Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Tue, 14 Jul 2020 02:52:47 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2020, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Webinar: UX Safety Tips for In-Person Research Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:16:03 +0100 Webinar: UX Safety Tips for In-Person Research

Since the onset of Covid-19 the global partners of the UX Alliance have been sharing best practices on safe ways to conduct focus groups and user research.

Following the success of their previous webinars, we’re delighted to announce that the UX Alliance partners are putting on 2 free panel discussions on UX Safety Tips for In-Person Research, both on 24th June.

You can read the full UX Alliance article Safety guidelines for in-person research on Medium, or register for the event below:

This webinar has now taken place, but you can view the presentation slides on SlideShare.

Future events are planned, and will be announced on the UX Alliance eventbrite page.

Labs Life: Meet Kimia Abbassian Thu, 28 May 2020 16:45:13 +0100 Labs Life: Meet Kimia Abbassian

Welcome back to Labs Life where this week you will be meeting our newest member of the team, Kimia, who has taken on the position of Senior Design Researcher at the London Labs office.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

What did you do before you came to Sutherland?

Previously I was a UX researcher for an EdTech company where I conducted research both in the UK and Saudi Arabia on teachers and students to uncover their needs for a product that aimed to teach children how to code. But before I started working as a UX researcher I worked in the field of Psychology where I started exploring using art as a form of therapy. I used to run a workshop called ‘Drawing in Response to Music’ for an arts and wellbeing charity that aimed to engage disadvantaged elderly people in workshops and events that promote wellbeing and personal/community development.  The aim was to help people engage with each other, have something to look forward to, with the ultimate goal being to alleviate stress.

If I went back in time and asked the ten year old version of you, what would they say they wanted to be when they grew up?

10 year old me wanted to make music videos (I still want to explore this). But I have always had a real interest in Psychology from a young age. I think it stemmed from moving around when I was younger and having to constantly make sense of new environments, cultures and people, and that curiosity has never left me.

What do you do for fun and what inspires you?

I love anything that involves using my hands to create, specifically pottery. I really enjoy having a creative side project (I have endless unfinished ideas that I’m going to take up again). I also love travelling and learning new things, the more I learn, the more this sparks other  unexplored interests.

I am inspired by projects that help vulnerable individuals and communities, and I find film a great way to bring stories to life and create empathy

Image credit: Sutherland Labs

What existing product, process or institution do you think would benefit the most from the application of some “design thinking?”

In short, a lot of them. I think because I’m from a mental health background I’ve had more experience in exploring that field and pin pointing areas that are in need of a design thinking perspective. The gap between the first touchpoint of seeking help and waiting for a referral is huge and can often have a window period of months. I feel there needs to be better communication between healthcare staff and service users in that timeframe / things you can do in the meantime. There is definitely scope for some design thinking there.

How do you see the industry changing in the next few years?

I’m writing this as we are under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and have had some time to reflect on society. Firstly, a lot of companies have had their first experience of virtual working which has a huge potential for a positive impact on the environment, because of this I think in the future there will be more scope for remote working, a rise in remote tools, and more projects that focus on employee experience. I also think this pandemic has highlighted what is truly important for us as humans, and identified what we can live without. Many have realised how excessively we produce and consume and I’m hoping this realisation shifts focus on creating ethical products and services that focus on positively contributing to society.  I think because of this there has been a rise in crowd sourced projects that aim to connect people and understand behaviours and coping strategies – I hope this curiosity and interest continues post-pandemic, because the more we aim to understand each other, the better we can help one another. I think a lot of people and companies have had time to reflect and prioritise, and I really hope we come out of this more thoughtful and conscious moving forward.

How does your experience and background translate into the design thinking industry?

Psychology focuses on understanding people, their environment and interactions and uses that knowledge to help solve problems. My background in Psychology taught me to listen, empathise and find solutions. Having an interest in understanding the users of a product or service really drives in building something meaningful that helps people and businesses.

Stay posted for the next edition, where we give you an insight into the interesting individuals that make up the Labs team.

Lab Cast: Remote Research Thu, 21 May 2020 15:46:28 +0100 Lab Cast: Remote Research

As lockdown continues remote research as a tool is more important that ever in order to stay connected to users, and to ensure that research programmes are kept on track.  In this Lab Cast Simon Herd, Director of Design Research, explains how we plan, set up and run remote research. Plus he shares some tips on how to keep observers engaged and foster remote collaboration.

If you are planning upcoming research or need any further information about what was discussed in the video please get in touch with Simon Herd, or take a look at our latest series of blog posts for more advice on planning and running remote research. 

Labs Life: Meet Yasmin Rowan Thu, 30 Apr 2020 13:12:29 +0100 Labs Life: Meet Yasmin Rowan

Welcome back to Labs Life, where we give you a behind the scenes insight into the lives of the people that can be found in the London and San Fransisco studios.  Meet our London based Studio Coordinator Yasmin, a textiles guru and world traveller.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

Explain your job to me like I am a five year old.

I help look after a building in London that has five floors and seven rooms. Different companies come in everyday to use the rooms for events, meetings and research. I help set up the spaces for them and give them all the information they need before they attend such as costs, organising lunch and how to get here.

What did you do before you came to Sutherland?

After studying Textile Design at university in Nottingham, I moved back to my parent’s house in Kent and worked as a barista for just over a year where I grew a real passion for hospitality and looking after people.

I wanted to find a creative work environment where I could express my love for people and Sutherland Labs was a perfect fit.

If I went back in time and asked the ten year old version of you, what would they say that they wanted to be when they grew up?

I grew up in Malaysia for ten years and I was super content climbing trees, exploring with my sister and not really thinking about the future. However I did go through a phase of wanting to be a ballerina…even though I can’t dance to save my life!

What is the unique talent that you bring to Sutherland?

I’d like to think I’m a pretty easy going person, even when under pressure I always think it’s important to stay positive.

What do you do for fun?

I’m always on the hunt for a new exhibition! One of the reasons I love living in London is that there is always something new to see. I’m also a keen cook, so in between looking after clients and exploring London’s galleries you’ll probably find me trying out a new recipe or checking out a recommended restaurant!

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

What inspires you?

I think travelling to new countries is always a great way to get inspired for work or personal life. I love indulging in new cultures, trying new food and discovering new art when I’m in a new place.

How do you see the industry changing in the next few years?

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the research and event industries are already going through a lot of change. Luckily for our research side of the business we have adapted well to moving remotely!

As for all the team away days, meetings and other events, I am sure we will start to see more things move online too but I’m definitely looking forward to having people back in our spaces so I can look after them again!

Do you have any pets?

Not at the moment sadly. When I was younger I had four turtles, a cat and a dog… in the future I would love to have a dog again!

What has been your best experience while working with Sutherland?

I love the diversity that comes from working at Sutherland.  Being in the studio team means that no two days are the same, wether it be setting up the studios for a client, running a recruitment project or organising catering for an event!  I have also really enjoyed being able to meet such a wide range of people that come through the doors at Short’s Gardens.  All of these different experiences have stretched and helped me to grow as a person.

Thanks Yasmin! Look out for the next edition of Labs life where you will get to meet the next member of the team.  

Remote Research: 10 tips to keep observers engaged Mon, 20 Apr 2020 14:48:48 +0100 Remote Research: 10 tips to keep observers engaged

UX research has decisively moved online in response to Covid-19 and a lot of recent attention has rightly been paid to how to do this well. However, a big part of the reason why UX teams gather at face-to-face testing is that it provides a forum for active observation and immediate issue resolution as teams jointly annotate printed screenshots on white walls or write vast numbers of post-it note observations.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

When an observer watches remotely, there’s huge potential for distraction and disengagement, so this collaborative dynamic can be lost and sessions become less agile. We’re acutely aware of this danger so have some guidelines to help avoid it.

Introduce active observation plans when you invite observers

  • Observers planning their day may be thinking about some multi-tasking alongside their viewing, as a result of passively observing in the past. A basic briefing about your plans for active observation and guidelines for participation before the session will help to overcome this.

Set observer expectations about minimum specs they’ll need

  • If you’re observing remotely, you’ll probably be using a laptop or similar device. Inform observers of any minimum specs for the computer or laptop they intend observing on. Some online collaboration tools don’t work well with low specs, so this helps avoid frustration during the session.

Consider timezones

  • If you’re likely to have international observers, some shifting of session times may encourage them to observe. We don’t encourage wholesale timeshifting,  as the ease of session recruitment is paramount, but there may be a happy medium, for example starting later in the morning for European sessions watched in the U.S.

Provide a collaboration forum

  • In research studios, white walls and printed screenshots are the focal point of active observation. You can replicate these by using tools such as Mural and  Miro, to share screen-flows and post-it notes online.
  • The tools are simple to use, but it also helps observers if they try the tool before the first session starts. Creating an online board for first-time users before the session can help them to make the most of the experience.

Pilot, pilot, pilot

  • Pilot your use of collaboration tools in the same way you trial the user  session format. Once you’ve set them up, get a team member to work through to check it will work as expected and core items (such as screenflows) are locked to prevent accidental deletion by over-enthusiastic observers.

Use a prototyping platform which allows immediate update

  • We advise against knee-jerk design changes during test days, but it can be very useful to make design changes once trends become clear to observers. Use of an online prototyping tool, rather than relying on downloads makes this easier for remote research.
  • There are exceptions to this, for example if testing in a country with poor bandwidth, but it’s a good general principle.

Actively manage the analysis process

  • Observation room analysis sessions always work better when a team member leads the analysis. They ensure meaningful insights and suggestions  are not lost within a blizzard of post-it notes. The same principle applies even more online.
  • Use the collaboration tool online chat feature to guide and prompt for response, for example if some areas of the screenflow are sparsely commented.

Maintain a level of separation from the user

  • You’re encouraging engaged observers, but it can go too far. Ensure that any  observer questions are addressed via the facilitator rather than going directly to the participant. There may be very good reasons for the question, but it can unnecessarily pre-empt the facilitator and send the session off-track.
  • This issue can arise if the same tool (e.g. Zoom or Google Meet) is used for both  connecting to the user and the observers, but settings for chat, audio and video are not controlled before the session.
Image credit: Sutherland Labs

Image credit: Sutherland Labs

Create moments of observer engagement

  • When attending face-to-face sessions, ad hoc analysis often happens between sessions, at lunchtime or the end of day. You can also schedule these when observing online. Do make prospective observers aware of them before testing begins, otherwise it’s easy for them to drop out of remote observation at the end of session blissfully unaware of the impending wash up session.
  • If you’re testing in a country with poor bandwidth, workarounds are possible,  for example, uploading videos straight after the session and scheduling the wash up at the end of each half day of testing can help remote observers track and engage with what’s happening and contribute before the next half day begins.

Don’t forget useful tool features

  • Tools such as Zoom have features such as auto-transcription, which can be  very helpful for rapid analysis if shared with observers once the file is processed. The transcript provides an easy shortcut to replay the relevant video moment, so pointing observers towards this after the session can help them assimilate what’s happened if they couldn’t observe in real time.

If you would like more information on remote research then please get in touch with Simon Herd or one of the team and take a look at our recent blog posts on the topic.

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