Sutherland Innovation Labs http://www.sutherlandlabs.com Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:38:56 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2017, Sutherland Innovation Labs - http://www.sutherlandlabs.com http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/favicon.png Sutherland Innovation Labs http://www.sutherlandlabs.com Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Are you ready to meet your AI self? http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/ready-meet-ai-self/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 21:51:49 +0100 Are you ready to meet your AI self?

We recently came across a new chatbot AI called Replika which was designed to learn your unique patterns of communication and how you would respond to certain situations so that it can copy them. While this may all sound like the set up for a technology-themed Halloween movie so far, the social applications for an AI that can replicate your behavior are exponential.

How helpful would it be to have a duplicate of you that could handle all the nuisance interactions that you have to deal with on a daily basis? A personal assistant that goes beyond the quick Q&A sessions that Siri and Cortana provide and can answer questions on your behalf, in a decent facsimile of your voice.

How comforting will it be to your loved ones that some version of you will persist in the world after you have expired? Even before death, the ability to revisit an earlier iteration of a partner and to remember them as they were when you first fell in love might do wonders for relationships. Decision making will be so much easier when you can form a quorum of your past-selves to chime in on an issue; combining the idealism of youth with the wisdom gained through experience.

Illustration by Simon Wood

Illustration by Simon Wood

It is telling that the best-known attempts at AI at the moment are those personal assistant applications. Simple machine intelligences that we have imbued with human personalities to make them more palatable. Everyone in the technology sector is intently focused on the practical applications of AI; the ways that the technology will simplify data analysis, the ways that AI will make life easier. The societal impact of AI is being left on the table.

Humans, as a species, use emotion as the basis for most decision making, so the way that we are going to interact with AI on an emotional level is at least as important as the practicalities when it comes to adoption of the technology. Even if AI are the most useful pieces of technology since the invention of the smart phone; if they fail to connect with their users then they are never going to catch on.

Illustration by Simon Wood

Illustration by Simon Wood

This is why it is vital to integrate design research into these projects from the very beginning. By centring the user and the ways that they are going to rely on AI, the emotional component of that interaction can be given the same value in the design process as the technological solutions. Whether that is by creating a chatbot that mimics your patterns of speech, following the psychological principle of “mirroring” or by giving Siri a dry sense of humor.

We may not know all the ways that AI are going to affect society, but by focusing on putting the user at the heart of development we have a better chance to predict all of the myriad ways that life is going to be changed.

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Finding Inspiration http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/finding-inspiration/ Tue, 17 Oct 2017 17:04:19 +0100 Finding Inspiration

One of the requirements for working in the creative industry is finding inspiration. It’s the golden ticket to help you through a tight deadline or drive forward with a project you’re just not sure how to tackle.

As a designer, I often feel that my ability to perform my best is down to being inspired. But the hard truth is that inspiration doesn’t come suddenly in a flash. It’s a craft that you must nurture and care for. Unfortunately, it can certainly go away in a flash, so learning how to find it and how to keep the creative mind topped up with a backlog of ideas is an important skill to have. I’d like to outline a few of my go to sources and daily practices for finding and keeping the all important inspiration.

"Finding Inspiration" - Illustration by Monica Giunchi

Websites

Websites are quick and easy sources that are constantly updating and providing new, never before seen material. Sites such as Smashing Magazine, Creative Bloq, and Wired have thousands of articles on trends, inspiration and creative musings. Sites like these form part of my daily ritual to find out what the creative industry is talking about and often provide me with some unexpected inspiration before I start working.

When I need some more immediate inspiration I turn to sites like Dribbble and Behance. This is more for the graphic designers out there, these are packed full of other creatives showcasing their work. A quick search for a related term or just browsing the top posts is almost sure to jog your mind into inspired mode.

Activities

Social media sites and apps are amazing places to take on challenges from other creatives. Running this month you can take part in #inktober taking abstract concepts and transforming them daily into ink drawings or hand lettering. It’s challenges like this that force you to step out of your comfort zone and to be inspired by what you and others create. Activities aren’t just restricted to social media, hundreds of cities across the world have numerous meetups for creatives. Whether it’s attending a short story reading, a design talk, or a foreign language practice group. There’s people out there to meet and inspiration to be found.

Media

This one may seem obvious but consume all the media you can, be it books, magazines, movies, TV shows, music, or podcasts. Try to be critical about the media that you consume: what do you enjoy, why do you like it, what else is there that’s as good or better than it? I’m quite proud of being critical of the media I consume. It’s the ability to criticise the movie I just saw, or the book I’m reading that translates into my own work and makes me critical of everything I do and inspires me to do better.

Other Tips

"Sketching" - Illustration by Monica Giunchi

Don’t be afraid to experiment, make mistakes and strive to fix them. Get a notepad and doodle mindlessly in your next meeting or long phone call with your parents. Write a blog post rant or a silly quote on a post it note and stick it to your computer screen. This can work as a good warm up to when you might need to get on and create something with no time to go out and find inspiration. It’s like creative push-ups for the mind, without the sweaty armpits and guilt when you eat a biscuit straight away afterwards.

Criticism from other people is inspiring. Learn to take negative feedback of your work not as a personal affront on your inability to create something good, but as an opportunity to find out what their inspirations were, which could help you discover what they really wanted when they asked for the text to be vomit green colour.

On a recent walk-to-work, my wife and I (both designers and design fanatics) happened to start questioning how many of the big name brands we could draw from memory, this made us look at all the shop signs we were passing and not just observing the logos we saw, but properly looking. As obvious as it seems I’m not sure I could have confidently said before that Lidl’s logo has a wonky letter ‘i’, or that the Tesco logo is more red than blue. It’s easy to accept the everyday things that are shoved in our faces without truly looking, and it’s with this habit that we can turn our brains into an inspiration sponge.

"Opening your eyes" - Illustration by Monica Giunchi

I believe that finding inspiration is about opening your eyes. Do you want inspiration for writing? Pay attention not just to the plot of your favourite book but look at how the sentences are structured. Is it for a new logo? Look up on your next walk to work and see how shop signs relate to the building’s architecture above it.

Lastly, don’t wait for inspiration. Every great piece of work comes from just getting on with it. Put that idea onto paper that you just know isn’t going to work. Once it’s there you can start to fix it and the inspiration for how to do that will start to reveal itself. And if the inspiration just isn’t coming, go out and find it.

I hope that from this you can perhaps be inspired to find some of your own inspiration.

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Chatbot empathy: How do we think they feel? http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/chatbot-empathy-think-feel/ Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:16 +0100 Chatbot empathy: How do we think they feel?

One thing we’ve learned from building chatbots (digital assistants, conversational UX and so on) is the success or failure of a bot is rarely a bug or some other kind of software problem.

In fact, it’s not necessarily a failure on bot side of the chat at all. It’s us, the humans in the chat who decide if the conversation works or not. Automated conversations are hard to get right because humans normally only converse with other humans, which means your brain expects all sorts of human behaviors from their conversation partner, it’s never just an exchange of words.

Making a successful bot represents a cognitive puzzle: How do you trick your brain into thinking the bot conversation is a real conversation? We’re not talking about tricking the human into thinking the bot is another human (like the famous Turing Test), but to unlock the potential of conversational user interfaces the chatbot has to satisfy a human brain’s expectations of human conversational behavior. That’s harder than it sounds.

Making a successful bot represents a cognitive puzzle: How do you trick your brain into thinking the bot conversation is a real conversation?

Designing effective conversations demands a technical understanding of how humans use language, but also learning from other instances where we trick our brains into feeling empathy and generating emotional responses to things that aren’t human. We do that all the time when we’re watching TV, reading books or playing video games. The challenge is blending functionality with feelings of empathy if the bot if it’s going to succeed, or else you end up with bot relationships that finish with a “it’s not you, it’s me” end to the conversation, and nobody likes those, do they?

It starts with the strange nature of human language.

Danger sign

Many creatures make vocalizations, but they tend to be simplistic declarations like “danger” or “leave me alone or I’ll bite you”. Human language, however, is unique in the animal kingdom because it’s recursive, i.e. the act of using language is how we work out what we really want to use language for.

You can recognize the unique recursive function of human language easily in your own chats: If you’ve ever said “What I mean is…” mid-way through a conversation (we all do that sometimes, right?) that’s your brain working out what it really wanted to say after it’s actually started the process of speaking.

The part of the conversation before your brain decides to get down to business is usually a set of unconscious, emotional chat reflexes like “Hey, how’s it going?” followed by remarks and banter like “Did you see the game last night?” or “It’s been a long week, right?” (etc.)  Tone and expression also play a role in these unconscious chat interactions, which are a warm-up act before the information exchange gets going with “Anyway, what I wanted to ask you was…” and so on.

It’s all about the neuroscience of empathy

The reason our unconscious emotions play such a big part in the use of language is partly down to empathy. When we chat, we don’t just exchange data, we relate to the person we’re exchanging data with. Without that emotional engagement in conversation, it becomes more like giving and receiving orders in the army. That’s not chat, it’s a different way of communicating altogether.

However, empathy is a very nuanced concept. We often consider the word ‘empathy’ to refer to our ability to relate to other humans in the real world. We’re happy for people, we’re sad for them, we forgive the ones we love and so on, but empathy is also present in a whole load of other things you might not expect, for example, watching TV.

It’s like this: We know TV shows aren’t real life. We know the people on the screen are actors. We know the places they appear to be are just sets, not real. We know they are not in danger (except career danger if the show gets cancelled). We also know the conversations are scripted, not real. It’s a completely artificial representation of reality… so why we feel scared watching horror movies when we’re safe at home on our sofas? There is no logical reason to expect the big name celebrity hero character will die in episode 1, season 1 of that kickass new show everyone is excited about, but we’re still on the edge of our seats when it looks like they’re in danger, right? That’s empathy at work.

Empathy tricks your brain into enjoying the story on an unconscious level, not consciously analyzing the data it’s receiving through your eyes and ears. Without that empathy, we’d watch TV like my dog, who barks at other dogs on TV because as far as she’s concerned, it’s a real dog in a box on the wall in her territory, and she’s not happy about it.

Psychologists and neuroscientists don’t fully agree on the specifics, but it’s reckoned that empathy has something to do with ‘mirror neurons’ – structures in the brain that are stimulated to mimic the feeling of experiences we see other people having. They create sensations that are like watered-down approximations of the feelings the characters in stories are experiencing. Again, test this on yourself. Watch a really good movie action sequence and try to stop your pulse rate from rising. It’s harder than you think.

Empathy

What’s that got to do with chatbots?

Simple. For a chat interface to be effective, it needs to feel like a real chat. And because real chats occur between humans, that means the bot needs to feel human too. A really effective conversation design process needs to design simulated human attributes into bots, to feed our empathy.

Successful bots use language like we do, recursively, to appear like it’s working out what the conversation is for after the chat begins. A good bot design doesn’t assume that because it’s a customer service lost password bot, it should start by asking you “Please authenticate your identity so I can reset your password”. No. It needs to start like we do, by saying “Hello, how are you today” or something human like that. It also needs to replicate the thing that make human conversations interesting, the unexpected remark.

Consider this (simplified) example script:

Bot: “Hello, how are you today?”

<asks about you, your brain recognizes that from human chats.>

Me: “Hi, I’m good”

<empathy response even though I know the bot doesn’t really care how I am>

Bot: <thumbs-up emoji> “So how can I help?”

<recursive language use – it appears to be working out why you are chatting, even though it’s called “password reset assistant” and it already knows. Also, the emoji is unexpected, simulating real banter-style chat.>

Me: “I lost my password”

<back to completing user goal>

Bot: “Have you tried looking under the sofa?”

<You have to be careful with banter, but this joke deepens the feel of a human chat in your unconscious emotional brain>

Me: “I need a password reset”

<repeated answer signals bot needs to get on with it, just like a chatty human assistant>

Bot: “Sure, give me a second to check your account. What’s your email?”

<Simulated thinking – asking for time –  makes it feel like the bot is thinking>

Me: <gives email address>

<bots are great for facilitating data capture>

Bot: “Okay, this won’t take long. Don’t worry, I’ve done it before”

<talks about how you’re feeling, and about itself, more empathy building>

The net effect is to trick your brain into thinking it’s having a conversation with a human, in the same way TV shows trick our brains into immersing ourselves in the story. Stimulating these types of human emotional responses is crucial if the chat is to work, otherwise the conversation feels wrong. It won’t feel a proper chat any more than pressing down the lever on the side of a toaster feels like you’re chatting with it about cooking your toast.

Speech bubbles

Designing empathy into conversations is also a recursive process.

Building a chatbot starts the process of conversation design, but it’s the process of studying the bot’s ability to engage users emotionally in the chat that helps you improve the conversation design in the next iteration. And then that process loops round again, and again. So you could say that designing conversations is really a design process that uses conversation design to improve your ability to design conversations.

It’s not merely a task-focused challenge, it’s an emotional empathy challenge as well.

That might sound like a “whoa, dude” statement but it’s not really, in fact, that’s how most design processes work. It’s the essence of prototyping, versioning and releasing updates. The difference with conversation design is how much of the design process is driven by issues that relate to the human world beyond the core function the software is designed to fulfill. It’s not merely a task-focused challenge, it’s an emotional empathy challenge as well.

Conversation design takes the traditional role of psychology and anthropology that’s ever present in UX research, then adds a big slice of linguistics on the side and moves the design process deeper into the realms of cognitive science than other UX tasks. It’s a highly nuanced process that means you’ll spend more time thinking about the use of language and developing a personality for the bot than you will engineering the software that runs it.

In a way, it means for the UX team that’s used to studying how the user feels during an interaction, they have a new question to ask… “And how does the bot feel about that?”

 

 

Thanks to Labs colleagues Philip Say, Lauren Nham and others for their collective opinion and expertize.

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September 2017’s Coolest Things http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/september-2017s-coolest-things/ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:32:47 +0100 September 2017’s Coolest Things

There is a running competition at the Sutherland Labs to find the coolest thing. Every spare moment, people are browsing through their internet feeds trying to find something cooler than last week’s offering and judging from the timestamps on some of the cool things that get posted into our Slack channel it is pretty clear that the hunt for the coolest thing is keeping some of us up at night.

The coolest thing can be absolutely anything but they are all inevitably inspiring so once a month we like to round up the very best of the best to share with the world. It also to settle any arguments in the office about who’s thing is cooler.

Tree Planting Drones

For the past five years, villagers in the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar have been struggling to restore their local ecosystem by replanting nearly 3 million mangrove trees that had previously been removed from the area. The work was slow going and arduous, but that was before some new technology swooped in to save the day. Using specially designed drones that can each plant up to 100,000 trees in a single day, the project is now able to expand out to cover the whole area. It has also freed the workers who had previously been engaged in the back breaking labour to tend to the young trees that have already started growing, ensuring that all of their hard work actually pays off.

“Leader’s Don’t Know What Game They Are In”

In both the Labs and our parent company Sutherland we talk a lot about process reform; transforming a part of a business that isn’t working properly into one that is doing the job it was intended for. For many people, the most difficult things to change is their attitude and understanding of their role as they climb through a company or as their company evolves around them. In this half hour talk, Simon Sinek lays out the problems that people have understanding their roles as leaders within an organization and guides them to a better understanding of what leadership really means in a contemporary setting.

Patagotitan Mayorum

You will have to travel pretty far to find someone who doesn’t like dinosaurs and for every person out there who doesn’t have room in their heart for a giant primordial reptile there is at least a thousand screaming preteens who are obsessed with them. One of the things that people can’t seem to get over is just how big dinosaurs were, something that his going to be even harder to wrap your head around now that Patagotitan Mayorum’s fossilized remains have been recovered and declared the largest animal to have ever walked on land. They weigh in at about 12 times the tonnage of the current holder of that title, the African Elephant.

Photograph by CHRISSTOCKPHOTOGRAPHY

Photograph by CHRISSTOCKPHOTOGRAPHY

Dream Career 

This scrolling GIF is technically just delivering some survey results to the viewer but through clever animation, a buoyant art style and some clever visual indication, it goes from being just another infographic and becomes an exploration of our childhood aspirations and dreams. Well worth a quick scroll through.

The Uncomfortable 

A few months back we came across an excellent exercise for designers at a dead end; trying to imagine how a product could be redesigned to make people hate it rather than to make it better. In this collection of everyday objects created by Athenian architect Katerina Kamprani the exercise is taken a step further, creating prototypes of deliberately dreadful designs.

Image of a fork and plate - the fork is made out of chain

Check back in next month to find out about the next round of cool things, or get in touch if you think that you have found something cooler!

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A Novel Approach: Fiction for Budding Ethnographers http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/novel-approach-fiction-budding-ethnographers/ Tue, 10 Oct 2017 16:47:18 +0100 A Novel Approach: Fiction for Budding Ethnographers

It was Clifford Geertz who observed “Culture is a story we tell ourselves about ourselves”. But while anthropologists have made careers out of listening to stories, we have rarely been their authors.  Fiction is a wonderful medium through which to explore new ideas: it can put you in a context that is entirely new; it can lead you to engage empathetically with people you’ve never met, or who live in a past, a present or a future you’ve no frame of reference for. As such, you could say it’s got a lot to offer anthropology and design.

Always keen to pass on a good book recommendation, I thought I’d share some of my top reads. These are stories, not textbooks, but they resonate with some of the themes and concerns of design and anthropology. For anyone who’d like to read a bit more about ethnographic fiction, I recommend a post written by Dr Jessica Falcone for anthropology blog Anthrodendum (until recently, Savage Minds).

Fieldwork – Mischa Berlinski

This is a book I cannot recommend enough. It blends two of my favourite genres: anthropological memoir and murder mystery. The story follows a journalist living in northern Thailand, as he slowly unravels the events that led Berkeley anthropology student, Martiya van der Leun, to commit murder. It’s a gripping story, well-told, but what Berlinski does especially well is to put you in the shoes and psyche of his characters. These are a diverse bunch: a Dutch anthropologist raised all over the world by her linguist father; a family of Protestant missionaries, originally from the American Midwest but for many generations settled among the (fictional) Dyalo; in turn, an ethnic Tibetan community of rice farmers living in the hills on the Thai-Burma border. The secret to understanding how anthropology student Martiya became a murderer turns out to lie at a confused intersection of these three worldviews.

Images of the books

Berlinski has also done his homework. We all love reading about ourselves, and I freely admit that was something I enjoyed about Fieldwork. Berlinski brilliantly captures what it feels like to be a first-time fieldworker, immersing yourself in an unfamiliar context and culture, learning to walk the tightrope between your personal and professional selves, trying to forge real relationships and gather ‘good data’.  Through Martiya, he explores the personal and emotional side of ethnographic research that is often suppressed in academic writing.

For those who want to try before they buy, I can also recommend his Into the Zombie Underworld.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy novels, and Ursula K. Le Guin was firm favourite, up there alongside Terry Pratchett and J.R.R. Tolkien. But it wasn’t until recently, on the recommendation of a colleague, that I discovered her futuristic science fiction. Le Guin, like the others, has a gift for world creation. The Left Hand of Darkness is a futuristic, first contact story set on the planet Gethen. The narrative follows the story of Genly Ai, the Envoy of an interplanetary trade alliance, the Ekumen. Ai is charged with bringing Gethen into the alliance – a difficult task given that its inhabitants have no awareness of the planets and people beyond their own.

Ai’s tactics will be familiar to the anthropologist – he goes alone (so as not to appear threatening) to immerse himself in a foreign culture. His mission is understanding as much as persuasion, which Le Guin conveys in a narrative style that slips between field notes, myth and journal. Over the course of the novel, the reader sees Ai slowly coming to grips with his new social reality, slotting together different pieces of the cultural jigsaw, and gradually developing an emotional empathy with the people around him. The moment Ai finally gains emotional insight is a pivotal one and, without giving too much away, determines the outcome of his mission.

Wonder why Le Guin’s books have an anthropological flavour? Her father was Alfred Kroeber, anthropologist at UC Berkeley and student of Franz Boas.

Images of the books

Auto Ethnography – Dr Fiona Moore

“We programme a self-driving car, and to make it really effective, we have to make it smart, and random, and, also, knowledge-sharing. So….” he shrugged. “It makes sense that they’ve…”
“They’ve what?”
“Become social.”

My last pick is a little different. Auto Ethnography imagines a future role for ethnographic research in the automotive industry. Moore’s character Hassan is a programmer, employed in a R&D team working on self-driving vehicles. In an attempt to make sense of surprising new behaviors exhibited by the cars, Hassan turns to participant-observation, reasoning that if the automobiles have developed a kind of sociality, or even culture, it needs to be studied on its own terms.

Auto Ethnography is a short piece, but an interesting suggestion for a future role for anthropology and ethnography in the development of AIs.

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Design thinking to improve candidate experience http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/work/design-thinking-improve-candidate-experience/ Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0100 Design thinking to improve candidate experience

Our parent organization, Sutherland, asked us to experiment with new ways of approaching existing recruitment challenges through a Design Thinking approach.

talent acquisition workshop

Why

In an extremely competitive marketplace, how might we better attract the right talent? How can we improve retention by better understanding the end-to-end recruitment and employment journey of our employees? These are some of the questions Sutherland Labs have been tackling in our own organization – working alongside our Talent Acquisition teams.

How

We used immersive research to ‘walk in candidates shoes’ to understand a candidate journey throughout the recruitment process. We created behavioral personas, helping to segment, identify ‘star’ target audiences and better understand their idiosyncrasies. We also created journey maps that gave a visual representation which help to articulate pain points and crucial insight that often lead to ideas for improvements and solutions.

Talent acquisition journey maps

Result

The insights helped our colleagues to reframe the story during the recruitment process, which in turn impacted their messaging, advertising and social media activity. The results have included a significant increase in social media followers and engagement, following a reworked advertising campaign. The project also contributed towards wider strategic goals of improving employee engagement, and aided a change of mindset within HR functions.

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Rethinking in-hospital entertainment http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/work/rethinking-in-hospital-entertainment/ Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:17:09 +0100 Rethinking in-hospital entertainment

Our client, global provider of hospital entertainment systems, asked us to analyze customer experience of their current system and inform the design of a cleverly user-centric new one.

TV remote and tablet

Why

TV, radio, games, other interactive content: hospital bedside entertainment has the power to positively transform patient experience. But many patients in this study were not engaging with our client’s current system and opting instead to use their own devices. We were called on to conduct deep analysis of patient needs. Our findings then inspired the design of a revolutionary new system – to make hospital stays infinitely more entertaining.

How

From registering for the first time, to tuning in to the radio or finding a good film, we first identified key user tasks. We then conducted interviews with staff, patients and family members across different wards – Elderly, Stroke, Children, etc. – to find out how these tasks could be carried out most efficiently. Insights from discussions, interviews, focus groups and a visit to the client call centre were then translated into different personae and journey maps. The outcome? As many as 50 different propositions to guide development of the new system.

Result

These propositions included: a friendlier, more accessible user interface; a promotional loop on the homepage to raise key feature awareness; a simplified VOC library structure to enable easy browsing; and extended account management features for families to enable them to make purchases on a patient’s behalf.

Hospital ward
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Designing a better patient experience http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/work/designing-a-better-patient-experience/ Tue, 07 Jun 2016 13:37:57 +0100 Designing a better patient experience

From billing and online payment to registration and insurance, effective healthcare requires effective administration. And, for a joint study by Sutherland Healthcare and its non-profit partner, this was a starting premise.

User on iPad

Why

Our globally renowned healthcare client asked us to observe administration across its facilities and decipher what was working well, and where there was room for improvement – with a focus on billing, registration, online activity, signage and numerous other non-clinical issues.

How

Our starting point was to closely observe over 100 patients and staff in a variety of settings across its two hospitals and contact centre, considering factors such as environment, education and general operations in order to enhance day-to-day experiences. Our six main areas of exploration were as follows: transition from paper to online processes; online self-service; medical payment issues; education and awareness of costs in relation to healthcare; healthcare insurance; and the possible overuse of brochures and posters in medical environments.

Result

Our research enabled us to identify pain points in the customer and staff journeys and to offer inspired solutions. These included: a new patient portal providing self-service registration and access to clinical information; text message reminders and late running notifications; a mobile app updating family members on patient status; cost estimator tools to make costs more transparent; online application and payment for financial aid; a loyalty programme; and a new strategy to increase awareness and uptake of health insurance exchanges.

Doctors walking in hospital
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Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/work/designing-a-roadmap-to-customer-loyalty/ Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:37:40 +0100 Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty

Enhanced customer experience equals greater customer loyalty. And for one client, a successful pet services retailer, this is what we set out to achieve.

Pet store dog beds

Why

What does the future hold? This particular client envisioned a future full of opportunity, one in which their loyal customers reaped the benefits of better services and experiences. But they needed our help in shaping this vision and transforming bright ideas into positive actions.

How

The challenge was to improve customer loyalty by identifying opportunities for innovation and better aligning customer experience, at the same as exploring the potential for moving certain services online. Sutherland’s ethnographic researchers sprang into action – observing and interviewing over 100 employees, partners and customers, at home as well as in store, to build up an-in depth picture of their experiences. Insights were then shared with the client through documentary film and behavioral profiles of common customer types.

Result

Our research led to greater understanding of the drivers of customer loyalty, and provided the basis for suggestions on how to make pet-lover customers happier. These suggestions ranged from improved mobile scheduling and in-store product placement to the development of more effective employee training methods – illustrated through vision maps for a brighter, better future.

Dog check up
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Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/work/bringing-a-health-insurer-closer-to-its-customers/ Mon, 14 Mar 2016 10:16:54 +0100 Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers

A strategy for smarter, more concise digital communications and a refreshed, customer-centric mindset: this is what we achieved for this rapidly expanding health insurance multinational.

Journey mapping workshop

Why

Our client, a global provider of health insurance, wanted to reconnect with its customers. Having grown significantly through acquisition, in order become a company that today spans cultures, countries and time zones, they asked us to help re-centre customer experience and restore coherence to their channels of communication.

How

You can’t connect with customers without understanding them, so our research team analyzed the personae of the company’s key customer groups, involving stakeholders across its business – from IT to sales, operations or customer service. Our creative team then presented initial insights via reports, films and journey maps, before validating them with customer focus groups.

Result

We helped our client develop a customer-centric mindset internally, gaining deeper understanding of the needs and behavior of its predominantly senior customer base, while developing a brand new digital roadmap for the years ahead. And while education starts at home, we also delivered board-level educational sessions to raise awareness of the benefits of customer-centric design – leading, ultimately, to a more unified company vision.

Patient being examined
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