunities in locations around the world. The implementation roadmap is based on validating the CX strategy and design. It ladders up to a common strategic
framework to improve the client’s business performance today and future-proof the business for tomorrow.

The roadmap also recognizes local customer and organizational nuances. The roadmap incorporates a series of pilots and aligns with key milestones in the digital transformation plan. Through a test and learn approach, the roadmap is designed to evolve, as quick wins are realized, and the longerterm innovation aims are further developed. A test-and-learn approach ensures the initiatives are grounded in the business and consider local context for wider rollout plans and operationalizing at scale.


This future-proof strategy builds on the client’s brand purpose and drives the transformation agenda cross business functions, aligning the technology and digital innovation pipeline to customer needs and wants. The CX transformation builds on existing strengths to provide a seamless omnichannel experience that extends beyond the store, while supporting the wider strategic aims and providing effective measures to monitor progress.

Social stigma surrounding hearing loss is still the strongest customer barrier to start the journey. By launching customer-centric initiatives around the five macro innovation themes, the client aims to normalize and consumerize the experience, making hearing care solutions more transparent, trusted, and accepted by prospects and existing customers.

The initiative has helped thousands of people with hearing loss across the world adopt hearing aids earlier, enabling them to lead fuller lives, avoid the loneliness and isolation associated with hearing loss.

Project Team:

Heather Martin

Richard Whitehall

Anna Soisalo

Stephanie Yung

Jasper Dekker

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