Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Thu, 24 Sep 2020 13:55:55 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2020, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Bringing Service Design Concepts to Life Thu, 17 Sep 2020 15:29:59 +0100 Bringing Service Design Concepts to Life

In our last post, we learned to reframe our perspective and recognize that products, whether physical or digital, are often part of a larger service.

To help bring this idea to life, we’ve included a real-world case study that showcases how service design can be applied to new product discovery and launches. In this example, Sutherland Labs worked hand-in-hand with a large technology client to explore how a new, innovative medical device could be brought to market.

Image Credit: Icons 8

Image Credit: Icons 8

Case Study: Applying service design to a healthtech product


Our client, an internal research and design lab for a large technology provider, wanted to better understand how (and if) a new concept medical device would bring value to the market. In order to achieve this, the company needed to identify the unique value offered to both patients and providers while also determining how the product might fit into the current healthcare system.


To achieve this, Sutherland Labs went into the field throughout the US and visited a broad range of healthcare providers’ to understand their ecosystems and if/how this product might fit into it. Throughout our fieldwork we deployed a variety of methods including interviews, card sorts, live co-created journey maps, and future concept forecasting to empathize and understand these ecosystems and contextualize the product as a service.


As in many research projects, we discovered a variety of unidentified actors, such as other staff in healthcare provider offices, who would play a large part in making this product and service experience seamless and successful for both patients and providers.  Our fieldwork also highlighted other key channels and challenges to design for, such as data interoperability between back-end health systems and medical device regulations which would need to be accounted for.

Save money, time, and effort from potentially investing in the wrong technology, or developing a great technology in the wrong direction.

To evidence our findings and distill complex information, we created a future-state service blueprint and designed a high-res wireframe onboarding app that would be used by medical staff and patients to support the core medical device. Insights such as customer ease, provider comfort and liability, and medical regulations informed and inspired all design decisions for the app.

Overall, our design deliverables transformed research insights into real-world concepts that strategically helped our client decide whether to invest, or divest, in this innovation early in its lifecycle. Importantly, this helps them save money, time, and effort from potentially investing in the wrong technology or developing a great technology in the wrong direction.

In our next article, we’re going to explore how loving problems, not solutions, will help you focus your efforts, save time and money and deliver on business and user priorities. 

If you’re interested in learning more about service design, we’d love to talk to you about any challenges you may be facing. For more information, please contact or sign up to our newsletter below. 

Labs Life: Getting to Know Kellie Hodge Mon, 24 Aug 2020 15:37:48 +0100 Labs Life: Getting to Know Kellie Hodge

Welcome back to another exciting round of quickfire questions and astounding answers. Labs Life; where you get to take a peer behind the curtain at the inner workings of the Sutherland Labs, and more importantly, the people who make everything work! This time we have bribed our way into the office of Kellie Hodge in San Francisco, where we will find out everything there is not know about being a Principal Design Researcher.

Image credit: Sutherland Labs

Explain your job to us like we are five-years-old

That’s easy because I have a seven-year-old! I say that when Mummy is away on trips, she talks to all sorts of interesting people and learns how technology could help them. She was obviously impressed, because she wrote a nice note to Momma’s work asking if we could make her a talking robot. 

I’m a working parent, so my day starts early. Before the lockdown, getting the little one off to school and commuting into the city involved a lot of caffeine and sometimes a tiny bit of shouting. Now caffeine and shouting is still involved but the distance covered is a little shorter. Time at work varies greatly: it can be heads-down writing, collaborating with colleagues on research design; the showmanship of facilitation; or being out in the field. Even during the pandemic, all these things still happen, but remotely. I’m grateful for the variety and flexibility I find at Sutherland – it’s a great place to be a parent and do exciting work.

What do you do for fun?

We love California for its natural beauty, so you’ll find us outdoors as much as possible. In the winter there’s snowboarding in Tahoe. Sometimes we went up for the day and collected our daughter from school in our snow gear. Couldn’t do that when we lived in East London!

What did you do before Sutherland?

The last few years have been pure design research. I’ve practiced in agencies, start-ups, and as a freelancer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier in my career, I was more of a generalist, working in product, engineering and the kinds of all-the-hats roles you find in seed stage start-ups. But all those earlier roles involved a significant element of research – not necessarily as part of the job description, but because I don’t know any other effective way to build systems for humans.  

I do think the diversity of my early career experience has been helpful. I was once the person who had to figure out what to use scarce developer time to build. You get such rich, often quite emotional insights from fieldwork but turning them into clear, practical recommendations for your stakeholders is a whole other skillset.

What do you think the future holds for the industry?

I see further acceleration of the trend towards research as an organizational learning experience. So, in turn I see more collaboration ahead; more active involvement of stakeholders; and more co-creation of research outputs. There will also need to be increased involvement from visual designers to perfect the art of making complex ideas easier to share and communicate.  

The influence of data science is an extremely powerful tool to surface behavioral patterns across large populations. This isn’t going away, and sometimes there is an unhelpful tension between qualitative and quantitative disciplines. Of course, they both have great strengths, and I believe that smart teams will combine both disciplines.

Just how much shouting does it take to move a reluctant six-year old? Will Kellie get to snowboard around London?  Sign up to our newsletter to receive the next exciting episode of Labs Life!

Surprise, Your Product is Likely a Service! Tue, 18 Aug 2020 15:07:01 +0100 Surprise, Your Product is Likely a Service!

In a short space of time, COVID-19 has left a marked impact on organizations around the world.  With business in a state of flux, it’s clear this collective challenge doesn’t discriminate. To succeed, we must adapt and find new ways to work together.

At Sutherland Labs, we have produced a series of articles that push the discussion forward. Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring how service design impacts multiple facets of an organization — and why it’s particularly relevant now.

All image credit: Icons 8

All image credit: Icons 8

With the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, the world has been thrust into a fractured state. Technology is now more important than ever, as we rely on video conferencing software to connect teams and ensure that companies can continue to deliver products and services.

What was already a diverse and interconnected customer journey has now become even more complex.

Thanks to a new landscape of digital devices, online platforms and shifting customer expectations, the way in which companies design experiences is changing rapidly. And for good reason, too.

Experience is now a key driver in brand preference, so much so that 86% of all buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. By putting the customer at the heart of your service design strategy, organizations can identify user feedback, understand key issues and build an architecture and framework that delivers on an audience’s specific wants and needs.

But the need for service design isn’t just limited to SaaS providers like Salesforce, MailChimp or HubSpot – it’s actually made up of product, marketing and customer support.

Believe it or not, the majority of products that we encounter are actually part of a larger service network. Sometimes these touchpoints have been designed, but often there are naturally occurring gaps that service design can help fill.

To better make sense of this, let’s play a quick thought experiment.

All image credit: Icons 8

All image credit: Icons 8

Grillr | A smart barbeque – A lesson in service design

You just bought the best barbeque in all the land – the Grillr. This grill has it all – accurate heat, quick start functionality and a new to market feature: an array of sensors that track grill usage in an app so that users can access real-time feedback on how to prepare the perfect steak or veggie burger.

While the Grillr sounds like a simple product, orchestrating the user experience around it is quite complex, particularly given its variety of digital and physical touchpoints. Let’s take a step back, then, and see how the Grillr starts to look and feel like part of a wider service offering.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do you onboard purchasers to the product?
  • What type of media and channels do you provide during onboarding?
  • Is there a community to connect and share recipes & best practices? If so, what channels are used and are they aligned?
  • In terms of technical support, what channels and modalities do you use to make product failures easy to fix? And how are customers passed between these channels to make their experience as seamless as possible?
  • Have you conducted human-centred research, both quantitative and qualitative, to design a customer experience that delivers on what users truly value?

While the Grillr is of course a product, it’s unequivocally clear that success is intrinsically linked to its service design. In other words, the product will fail unless it carefully considers, addresses and delivers on the wider envelope of services that surround the various user journeys.

In recent years, this “Product-as-a-Service” perspective has become increasingly important. As digital and physical products intertwine, customer expectations for seamlessly orchestrated experiences have risen dramatically.

Applying a service design lens to products

To better meet new customer expectations, service design does more than just provide the means to fulfil a user’s needs. It means shifting your focus from selling a tangible product to selling solutions and outcomes, which delivers value above and beyond a single item.

While applying a service design lens sounds simple, we frequently hear from organizations that activating this shift internally can be a struggle. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be this way. Making the transition from a product to service design perspective requires a carefully crafted, strategic approach.

When done properly, you can feel confident knowing that the larger service system and level around your product has been accounted for.

In our next article, we will share a recent case study where Sutherland Labs helped a large tech company recognize their concept medical device was actually part of a larger service they would need to provide for the product to be successful. 

Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter below so you don’t miss the next article in the series!

Burning Questions: What tools can you use for remote research? Wed, 05 Aug 2020 08:32:10 +0100 Burning Questions: What tools can you use for remote research?

There are so many remote tools available that allow teams to conduct research, analyse results and collaborate in workshops. In this Burning Question, Kimia Abbassian shares some of the top tools the team in Sutherland Labs recommend.

In the Burning Questions series we asked our design experts to tackle some common questions we are asked by clients, from some of our favourite tools to practical tips to get the best from your design activities. Test our experts by submitting your Burning Question here!

To find out more about our remote service offerings visit our dedicated web page, or sign up to our monthly newsletter here.

The Food Delivery App Experience During COVID 19 – 10 Key Lessons Fri, 31 Jul 2020 12:04:09 +0100 The Food Delivery App Experience During COVID 19 – 10 Key Lessons

COVID-19 has been a uniquely global challenge and food delivery apps have faced similar unprecedented circumstances.

In April/May, the UXalliance, led by our Colombian partners Usaria undertook a benchmark of 47 supermarket and restaurant delivery apps across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Sutherland Labs contributed to the UK part of the study. The aim was to understand how Covid affected the user experience of the apps and wider services and identify some key lessons.

Image Credit: Markus Spiske

Image Credit: Markus Spiske

There’s been much to learn about responding to new constraints and evolving customer behaviour, both in the short and long term.

1. Apps had diverse COVID-19 messaging on the home screen
68% of reviewed apps had a prominent COVID feature on their home screen, but messages did vary between providers. Messages included Stay at Home related messages, updates on delivery services, discounts on products and deliveries, service updates, customer care information and social campaigns.

89% of the apps referred to the pandemic without directly mentioning it, opting for practical and positive messages such as “Stay Home” and “Our main concern is your safety.”

2. Comprehensive COVID-19 information was provided, but not easy to find
A majority of apps (58%) included detailed practical information on the provider response to COVID-19, and practicalities about delivery, but this was often included within general Support and FAQ sections, which had a low priority within the IA of many apps. This reduced the likelihood of it being read despite its potential importance.

89% of the apps referred to the pandemic without directly mentioning it, opting for practical and positive messages such as “Stay Home” and “Our main concern is your safety.”

3. Some apps prioritised vulnerable customers and key workers for delivery
The strain on delivery services was evident globally, with many providers struggling to maintain deliveries. Providers in some countries responded with empathy and strengthening longer term relationships by prioritising vulnerable customers and key workers for delivery. For example, Getir (Turkey) gave priority to those over 65 years old and health workers, while Enselunga en Casa (Italy) offered discounts and reserved 40% off delivery slots for those over 65 years old.

4. Providers were showing support for customers and independent delivery staff
Many providers further sought to build empathy and support their wider communities through discounts and social initiatives. 29% of apps supported social initiatives to help vulnerable customers, often with existing charities. For example, Swiggy (India) worked with an NGO to deliver food for the economically vulnerable and migrant workers, while Sainsbury’s (UK) created a new charity donations section.

Discounting was also evident on deliveries and products, with 10 apps offering discounts, for example on health-related products or free delivery. 11st (South Korea) also combined discounting with community support by offering discount coupons for small local businesses.

Many apps with independent driver networks offered support during the pandemic. Apps were also supporting independent delivery providers, for example, Uber Eats(Colombia and Mexico) provided financial support for 14 days after diagnosis with COVID-19. Swiggy (India) extended this cover to the families of delivery staff too.

5. New product categories emerged around COVID-19
Product inventories were adjusted within some apps to accommodate new COVID-19 categories, For example, Postmates (US) created a new Essentials category andSainsburys (UK) created a home baking category, which reflects changing behaviours during lockdown.

Health also emerged as a theme. The most substantial shift was evident with Gojek (Indonesia), who partnered with Halodoc to offer drugstore products, telemedicine and access to free COVID-19 tests in Jakarta.

While supply shortages are understandable during the pandemic, not having visibility of what is limited or unavailable does create a clear UX issue, causing increased customer effort.

6. Product availability is a challenge, but lack of transparency makes it worse
Some product lines were unavailable within apps due to shortage during Covid. However, only one app, Coupang Eats (South Korea) explicitly announced out of stock items, with 4 others identifying categories where product shortages existed without being specific. Low stock warnings were also rare. In most instances customers would either only become aware of shortage at checkout, or on delivery.

While supply shortages are understandable during the pandemic, not having visibility of what is limited or unavailable does create a clear UX issue, causing increased customer effort.

7. Reassurance about delivery safety was near universal
93% of reviewed apps outlined biosafety measures such as the use of face masks, gloves and antibacterial gel for delivery staff. This increased safety was reassuring to customers as a customer survey which supported this benchmark identified that 40.9% of respondents were either concerned or very concerned about possible COVID-19 infection when ordering food for delivery. However, we did find a number of instances where delivery staff were not complying.

93% of reviewed apps outlined biosafety measures such as the use of face masks, gloves and antibacterial gel for delivery staff.

8. Service innovation in delivery
Instances were noted where retailers had innovated to overcome challenges in delivery and reducing the risk of infection during delivery.

Morrisons (UK) were notable in offering a small selection of pre-configured food boxes, offering key options e.g. milk, bread, vegetables, but no choice in content. This lack of choice enabled them to provide a rapid turnaround of deliveries during a period when they were least available.

A strong shift was also noted towards non cash payment, with 85% of apps now promoting this method. While this was already well established in some markets, payment of cash on delivery is common practice.

Other instances were noted where physical interaction had been limited with staff. For example, the Instacart (US) app introducing support for scanning of ID cards to prove age, rather relying on delivery staff to check this.

9.Customer service has become a secondary priority
The strain on companies was evident as customer service channels were reprioritised. Out of the 47 apps, only 10 offered customer service hotlines, with support switching to email in some instances as staff work from home.

Those providers offering chat such as 11st (South Korea) and Big Basket (India) generally stood out in customer service. Some apps added new communication features during the Pandemic to better support easier delivery. Gojek (Indonesia) and Rappi (Colombia) also added chats with delivery drivers to allow co-ordination about the drop off of goods.

A strong shift was also noted towards non cash payment, with 85% of apps now promoting this method.

10.If you want to see a successful experience adaptation during COVID-19, take a look at Gojek (Indonesia)
We scored all the apps for app UX and wider CX (covering delivery and customer service) and they scored a highly creditable 97% UX score and 84% CX score, placing them in the top tier for both measures (UX Score and CX Score are standardized benchmark measures from the UXalliance, consisting of a scorecard of desirable attributes.  Each have a maximum possible score of 100%). They shifted the focus of their business more towards home food delivery and addressed wider customer needs around the pandemic head-on with an alliance with Haladoc to provide medical consultations, pharmaceutical products and access to COVID-19 tests. They increased the effectiveness of their delivery service by communicating more, by introducing a driver chat and showed clear empathy when they reduced management salaries to contribute to a hardship fund for drivers partners and affiliates. As a digital-first business they did have advantages over many app providers, but they responded decisively and with compassion during a crisis which is a lesson to us all.

If you’d like to find out more about the UXalliance Food Delivery Benchmark, or other work that the UX Alliance does then please contact Simon Herd.

A Smarter Approach to Customer Support Tue, 28 Apr 2020 16:19:00 +0100 A Smarter Approach to Customer Support

Our client wanted their digital customer support to work better for customers.

They began by looking at the current experience in a holistic way, involving both their customers and their own support agents.

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

The Challenge

Our client, a major technology brand, needed to make improvements to the support experience for their digital work tools. While analytics had identified pain points in distinct areas of the experience they lacked a full picture of how customers were using their digital support channels, or the role that customer service agents played in that process.

To build an effective strategy for the future they needed to understand real customer behaviors around support.

The Approach

Over a series of engagements we helped our client gain a better knowledge of the end-to-end support experience of customers, as well as gather intelligence from their own customer support agents.

Workplace Shadowing with Agents and Home Visits with Customers

We spent time with both customers and agents in their own environments, observing each as they dealt with support issues in real time. Immersive research methods helped us to reveal both the issues users could vocalize, plus unspoken needs and desires. Furthermore we explored problem solving strategies and the language or terminology used by customers and agents to feed into the design of a future support experience.

Customer Journey Mapping and Personas

Our team translated research insights into Customer Journey Maps, providing a holistic view of support journeys for key customer types. These maps, alongside rich behavior based personas helped to identify further pain points and opportunity areas – such as the desire among users for greater self-serve.

Prototyping the Future Support Experience

To inform future design direction, our UX designers produced wireframes to be used as tools to illustrate, test and refine design recommendations as they might appear in future support journeys.

The Results

Our engagements have provided the client deep insight into what makes an ideal support experience from both customers and their own agents. This has been instrumental in shaping their future digital experience.

70+ design recommendations were implemented to improve the overall support experience, including navigation, page design, terminology, content.

40% reduction in support volume since improvements to navigation, self-serve channels and UI design.

Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare Thu, 21 Nov 2019 15:59:44 +0100 Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare

Our client wanted to rethink their entire approach to hiring graduates.

The global healthcare and pharmaceutical brand was investing in graduate programmes in EMEA, but a low proportion of these graduates converted into full time positions.

Graduate insights report

The Challenge

Leaders were questioning the effectiveness of graduate hiring in EMEA, and wanted to see a more strategic approach that would better serve the needs of the business. The hiring and retention of new capabilities is critical to the long term health of the organization and for building a talent pipeline for the future.

We devised an approach to help our client understand pain points in the current graduate experience, identify opportunities for innovation, and to build a strategic roadmap for the future.


Research activities

The Approach

Voice of the Customer Research

We knew that exploring graduate needs was important, but to improve internal confidence and create a shared vision for the future we wanted to view the challenge from many different perspectives. To gain a wide view we began with a ‘voice of the customer’ study, during which our teams carried out over 150 in depth interviews and focus groups with business leaders, HR and Talent leaders, graduates and hiring managers from 5 key sites across the organization.

Strategy Workshops

Next, we analyzed and unpacked these insights in collaborative workshops with the client, mapping out graduate journeys and creating behavior based personas. These artefacts were used as communication aids internally, and also helped to illustrate design recommendations to create a more user friendly user experience.

All activities fed into and culminated in a clear and executable strategy for graduate hiring, which was tailored to be delivered to different levels of the organisation.


“When you’re designing workplace systems to support graduates you need a deep understanding of their needs, behaviors and expectations.”

Anton Artemenkov – Creative Director, Sutherland Labs

The Results

Strategic Roadmap

We helped to develop a holistic, multi-year, EMEA-wide strategy for graduate hiring and development which received full leadership support.

Key insights were translated into workstreams spanning Planning, Attraction, Selection, Onboarding, and Development stages of the graduate journey.

The client has since launched a Planning Toolkit to help capture capability and business needs and ensure they are hiring strategically for the future. As well as, a  new ‘go to market’ approach on campus and a marketing campaign to enhance their Attraction strategy.

“The VOC Research has really helped us to accelerate this initiative and ensure we have the customer at the centre of our approach – thank you!”

Vice President HR EMEA, Global Healthcare and Pharmaceutical brand 

]]> An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:43:23 +0100 An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy

Our client had ambitious plans to improve the daily working lives of employees.

The financial institution had a workforce and working practices were disparate and varied, spanning 7,000 employees in 25 countries. They wanted to build a strategy for digital channels and workplace tools that would increase productivity, build community and lead to more contented employees overall.

The Challenge

To develop a strategy to meet these aims and increase the likelihood of employee adoption, we needed to ground ourselves in the needs of their employees. Our goal was to understand employees day to day challenges and pain points, their preferred tools and workarounds, and to do this at scale to account for employees in multiple locations across the world.

Exploring employee needs

The Approach

To capture insights from a large number of employees we began with a survey, which helped us to refine the focus for subsequent rounds of immersive fieldwork. Over the next 2 months, our team travelled to six countries to interview and shadow a range of employees in their own work environments to understand their workflows, day-to-day working practices, tools, and obstacles. We also used remote interviews to reach employees in another six countries, and to ensure we covered a representative range of roles and responsibilities.

I used to think innovation was in motion here, but I just don’t see it happening as quickly as it should be. Or it’s change for no apparent reason.

Sample participant

Employees in the workplace

The Output

The insights from all rounds of research gave our client a rich picture of how employees really work, including the organisational culture, tools and processes, and current challenges. This fed into their overall digital workplace strategy, with more specific outputs including:

  • Behavior-based personas as a tool for creating empathy for employees amongst stakeholders making strategic decisions.
  • Digital channel strategy recommendations including collaboration tools and internal communications, broken down into quick wins and long term goals.
  • Employee experience best practices which were rolled out as use cases across the business.
Design thinking to 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


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.


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


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.

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


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.


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.


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