Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:26:16 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2019, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. BBC World Service: Understanding User Needs in India Tue, 10 Sep 2019 12:25:35 +0100 BBC World Service: Understanding User Needs in India

India is a place I keep coming back to. The combination of rapid change, an incredibly diverse population and a huge range of educational and life-experiences provides a fascinating set of design challenges.

Source: BBC World Service

Source: BBC World Service

From a market perspective, the opportunities are also sizeable. Take the numbers: globally, India has the second-largest online population, and the second biggest smartphone market (both after China). While internet penetration is still low (1 in 4), the country is coming online rapidly. By 2020, it’s estimated that more than 650 million Indians will be connected to the internet (that’s double the population of the US).

And this isn’t just something that’s happening in major cities. Google’s figures show that 2 out of 3 of web searches originate outside of the top 6 metros. Searches in local languages are not only up, but up by a factor of 10.

Multiple languages and standards of literacy present different design challenges to those I typically encounter in the UK. These jumped out in December when, as part of a BBC team, I visited Delhi and Mumbai to test the newly launched Marathi and Punjabi World Service websites.

By 2020, it’s estimated that more than 650 million Indians will be connected to the internet (that’s double the population of the US).

Working with our partners, PeepalDesign, we researched local news behavior – what drew readers in, what turned them off – digging into how they typically navigated news content. Our participants were multilingual, in English, Hindi, and Punjabi or Marathi. Interviews hopped between languages, as participants and our moderators code-switched depending on the topic being discussed. The number of languages and range in reading ability shaped how people interacted with our prototypes in interesting ways that we don’t often see in the UK. So, I thought I’d share some headlines.

Don’t make me type

Because people were working in a second or third language, reading and writing tended to be more error-prone and laborious, and therefore more painful. Typing a web address and creating a login to read an article was an even more pronounced barrier to entry than usual, so apps, social media login and short form content were all markedly more popular.

Make it visual

Users were also much more drawn to images than text. This is something we see in the UK too, but it manifested more strongly in Delhi and Mumbai. Our users were led by images when navigating, and often preferred scrolling photographs to reading headlines, particularly if the content leant itself to imagery, for instance topics such as the recent celebrity weddings.

Help me stay in touch with my home

In Delhi, we spoke to a number of young, second-generation Punjabis who spoke Punjabi at home but were schooled in Hindi or English. Living in Delhi with their parents, they read the news in Punjabi to help improve their skills. They appreciated the simple language used on the BBC Punjabi website, but they often asked for an in-page dictionary to support them.

Reading Punjabi news was also an important way in which Punjabis based in Delhi stayed connected with their homeland, and with friends and family living there. Our participants kept a close eye on the Punjabi news in case they needed to warn their friends and family about anything happening back home that might affect their safety.

What’s next?

We’re continuing to work with the BBC to test new concepts for the World Service, this time in Indonesia! We’re excited to see how all the findings from research throughout the world come together, and how they will shape the new website design.


Read more about this, and other BBC research projects on the BBC GEL website.

CX vs. Privacy: Big Brother is watching You(tube) Tue, 27 Aug 2019 08:20:39 +0100 CX vs. Privacy: Big Brother is watching You(tube)

Privacy is becoming a major challenge for customer experience designers. We walk a fine line between personalizing services and inadvertently misusing personal data. This complex problem is easy to understand, in theory. Homes and pockets full of connected devices provide data that enable better product and service design because we have greater insights into the customer journey, both inside the home and outside it. That data-supported insight, combined with ethnography and traditional user research, helps us design ambient, frictionless customer experiences.

Photo credit: Sebastian Scholz

Photo credit: Sebastian Scholz

Except, let’s face it, user privacy is an ethical minefield and in the world of frictionless experiences, privacy issues are fast becoming a major source of user friction. For example, I recently watched a video on a Youtube channel featuring hilariously bad products bought on Amazon, these products are now popping up for sale in my Instagram feed. Do I think that’s a coincidence? No. Can I prove it? No. And how do I rate the CX of the multiple platforms and devices involved in that? Well, I’m writing a blog post about it, and it’s going to argue there is an urgent need for human-centric journeys that make it feel less like Big Brother is watching Youtube…

The privacy problem for CX designers

No matter how much people are concerned about privacy, most experience designers could use more data in their research work. A healthy, granular set of user behavior metrics never did any harm to a good customer journey map. However, everyone knows when we see a privacy agreement on a device, software, services or whatever, most of us click agree without reading the whole privacy agreement in detail. We assume the smart lightbulbs won’t try and track our GPS signal, or sell that data to a mobile ad company. Right? And that’s a big problem because some products do that. In fact, some products do a lot more. So, as an industry, the CX community has to consider carefully the implications of privacy agreements and their effects – both positive and negative – on the customer experience, and that raises some very complex issues.

The ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ issue

Back in 2016 when Samsung advised its smart TV customers not to discuss ‘sensitive topics’ near its smart TVs because they were ‘always on’ and might record private conversations, what happened? Samsung changed their processes, fast, to avoid crippling legal action. However, this was nothing new. In the case of other brands of smart TVs, there have been a number of court cases that have shown customer data (viewing habits, browser, social media and streaming app usage metrics) is being collected and used in breach of privacy agreements with the TV provider.

The providers have usually explained this by saying they didn’t even know they were collecting that data, it’s automatic. No, really. If it wasn’t for the test cases where customers have proven unusual data is flowing from their TV out into the web, nobody would have been any the wiser. What that shows is less about individual cases and more about the fact as a consumer, you have no easy way of tracking if the privacy agreement you have signed is being honoured.

This challenge makes the privacy agreement unlike any other contract in the history of contracts. Think about employment, rent, product warranties, life insurance, holiday terms and conditions and so on. Those kinds of contracts are easy to understand and ensure they are honoured by both sides. Monitoring whether your TV is streaming usage metrics about your device is in breach of a 1000-clause agreement you clicked without reading? Not so easy. There’s a serious lack of human-centric design in privacy agreements, which means there is a growing lack of consumer trust in tech brands. The lack of transparency in most privacy agreements are bad CX just waiting to happen, when someone discovers by chance their data is being used in a way that comes as a nasty surprise (because it was buried in hundreds of pages of legalese).

The ‘Why does it need to do that and how does it do it?’ issue

In 2017 Amazon’s Alexa was famously dragged into a murder investigation, with Amazon being ordered by an Arkansas court to hand over recordings related to an Echo device in the accused’s home. In that court case, the accused also had a smart water meter, which was analysed to see if an unusual amount of water had been used (the victim drowned in a Hot Tub). Neither device had any material to the case onboard, and the case was dismissed as a tragic drunken accident, not murder. However, people naturally became concerned that Alexa was spying on them (not just would-be murderers, but ordinary people too).

In 2017 Amazon’s Alexa was famously dragged into a murder investigation, with Amazon being ordered by an Arkansas court to hand over recordings related to an Echo device in the accused’s home.

Now, obviously, a voice assistant has to listen for its wake word, or it couldn’t work. Additionally, Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t record what users say and keep it, although, you don’t know what you don’t know.  It does convert your words into text, run it through a machine learning system, parse it as a JSON string into all kinds of APIs and third party scripts, then process it back into speech and send it back to your device. Tracking your private data in that kind of complex process is hard.

Harder still, though, is justifying why thermostats or smart bulbs need to share data about your usage. For a CX designer, that kind of data could be very useful. Imagine a home that turned up the heating automatically on cold days, or dimmed the lights when you watched a movie, without having to be asked. It’s an end-to-end use case that makes a compelling argument for ambient CX. However, if that same data is also sold to an ad-retargeting company so they can slather adverts for winter jumpers or smart bulbs all over your phone without you actually wanting them to? Same data, but very different CX outcomes.

Smart watch

The ‘Privacy is a community issue’ problem

In January this year, one of the new generation video doorbells recorded a man licking a family’s front door for three hours. That’s disturbing, clearly. However, for all the other people who might have legitimate business in that doorway, what’s also disturbing is they are now on film without their knowledge or consent. That’s a whole new privacy problem waiting to happen, because your visitor’s face could be on a facial recognition database somewhere being used for everything from anti-terrorist covert ops, through to firms that analyse facial expressions to target behavioral advertising at people using social media streaming video calls. So that’s the CIA and Cambridge Analytica, maybe? Oh, and…er… you installed and signed a privacy agreement for the machine that’s invading their privacy? Ouch.

If you think that’s not really a CX issue, ask yourself how customers might feel when they learn that, technically, capturing images outside their own property and storing them electronically without consent could constitute a breach of both EU GDPR and the UK Data Protection Act, depending on what they do with that data. For example, if they capture video data via a service that uses a privacy agreement to tune its face recognition algorithms, the unwitting customer could be using someone else’s data without their consent. Maybe. It’s the greyest of grey areas, but if the camera can see the street or a property next door, there’s potential for a privacy conflict with people who appear regularly in front of that camera. That’s just for starters. The police, or council, could become involved (and have done in many UK cases) if the unauthorised video could be considered harassment or voyeurism. Plus, if the authorities discover you have shared those funny vids of the postman falling over in the ice on Youtube or whatever… yeah.

There’s arguably a lack of human-centric planning, design research and customer journey mapping in a product that can do that to a customer who thought they were innocently buying a smart home gizmo, not a potential civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution. More importantly, there’s community to consider in that scenario. This is a new dimension for CX designers, but hugely important as users take devices out into the world around them, and in doing so, capture other people’s data. The community represents a form of super-user now, and as such, we need to research the collective use of technology in public spaces.

There’s arguably a lack of human-centric planning, design research and customer journey mapping in a product that can do that to a customer who thought they were innocently buying a smart home gizmo, not a potential civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution.

Resolving privacy issues and CX

A lot of the problems CX designers face when navigating the complexity of privacy issues stems from the origins of digital privacy concerns – the digital exhaust as Google called it, back in the day. It refers to a time when online services first realized they were collecting all kinds of information they weren’t expecting about users, like their location, age, demographics etc. There was a concerted effort to take all the digital exhaust data that was costing money to host on servers, and monetize it.

Fast forward twenty years, and we have a world where your health insurance company can reward you if you complete 10,000 steps per day on your Fitbit (who have a great privacy policy, btw) – that’s great use of opt-in, ethical data usage – but also a world where your smart gadget controller app is recording your GPS, and your doorbell is recording your private conversations, just in case they could use that data somewhere down the line. That’s less great.

Clearly, the answer is simple – as all CX professionals know – human centric design is the key to fixing privacy issues. This approach sits at the heart of projects like Solid, Tim Berners-Lee’s latest endeavour with MIT, to create a privacy model where the user grants permission to every service, controlling precisely what they can – and can’t – access, no privacy agreements in sight. It’s a model that’s been discussed in various forms for years, sometimes called a ‘data escrow’ or ‘data vault’ model. It revolves around the idea that rather than harvesting your data and selling it to advertising companies – often justified as a fair means to finance the costs of giving you a free service like a social network – tech provider companies should reward people for letting them access their private data.

Privacy is an area where CX has a huge role to play, not just through human-centric design and ethical use of data, but as an industry driven by design research and user testing, CX professionals are also experts in handling data, GDPR and all things confidential. Privacy used to be a legal issue only, but now, it’s a design issue as well. As tech gets smarter, wearable, and increasingly invisible within the home and workplace, the advice to the tech world from CX designers is simple: put the customer at the centre of everything you do, and that can only mean good news for their privacy… and your bottom line.

Labs Life: Meet Jamie Blackett Thu, 22 Aug 2019 08:47:18 +0100 Labs Life: Meet Jamie Blackett

Welcome back to another exciting round of Labs Life; where we try to give our readers a little glimpse into the inner workings of the Sutherland Labs. This time we have managed to capture Designer Jamie Blackett using an elaborate series of pulleys and snares, and the team are now covering him in post-it notes until he answers all our questions.

Jamie screenprinting

What did you do before you came to the Sutherland Labs?

Jamie: If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I was a kid, would have said that I either wanted to be an illustrator, a musician in a terrible Nu-Metal band or a professional skateboarder!

I’ve got the first one ticked off, but my evolving music tastes and sheer lack of grace on a skateboard have put the other two on the back burner.

After school I initially studied Journalism and Photography, but then I took a complete change of direction after realizing that illustration was my strongest tool and becoming frustrated with the limitations of photography. I freelanced as an Illustrator, then independently studied Graphic Design in my spare time before going back to university to study Design and Illustration. This led onto more freelance work, starting a design and print studio and working at Kingston School of Art.

What do you do for fun?

Jamie: I have a screen-printing workshop that I spend a lot of time in, creating illustrations and printing these on apparel and posters. Through teaching and supporting students from all walks of life and disciplines in a hackspace workshop over the past few years I’ve helped to create a wide range of interactive projects. Gaining an appreciation for the weird and wonderful, the importance of teamwork, alternative perspectives and most importantly a good sense of humor.

I also enjoy cooking and taking trips out of London with friends. But most importantly taking advantage of the music scene and constant gigs happening in and around London! I’m really inspired by artists, musicians and designers across a variety of disciplines. And my friends, with their varied and vast accomplishments and talents make me look bad and push me to get better.

Jamie travelling

What do you think your future is going to look like?

Jamie: More companies are going to start using illustration and animation, not only as a key tool for storytelling and crafting memorable brand identities, but to humanize elements and break away from the harshness that technology can present. With more demand for design and art, we are going to need a change to education to match.

The current design and funding of schooling in the UK for creative subjects treats them like they are a lower priority than other core subjects, yet it is clear how vital good design is in our everyday and how sought after the true artisan is.

Students should be encouraged to embrace their identity and talents within their subjects, creative or otherwise. Trying to find your identity at a young age can be difficult enough, but embracing and encouraging these talents could be a step in the right direction. The current steps to introduce mindfulness in the classrooms is a great addition to the curriculum and it is something that I hope really takes off and gets adopted across the country.

Will we ever get to hear Jamie singing Nu-Metal while riding a skateboard? Will schools start teaching kids that art matters? Will we ever get all of these post-it notes off the poor guy? Come back for the next Labs Life to find out all of these answers and more!

Design Red Herrings: Where’s Your Ecosystem? Tue, 20 Aug 2019 08:34:48 +0100 Design Red Herrings: Where’s Your Ecosystem?

In Part One of our spotter’s guide to design red herrings, we considered how products like the headline grabbing voice-enabled toilet at CES this year, are more intended to showcase the engineering talent that made them than actually introduce a sustainable product design that meets a genuine human need. In this post, I’m going to explore the fundamental shift in product design that was enabled by digital services, a sea change in design philosophies that means even some products that appear to be genuine attempts at designing for consumers are, in reality, just another species of that pesky red fish.

All images: Sonja Kozik

All images: Sonja Kozik

Through the third lens

Last time we considered the three lenses through which successful innovations have to be visible; lens 1 is discovering the human need, lens 2 is equipping ourselves with tools to meet the need, and lens 3 is enabling new, valuable experiences through the tools we create. This framework for defining successful innovation was turbo-charged by the evolution of the internet and digital connectivity. For example, you can see how the telephone met a human need for long distance communication, and equipping ourselves with telecoms enabled a whole range of new experiences, like operator services, and emergency calls for fire, police and ambulance. However, the evolution of digital services enabled something more transformative for human experiences –  and in doing so, transformed our understanding of design – because it blurred the distinction between products and services forever.

If that seems like a bold statement, let’s try this little thought experiment…

  1. Ask yourself if you’d spend the money on the smartphone in your pocket if it just made telephone calls and sent SMS messages. Would that level of functionality justify the price tag of the latest iPhone or Galaxy or Pixel? No.
  2. Okay, so let’s add the ability to play HD movies and high quality audio, would that justify the price? Maybe, but what if you had to load everything onto the phone first from a computer or CD player, not via a streaming service? No.
  3. If the statements above are true, then the smartphone product with all the capabilities designed into it, is not the totality of the product you’re buying. You’re buying a smartphone and access to an ecosystem of streaming media services, games, apps and social media platforms.

We arrive back at the bold statement I made earlier, is that smartphone great product design, service design, or both? Not such a bold statement after all, is it?

Red herrings are products without an ecosystem

So these days, you might argue a product needs an ecosystem to really make sense. In fact, if you take fairly average products like Beats headphones, you see the ecosystem can work feats of magic for products. Beats sold to Apple for billions dollars, yes, Apple, who make groundbreaking, highly desirable products all day long. Did they need Beats wifi headphones, or the Beats-Music streaming service and artist ecosystem that came with them, and became Apple Music? You do the ecosystem math.

This leads us back to CES, where we can try another quick thought experiment to test that idea: 

Take two CES product categories, Smart Mirrors and 8K OLED televisions. These represent two very different design philosophies. One genre of product meets a human need and enables valuable new experiences. The other genre, is a red herring. But which is which?

At first, it’s a tough call. The smart mirrors at CES all feature voice assistants, and the ability to use facial recognition or biometric scanning to perform some sort of wizardry like picking out clothes to fit you in a dressing room, or tracking your wrinkles and helping you improve your skin. The slew of 8K OLED TVs come in all shapes and sizes, curves, transparent, built into windows, offering the very highest resolutions and sound quality we’ve ever experienced. So which one is the red herring?

Well, to answer that question, we need to go back to the root of all good product and service design, anthropology and design research. Let’s consider these technologies in a home, being used by real people in real contexts. 

  1. Different rooms in the house are characterized by different needs, and in that context, you can see how a mirror that scans your wrinkles might feel like a red herring, but a hallway mirror that displays the weather forecast and temperature suddenly makes sense because that’s where you put on your coat and shoes, and decide to take an umbrella or not.
  2. Many homes have bathroom mirrors with lights, or magnifying mirrors for applying make-up or shaving. These are well established products, so digitising those products makes sense.
  3. In a world where people wear Fitbits to track their health, and apps that track nutrition and weight, a mirror that connects to those kinds of lifestyle health monitor by measuring other vectors of your shape and size could be useful.
  4. What we are witnessing here, interestingly, is not so much the design of a mirror as a way to integrate a service ecosystem into your home when you are hands-free and multitasking, rather than expecting you to touch your smartphone. 

On the other hand, who needs a giant folding 8K TV that’s semi-transparent so you can see through it? Er, well, when you put it like that…

  1. The 8K OLED mega-TVs are undeniably clever, but in anthropological terms, the TV is generally placed on one edge of the living room, the sound quality really just needs to be loud enough to cut through the noise of the household.
  2. A see-through TV display is clever, but also strange. Think about it, a TV that is also a window? Not a great TV picture if you can kind of see through it, or a particularly good window because you kind of can’t. So why? So you can watch TV while you are looking out of the window, presumably. Maybe that makes sense in a luxury hotel lobby or an event stand, like at CES, but that’s a niche, not a user need.
  3.  Regardless of how many thousand pixels it can display is limited by the ecosystem of TV content most of which is just normal HD and so it makes no difference to a great deal of content. The household might be watching cartoons, old movies, live sports, broadcast sitcoms, talent shows, or whatever, in a variety of different lighting contexts and room sizes.
  4. The design research would tell you the 8K OLED TV is a technological showcase, but in product design terms, it’s a red herring.

Did they need Beats wifi headphones, or the Beats-Music streaming service and artist ecosystem that came with them, and became Apple Music? You do the ecosystem math.

Don’t imagine the future, react to the present

Red herring products without an ecosystem are usually attempts to imagine the future. They are interesting design exercises and concepts, but that’s not what product design is all about. Steve Jobs famously said Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” and the ecosystem of apps and services are fundamental to how it works part of the equation. 

It’s important to avoid what I call the blank sheet design trap. Ask a room full of people to imagine the future of a product, and draw it on a blank sheet of paper, and it’s an almost impossible task. For a designer, or an engineer, that same blank sheet might indulge their creativity, but it’s only useful to the point where you take the concept, make it into a prototype, give it to a room full of people, and see what happens. 

That room full of people might find imagining the future on a blank sheet of paper is hard, but they can react and critique a prototype very effectively. Similarly, give an engineer and a designer a prototype that’s been tested by that room of people, and they will design a much better product than their first blank sheet of paper concept. Give the designers and engineers a solid body of design research, anthropology, and a human-centric design framework to begin with, and that blank sheet of paper is transformed in its usefulness. Effective design and innovation is driven by human needs and user behaviors. Looking through the third lens we can see that our digitally-transformed needs and behaviors are increasingly blending products and services in complex digital ecosystems.

Red herrings are solutions looking for problems.

Even the latest wave of smartphones are turning red and swimming a bit. They are so thin and smooth you need to put a protective case on them, which renders them neither thin or smooth. The amazing camera quality is great, but not a patch on an actual camera, if you are into that sort of thing. The audio and video output is amazing, provided you have headphones or a bluetooth speaker, and good eyesight. What I really want is a battery that lasts for a week… oh. Selling me a new smartphone is impossible at the moment. That’s because my user behavior creates an unmet human need to be able to use the damn thing on Tuesday morning, even if I forget to charge it on Monday night. The screen resolution and camera megapixels are completely useless when you get off a 12-hour flight and realize it’s out of charge and your e-ticket is on it, too. New phone? No. Portable battery pack, yes.

The ecosystem, the harmony of product and service, that’s the design sweet spot. It has enabled remarkable new human experiences that meet a clear human need. Perhaps one of the best examples is the way we think about taxis now. Travelling by cab was always challenging for tourists because every country in the world has different taxi customs, and different standards. Travel guides always devote pages to this issue, how to get in the right licensed cabs, how to avoid rip-offs or worse, muggings and taxi crime. The smartphone-Uber-Lyft ecosystem changed all that. Now, increasingly, the taxi experience is the same predictable, cashless experience in many different places. That level of functionality doesn’t need an 8 Megapixel camera or dolby surround sound wireless earbuds, does it? No. It needs a product designed around an ecosystem of services.

Products, like people, need a sustainable ecosystem. They also need services that enable useful life experiences. Red herring designers say build it and they will come but successful designers and engineers know successful products are defined by the old adage use it or lose it

If you missed it, in Part One of Design Red Herrings, we consider the Fashion Show Effect, and explore how attention grabbing headline products at shows like CES are often never really intended to be consumer products at all…

What I Learnt as an Intern at Sutherland Labs Fri, 16 Aug 2019 08:36:30 +0100 What I Learnt as an Intern at Sutherland Labs

Hi there! I’m Tom and I’m new here… or at least I was. I’ve recently finished a 5 week internship at Sutherland Labs in London, which was arranged as part of the Head Start programme run by the Hospital Club’s h Foundation.

UX process

Now, while just 5 weeks might seem like a short amount of time, the skills and knowledge I have picked up have far exceeded what I had expected to learn and accomplish in that time. Even at times when I’ve just simply been sitting in this environment and listening to what everyone has to say, I’ve been able to learn so much.

When I first started the internship I barely understood more than the basic fundamentals of UX design, which I had picked up through attending a handful of talks and workshops from when I first gained an interest in UX design a few months ago. I am now leaving with a solid understanding of what UX and UI involves, and confidence in the creation of wireframes and designs using Sketch.

Now I am leaving with a solid understanding of what UX and UI involves, and confidence in the creation of wireframes and designs using Sketch.

If I’m being completely honest, before my first day here I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but that was quickly resolved with a clearly structured plan to follow in which each week focussed on a different stage of the project for me to finish in time.

Now, after just a little more than a month, I have completed my first (of hopefully many) portfolio pieces by following the whole UX process from research and scoping through to ideation and concept design with the help of my highly skilled mentor Simon ‘Woody’ Wood and the rest of the design team.

I’ve had multiple crash courses for all the skills and software needed for this project and potentially all my projects in the future; from Sketch and general web design principles, through to guidance on how to run 1 to 1 interviews, for both trying to identify pain points users face with products currently on offer in the market, and also for holding a prototyping interview and how it differs.

My time here hasn’t been 100% focused though, I’ve had opportunities to explore and receive guidance on other interest areas of mine, such as illustration and animation, and I’ve also been a part of various green hat meetings, skill mixing workshops and presentations where members of the team talk to us all about the work they did prior to joining Sutherland Labs – something I haven’t seen before at other companies and found really interesting.

If you’d like to see the end results of my project during my internship, feel free to check out my portfolio piece here.

I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who is interested in a UX career and looking to make their first steps in the industry and expand their network with highly skilled people.



This post was authored by our recent intern Thomas Searle, thank you Tom!

To find out more about the Head Start programme visit the h Foundation, or to enquire about internships at Sutherland Labs please contact Jessica McDonald.

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