Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Wed, 22 May 2019 14:46:38 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2019, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Sutherland Labs as an Insurance Company: Trust, transparency and technology Thu, 16 May 2019 13:30:10 +0100 Sutherland Labs as an Insurance Company: Trust, transparency and technology

In part one of this series we considered how complex insurance is, especially when it comes to building customer relationships. It’s hard to build robust personas for insurance customer journeys, because everyone needs insurance, and often, the usual demographics make little difference to the kinds of product, travel, car and home options on offer. Our solution was to toggle-on and toggle-off all kinds of aggregated insurance options, so that regardless of how your age or status changes, you have insurance that changes with your needs. However, that might take care of the range of things a customer wants to insure during their lifetime, but it doesn’t address two big problems insurers face – trust and transparency, and technology.

If Sutherland Was An Insurer

Trust and transparency

How are consumers supposed to know if they are getting a good insurance deal? The usual way is through either price comparison sites, or by comparing anecdotal experiences with their friends. However, that never tells the full story because as we have said before, insurance is complex, and too often, that complexity is also opaque.

There’s a lack of transparency about why your renewal quote is higher, or why certain kinds of insurance are cheaper, and the lack of transparency creates a lack of trust.

Consider the wide variability of what different insurers can offer within the same vertical:

  • Some insurers own chains of repair shops for car damage, so they can offer faster repair services and with them, lower premiums because they save money on repair costs. However, they don’t necessarily cover all makes, or imported vehicles, or vehicles over a certain age and so on. For those specialist items, you need a specialist insurer, who accesses networks of repair shops and have wildly variable prices as a result.
  • Similarly, some home insurance providers have the right networks and underwriting to insure properties in flood risk areas, but most don’t. Or they might have certain kinds of specialist skills in-house, for different kinds of roofing or building materials, and others won’t and rely on networks of suppliers. Some might insure household appliances, others might not, again, depending on their access to the necessary infrastructure. So home and contents insurance can vary widely.
  • We also know that insurers compete on quotes, often by varying amounts of cover vs. customer contributions, or varying the terms of legal fee support and so on. This explains how sometimes, you can get a big saving on your car insurance by changing providers, even after years of brand loyalty. Or by haggling over your renewal quote, threatening to leave and go to another provider. It also explains how sometimes credit cards can give you free travel insurance, whereas it’s more expensive from a travel insurance provider, but cheaper if it’s bundled with a holiday package from a major tour operator.

The consumer experiences this wide variation in price –  for apparently similar products – as a trust issue. They often feel stung by more expensive quotes, or badly let down by cheap quotes that have hidden charges. There’s a lack of transparency about why your renewal quote is higher, or why certain kinds of insurance are cheaper, and the lack of transparency creates a lack of trust. Consider this example of a typical insurance trust problem:

  • Customer A has a rusty old car, which she insures for the basic low cost package. She lives in a cottage near a river in a rural location. The cottage has a thatched roof. She pays little for her car insurance, lots for her home and contents, even though she has old furniture and few valuables.
  • Customer B has a new car, which she insures fully comprehensive. She lives in a new house in a town, no flood risk, with a new build slate roof with a 25 year guarantee. She also has a whole load of new home electronics and antique furniture. She pays more for his car insurance, but less than a fully comprehensive package on Customer A’s car. Her home insurance is much lower.

What’s the trust issue? Well, Customer A and Customer B are the same person, Ms. C, before and after she gets a new job and relocates to a new area. Does Ms. C therefore trust her old, expensive home insurer for her new home? No. Does she trust her old insurer with her new car? No. Even though her old insurer was specialized for the type of property (old, flood risk) and offered a fair package for the old car (third party), the old insurer appears more expensive when the product changes from an old, high risk scenario to new low insurance risk scenario (a new home and new car). Her new insurer might not have been nearly as competitive if she had tried to get them to insure the old place, and the old car. The reasons for this are obvious to the insurer, but not to the customer.

Total transparency and price comparison as a customer service

We would make the price relationship completely transparent, and break down precisely how much Ms. C’s premiums were and why, and offer her all the information she needs to make an informed choice about choosing another product. We would also offer a free comparison tool, to encourage Ms. C to compare our products with the competition on a like-for-like basis, not on price and similarity. The purpose of this apparently counter-productive move is simple:

  • Trust is key in human centric design, so being transparent will enable a better connection with the customer (which is why so many other commercial services offer itemised billing). Will customers always go cheaper? Maybe, maybe not. They may well not be price-sensitive, but favour convenience or added value (remember, we are toggle-on, toggle-off). But customers always go for transparent over opaque.
  • Going cheaper has a friction cost in changing all your details over, filling in forms, payment details and so on. If you have a really engaged, trusting relationship with your customer, that friction might not seem worth it to save marginal amounts of money on a less transparent provider. Is a 10% cheaper quote worth the hassle? How much is your time worth?

A completely transparent approach, with price comparison tools, means we are recognizing the central role of the price point in insurance customer journeys and building a more human-centric customer experience around price transparency. We can also ensure we compensate for price comparison sites tendency to put low-budget, low service products alongside more expensive, higher service products without highlighting the differences in a really transparent way.

Will customers always go cheaper? Maybe, maybe not. But customers always go for transparent over opaque.

Smart technology and the future

In many respects, the role of smart technology in insurance is a follow-on from the need to improve price points, and also the need to improve transparency and find ways to lower premiums without discriminating on statistical markers like age and gender. Sure, women are less likely to be involved in accidents than men, and over-fifties are more likely to maintain their homes to a high standard and take safer holidays, and younger people are more active and less likely to need health care, but those discriminatory price-risk differentiator days are over.

However, suddenly, we have smart homes and wearable tech, which enable a whole new level of granular insight which is much better than the discriminatory blunt instrument of actuarial data.

Smart home tech enables energy efficiency, and also improves monitoring, reduces burst pipes, fire risk and the likelihood of burglary. So a customer with the full smart home package should expect a lower premium than one without it.

  • Cars with smart data recorders (as already proven with smartphone app based insurance products) can identify lower risk car owners, and reward them with lower premiums. Adding in-car breathalyzers and autonomous speed limiters (already in discussion) should also improve premiums.
  • Owners with wearable fitness trackers can demonstrate a healthy lifestyle and reasonably expect better health insurance premiums. Similarly, smart scales (measuring water and fat content) and various other biometric tech (sleep trackers and blood pressure monitors) could further improve offerings, especially within at-risk demographics.

There are a world of technological tools that can improve insurance premiums by generating a much more accurate measure of risk for each individual customer. Again, this is all about personalization for price. Because we have a fully transparent approach in our Sutherland Labs insurance store, we would offer all customers all the technology enabled options they could use to reduce their premium.  So when it comes to renewal time, we’d offer discounts for linking-up smart homes, in-car tech, and wearables against relevant packages. That means customers could make informed choices, and reduce their premiums based on lifestyle choices, not demographics. For old-age fitness fanatics, energy conscious homeowners and safe drivers, it means they can enjoy the financial benefit of belonging to a non-gendered, non-age limited dataset, not demographic.

If Sutherland Labs was an insurer…?

We should point out that the team have partly imagineered a bunch of new ideas, partly pulled together the best human centric service design examples we’ve encountered in insurance, financial services and lifestyle products we’ve experienced. However in this post, and part one (on personas, see here) we have taken our human-centric design approach, and applied it to a fundamentally human problem that insurance represents, the idea that stuff happens. To everyone, all kinds at all times.

For an industry that has remained more or less unchanged for decades, it feels like the technology is finally here, and the service design skills, to finally take some of the risk out of being an insurance company using human-centric design.

Sutherland Labs as an Insurance Company: The Persona Problem Wed, 01 May 2019 14:46:21 +0100 Sutherland Labs as an Insurance Company: The Persona Problem

Insurance is a complex business, and for the experience designer, it presents some truly unique challenges. Perhaps the most obvious one is the inescapable fact that insurance embodies a range of products and services that, with luck, you’ll never need or want to use. Think about that, it’s up there with ejector seats and flare guns.

Image by Sonja Kozik

Image by Sonja Kozik

This represents a double-edged sword for insurers who want to build stronger customer engagement, because it means when their customer interacts with them most – and is most available for a new product upsell – it’s usually when they are having a really bad day. For the rest of their customers, if they’ve just received a renewal reminder for a service they have never claimed for, it often prompts a trip to a cute-mammal-themed price comparison site. It’s lose:lose on the customer engagement stakes, unless you get creative.

For insurers, this need for creativity is just the tip of the iceberg. Their customer service has to appear seamless, but behind it there are layers of back-office complexity. It’s an often confusing set of relationships between the insurance products, regulatory environments, lawyers, large financial service companies and small independent specialists, independent financial advisors and insurance brokers, mortgage lenders, underwriters, claims assessors, and various support services that service and fulfil insurance claims. Meanwhile, on the product and service front, let’s not forget that insurance can be structured around the individual, groups, items of property, contracts, lifetimes, buildings, portions of buildings, vehicles, other people’s vehicles, unplanned events like accidents, planned events like dentistry, the list is almost endless. It is also all governed by mathematical theorems describing probabilities, as opposed to reality (which is how most of us experience the world).

It is a world of moving targets, hypothetical scenarios, and prices that don’t always track up and down as the customer might expect, rewarding loyalty like so many other services do. Which is why we assembled some of the labs team for a pizza-fuelled human-centric design marathon to imagine what our ultimate insurance offering might look like, offering up some of the best design ideas we’ve studied in the world of financial services… presenting Sutherland Labs as an Insurance Company.

The insurance persona problem

There’s one clear issue with insurance customer journeys, and that’s that they tend to be a bit one-size-fits-all. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. Discrimination.

    Yes, we all recall the old days when there were insurers who would only handle specialized groups, like car insurers for women, or students, or over-50s. That sort of thing might have enabled cheaper premiums based on risk and actuarial data, but it also established a precedent that excluded people on the basis of age or gender. Which is a bad thing. So, offering insurance that appears (or is) too targeted at specific customer personas risks falling foul of the regulators.

  2. Ubiquity.

    Sooner or later, everybody insures something. From homes to vehicles, pets, their family or themselves, for holidays or health, or accidental loss or damage to their shiny new smartphone, the list is very long and the demographics are very wide. This means it’s genuinely difficult to define who needs what, and when. For example, you might think smartphone insurance is bound to be more attractive to the heaviest smartphone users, but this isn’t the case, after all, nobody needed it before the iPhone came out in 2008, and since then, those 25-44 single early adopters have all become 35-54, and got phones for their over 65 mum, dad, grandpa and under-12 kids. So who is the persona we try to reach with smartphone insurance now? All of the above.

This persona issue means in the insurance world they tend to view their customers very broadly, like this example below:

  1. Group A.

    Mature generation, 45+, with broad categorizations of consumption, i.e., home owner, mature mortgage user, one or more cars, school-university age children, could be employed or retired.

  2. Group B.

    Younger market, 25-44, with equally broad categories of consumption, i.e. rent or new mortgage, one or more cars, employed.

This simple categorization works reasonably well, doesn’t it? After all, travel, vehicles, homes, contents, electronic items, and so on, these have very broad demographics and too much differentiation doesn’t seem necessary. An accident is an accident, a gadget is a gadget, travelling and holidays are much the same regardless of your age (who doesn’t like a dip in the pool or a dance in the moonlight, right?) But this approach has created insurance’s lack of stickiness  – meaning once you’ve bought insurance you don’t need to think about it, or the insurer, until you need it or need to renew it. It’s not designed to engage with your persona.

Our solution… lifetime customer insurance journeys

This feels like a missed opportunity to engage the customer around the many, many things they need to insure over time, and an opportunity to make insurance as frictionless as possible. So we reimagined the insurer offering to toggle on, and toggle off. Yes, when you insure with Sutherland Labs, we don’t categorize our customers by their vertical, or an overly broad persona. Our imaginary customers get to toggle on, and toggle off all the things they need to insure throughout their lifetime. Like this:

  • Jen, aged 18, toggles on travel insurance, plus items up to £1,000 to cover her camera and iPhone. Then she realizes her iPhone comes with insurance from her phone provider, so she toggles that one off.
  • Jen, aged 23 toggles on the ski supplement for her travel package, plus rental insurance for her new flatshare. And then toggles that off because she moves home for a couple of months, before toggling it back on for her new flatshare. She also toggles on insurance for her car.
  • After years of toggling on various items, like iPhones, new flats, new computers and so on, Jen buys a flat aged 29, with help from her parents. She now needs contents insurance, and building insurance for her share of the lease liability. She toggles those on, toggles off her rental insurance, and she also toggles on personal injury cover and mortgage protection cover.
  • Some years pass, Jen is now moving in with her life partner, and they need to toggle on extra insurance for joint cover, more contents, two cars, winter sports, coverage for her partner’s collection of antique vases… etc.
  • They have children, so toggle on life insurance and family health plans, plus need more cover for their holidays. Also, they now have three cats and two dogs, which means toggling on more pet cover.
  • Aged 70, Jen and partner are downsizing into a flat, and helping their kids buy a home, and want to share insurance costs, which she toggles on. Then they add funeral cover and enhanced medical care, plus they buy a vintage car for weekend fun trips which needs special cover. They also only have one cat now, so they toggle back the pet cover.

The real advantage of this approach for both Jen and us as her insurer, is to keep the customer at the heart of their insurance experience. Jen decides how to build her package, and we respond to her changing needs across verticals, rather than build the package for a specific vertical and assume they’ll go elsewhere to insure their other items. This also means we don’t commoditize our service (turn it into a price comparison target, because it’s a bespoke personal product) and our customers have a reason to regularly check-in to us, rather than only once a year to renew.

More importantly, it enables much better customer journey mapping, and an insight into a customer’s lifetime needs, which in turn, enables us to build a set of personas that reflect non-gendered, non-age weighted, behaviorally-driven insurance needs and build products to match.

Enhancing the stickiness of the experience through subscription models

In fact, we don’t do annual premiums. Our insurance offering would use rolling premiums, like a subscription, with variable rates that reflect variable risk. You are more likely to make a winter sports travel claim in the winter, more likely to have a car accident and a burst pipe too, so we vary rates by season and if you are not going on holiday, barely drive and have a properly insulated home, we charge less. As with the toggle-on toggle-off process, this kind of flexible subscription model is a way of personalising the experience. (The variable costs and the problems it can cause will be the subject of part two, by the way).

With our enhanced toggle-on, toggle-off offering, we have a stickier customer experience, using personalization to gear up for a broader range of personas despite the challenges of building highly differentiated risk-based insurance products that don’t discriminate on age or gender.


In Part 2 of Sutherland Labs as… an Insurance Company  we consider two more thorny issues for insurers…  the challenge of building customer loyalty, and the need to engage with technology to build more human centric products.

The Land Before Price Comparison Wed, 01 May 2019 13:31:01 +0100 The Land Before Price Comparison

In the good old days when people worked one job for their whole life and changed address about once every three decades, a different breed of insurance aggregator walked the streets. The broker.


When you came of age and finally needed insurance of your own, you would be introduced to one of these dapper folks, and they would sit down and have a conversation with you about what you needed in terms of insurance, and what you wanted out of the experience. They built a personal relationship with you, so that they could recommend a product that suit your actual needs instead of being a vague approximation.

The broker received a small cut of every insurance policy that they sold, but they also fulfilled a vital function that the modern industry has almost entirely lost. They built personal relationships with both the customers and the insurance companies, fulfilling not only the absolutely vital role of customer service, but also bringing personal judgement into the equation, preventing either customers or insurance companies from being tricked or confused by their counterpart on the other side of the desk. They also introduced an element of flexibility to the cover on offer, contacting underwriters directly and negotiating rates based on the specific insurance that was required instead of having to make every round peg fit a square hole.

Today, there is a lot of confusion surrounding insurance. Some of this is because information is poorly communicated to the end user, treated as common knowledge to the point that almost nobody knows the full extent of the cover that they have, but part of it is also due to intentionally misleading communication on the part of an industry that does not want to pay out on its policies, and that can avoid paying out by providing less cover than might have been expected.

In the absence of brokers, we now have aggregator sites. These sites take control away from the insurance companies, destroy any attempt that they might be making to create a customer experience, and provide only zero-loyalty custom in return for their significant cut. More importantly, they force insurers to compete with one another on an even playing field of price matching, completely discounting the different levels of service that the different providers actually offer.

Commoditization has been the bane of the industry. Price wars and aggregator sites have made cost the only talking point, resulting in a lack of transparency about what is actually on offer for the money paid, a lack of trust due to the bartering mentality and a lack of value adding services for customers like variable subscription models, loyalty rewards and bonuses for favourable behavior.

These aggregators also introduce their own set of pain points, forcing users to fill in their details over and over, providing vastly different information to the aggregator from what they eventually have to provide to their insurer and resulting in ceaseless confusion. To add to this, individual retailers are now trying to fill the role of brokers themselves, attaching insurance for specific products and services as an upsell option, resulting in overlapping insurance policies abounding. Banks are also getting in on the act, adding specific insurances on as loyalty bonuses for certain accounts. The end result is many people paying for cover that they do not need, but a system so convoluted and disconnected from them that they have no way of opting out.

The last thing that the insurance industry needs is more middle-men muddying the waters further, but there are certainly parts of the broker experience that insurers could learn from if they wish to stay alive in a market being disrupted by new and more agile competitors. Customization, personal relationships, better vetting, more transparency, communication that provides the user with what they need to know and not just a massive impassable block of text. There are so many lessons that can be learned from the way that brokers used to do business that are supremely applicable to the marketplace of the future – the only challenge will be introducing these old ideas back into a technologically saturated market that has been taught all the wrong lessons about insurance.

Let’s play with shapes: expand, fold, convert, hide or store! Tue, 23 Apr 2019 16:49:51 +0100 Let’s play with shapes: expand, fold, convert, hide or store!

I recently spent some time at Milan Design week where a number of interesting designs caught my eye, all of which can be converted into other forms depending on the desire of the user.



TAMU chair prototype by Patrick Jouin

Patrick Jouin, a French designer, revealed a prototype of the TAMU chair which is produced via a generative design process using Dassault Systèmes 3Dexperience, a 3D printing platform that attempts to replicate organic processes using machine algorithms. Inspired by nature, the prototype features a geometric design, is completely foldable, and uses as least material as possible.



Mobile Volume Hanger by Seitaro Uchida

Retailers, I have spotted the perfect hanger which easy to use and store gaining space according to your needs. Conceived as an origami by the Japanese young talent Seitaro Uchida, the mobile volume hanger is available in 2 colors with plastic material. We are looking forward to see if it could be developed using different materials such as wood.



Objets Nomades by Louis Vuitton

I visited the Louis Vuitton exhibitions which featured new products in their Objets Nomades collection at the Palazzo Bocconi. These featured furniture born from collaborations of designers like Atelier Biagetti and Zanellato/Bortotto. Among other designs I spotted a lovely chair that can be converted as a table and leather stool that can be folded if no longer used.



Vitrine television

VitraPanasonic and designer Daniel Rybakken have collaborated to create the concealed Vitrine television that fits naturally into any contemporary living space. Surrounded by a simple wood frame and casing where the electronic components are hidden, the pane of glass becomes a TV OLED screen once switched on.



Collector’s Case by Lanzavecchia + Wai and Globe-Trotter for Wallpaper * Handmade

Lanzavecchia + Wai presented an expandable accordion-style bag manufactured by Globe-Trotter using vulcanised fibreboard in a factory which still uses machinery from the Victorian era. You can use it as hand bag but also as suitcase thanks to the leather accordion mechanism.

The Dark Side of Customer Centricity Tue, 23 Apr 2019 12:09:39 +0100 The Dark Side of Customer Centricity

Restaurants are always the first to feel the sting of any sort of economic disruption so it should come as no surprise that chain-restaurants have been looking at technological solutions to their tight margins.

There have already been some massive successes like McDonalds touchscreen self-serve kiosks or Domino’s intricate timing system but for more traditional “family-style” restaurants table-top tablet systems like Ziosk and Presto have been fundamental in cutting down the labour of their servers. Using these devices customers can order additional drinks, appetisers, desserts and even pay their bill without ever needing to interact with a member of staff. It even provides customers with one last check to make sure that they were happy with their service before they depart.

The Dark Side of Customer Centricity

We have been seeing this kind of customer satisfaction survey on websites and apps for years, as a digital pop-up that you can just swat off. But now we are seeing this kind of customer experience evaluation embedded in real life situations, not as something that can be easily ignored like a comment card, but as an inescapable part of the payment process.

In a perfect world this would be a positive thing, more feedback leads to better user experiences, happier users lead to a more profitable business. Even individual servers within the companies would feel the immediate benefits through increased tipping; one of the original systems of user experience measurement. Unfortunately, the reality of simplified mandatory CSAT implementation is very different. Within a few months of the implementation of the Ziosk and Presto systems, some servers were seeing their shifts cut for failing to score highly enough.

This is the dark side of customer-centricity; where careers are ended by a bad review. You can find comparative examples across multiple industries. Like low scoring Uber drivers finding themselves kicked off the service or the hotel employee who was fired after an anonymous and unsubstantiated Trip Advisor review. Even in the usually untouchable halls of academia, professors can find themselves knocked off the tenure track by a bad rating on

Back in that ideal world, this cause and effect pattern could be viewed as fair, with the staff giving the best service being rewarded and those giving the worst service being rightly dismissed. Unfortunately, because these CSAT reports are opinions, there is sometimes a gap between what people say and the reality of the situation. That is why as design researchers we observe and impartially evaluate. To help determine which 1-star reviews are valuable feedback, which are complaints about things outside of the server’s control and to provide a frame of context to make the feedback meaningful.

Direct feedback from customers is always going to be essential, and it provides powerful signals that orient organizations to the most urgent problems before they can escalate. But organizations also need to do their due diligence to ensure that they have the full frame of reference; and that includes representation of front-line employees too.

As services continue to blur the line between customer and employee, only an approach that encompasses the whole ecosystem is going to be successful. Listening to the voice of the collective, not just the voice of the customer.

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
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


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.


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.


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
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


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.


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.


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
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


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.


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.


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