Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Tue, 12 Nov 2019 00:28:29 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2019, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Lab Insights: Voice Technology Wed, 30 Oct 2019 15:22:52 +0000 Lab Insights: Voice Technology

Over the last few years the labs have been abuzz with chatter, and only some of it has been coming from the staff. Voice Assistants, once the realm of science fiction, have now become an everyday part of life, in the Labs where we design for them and at home where we use them.

In all of our time working to develop voice technology and help it find adoption, we have also developed some pretty strong opinions on the subject based on our design research, insights that we have been happy to share over time, but which we have now collated here for your ease in browsing them.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

The Triumphant Return of Voice

We all like to think of new technologies springing into the world fully formed, but the huge game-changing technologies like voice actually have a development time that can stretch centuries, even if the people working on developing it never know the end-goal they are working towards. We are standing on the shoulders of giants to screw in voice-controlled smart lightbulbs.

Voice UI: Exploring the Invisible Frontier

In the cut-throat world of Voice UI, everyone is fighting to establish themselves as the gold standard by which all else is judged. Linguists and script-writers are now required to facilitate effective UX Design. The old psychological and behavioural tools that worked so well to predict which graphical interfaces would work the best need to be adapted for the new medium. It is an exciting time!

Voice and the Frictionless Workplace

The frictionless workplace is a technological utopia that will probably never exist outside of the imagination of experience designers, but Voice has provided them with a whole new tool for their thought experiments into how to render the regular working day completely free of difficulty. Even outside of the “ideal” there is no denying that voice technology has already provided incremental improvements in a variety of workplaces.

Nurse Alexa

There are accessibility possibilities for voice technology that are still being fully realised, with integrated smart devices a voice assistant can completely revolutionise the life of somebody with mobility or visual impairments, but all of this pales in comparison to the amount of help a device with no learning curve brings to the table when you have a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s. Voice assistants are seeing widespread adoption as a vital tool in the fight back against dementia, and allowing older people to remain in their own homes for longer.

Voice and the Screen-Time Paradox

Every parent in the modern age has bumped heads with a child that wants more screen-time, but with the advent of Voice technology, doesn’t the whole argument become something of a moot point? Using voice, all of the necessary actions of life in a partially digital world can be managed without resorting to the dreaded screens. Something that should delight any parent or developmental psychologist.

Bathroom Voice Tech Makes a Splash at CES 2019

Voice technology is still going strong in 2019, with new innovations on display at the Consumer Electronics Show that inadvertently demonstrate the shape of things to come when it comes to future developments. The preponderance of devices intended for use in “Linger Spaces” around the home confirms much of our research into the subject, but also highlights the behavioural limitations of voice technology – in short, most people don’t want anyone, even an AI, listening when they go to the bathroom.

If these have given you a taste for Voice Technology and you would like to know more, reach out to our team and we will be happy to provide you with some insights that might be pertinent to the future of your industry.

Labs Life: Meet Jess McDonald Wed, 02 Oct 2019 13:08:30 +0000 Labs Life: Meet Jess McDonald

Welcome back to Labs Life! The only place where you get to take a peek behind the curtain at the Sutherland Labs and meet the people who are really running the show. This time we are delighted to introduce Jessica McDonald, the Team Coordinator at the London Labs and an international lady of mystery.

Jessica on top of a mountain

What does a Team Coordinator do?

Jessica: I help to look after the company’s finances, ensure that projects run smoothly, liaise with our legal teams to make sure that projects can go ahead as planned and I organize all of the work parties. That last one is the most important.

What did you do before you came to the Labs?

Jessica: Mainly contracting in various countries, doing project coordination for different government institutions. I have a couple of politics degrees, which might make me unique in the Labs, I don’t think anyone else has a governmental background. My experience with finance and coordination has helped a lot, but working in government gives you all the skills you need when you are navigating the bureaucracy of larger companies. This is the first time I’ve ever worked in a small, close-knit team and I am really enjoying it because everyone here is so nice. It is a great environment to work in.

I still like to travel. I think it is the only thing that keeps me sane. In the next year I have trips planned to Malta, USA, Germany, Kenya, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. I’ve completed several long distance hiking trails in my travels; walking more than three thousand miles in the last four years. Running and just… being outside is how I enjoy myself. Particularly outside of London.

Jessica hiking

Hop into our time machine, we are going back to ask ten-year-old Jessica what she wants to be when she grows up. What would she tell us?

Jessica: Probably working in an animal sanctuary or a horse yard. I had every pet under the sun when I was growing up; dogs, cats, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, stick insects and budgies, I volunteered at animal sanctuaries and the horse stables that I went riding at. I am still really inspired by the people who give up everything to go overseas to set up animal sanctuaries and protect endangered animals. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about adopting a senior rescue cat.

What is next for you in the Labs?

Jessica: I’ve only been in the industry for a few months, so I am still learning the ins and outs. I’m hoping that I can get more involved in the project side of things and see how everything comes together.

Will Jessica adopt a cat? Will Jessica adopt a dog, hamster, rat, guinea pig, rabbit, budgie and stick insect? Will she ever stop walking everywhere? Find out all of these answers and more in the next riveting instalment of Labs Life!

Great CX vs the Omni-Spammer Tue, 24 Sep 2019 13:18:17 +0000 Great CX vs the Omni-Spammer

Over the last few years most businesses have started to engage with customer experience (or CX) programmes, and one of the biggest changes on the customer service side is the evolution of the omnichannel contact centre. As the name implies, omnichannel systems supplement traditional phone-based customer support with tools that enable customer agents to answer queries and give support via whatever channel the customer uses, e.g. phone, SMS, social media, email and so on.

For companies that get it right, it’s a huge win, proven to increase lifetime revenues per customer, whilst increasing both brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. However when it’s badly implemented, it can create friction on the customer journey, and become the source of customer pain. Here’s some examples of typical omni-spam friction points for customers – drawn from the Labs team’s personal experiences – and potential solutions to fix the underlying problems that cause them.

All image credit: Jamie Blackett

All image credit: Jamie Blackett

The omni-spammer

Most people will recognize some (maybe all) of this scenario. It happens when a brand takes your phone number, email address and social media details, and then contacts you on all of them… with the same messages and customer survey questions. This is a tricky problem because the road to customer pain is paved with good omnichannel intentions… 

  1. You get an email from customer services reminding you that your car is due for a service in a month’s time.
  2. The next day you get an SMS message reminding you that your car is due for a service in a month’s time.
  3. A week later get a second email, reminding you again. This time you click the link in the email and it takes you to a web page with a pop-up saying “your opinion counts, take part in our customer survey”.
  4. You close the customer survey box, then read the page…. Which asks you to call your local dealership to book a service.
  5. You decide to call it later because you’re too busy.
  6. Then you get another SMS.
  7. A day later, a letter arrives in the post, with a glossy A4 letter telling you that your car is due for a service, and to call and book a service.
  8. Then in the middle of a meeting at work, you get a call from customer services, asking you to book your car in for a service.
  9. As soon as the call ends, you get an SMS asking you to rate your telephone experience.
  10. Shortly afterwards, you get an email notifying you of the time and date of your service.
  11. Then you get an SMS notifying you of the time and date of your service.
  12. The week before your service visit, you get an email reminder.
  13.  And an SMS reminder.
  14. Then the day before, you get a call from the service desk at the garage, checking you’re bringing the car in as arranged. You still are.
  15. On the day of the service, you call the garage to ask when your car will be available for collection, the main switchboard puts you through to the service desk, which doesn’t pick up.
  16. The service desk calls you hours later, saying the car is ready.
  17. As soon as you’ve picked it up, you get an SMS asking you to rate your service.
  18. And an email asking you to rate your service.

Okay, so this is an extreme example, but the problem with omni-spamming is simple: It shows that there’s a critical piece of information missing about the customer, i.e., their contact preferences.

Brands that understand the importance of customer preferences ask users how they would like to be contacted, and tailor push notifications to match. Of course, there is always the chance a customer ignores or misses a push notification on their preferred channel, so it’s actually a positive customer experience to add a reminder into the process, but there’s also a balance to be achieved. Too many notifications feels pushy, like a shop floor assistant following the you around “Can I help you with that?” every time you stop and look at something.

For companies that get it right, it’s a huge win, proven to increase lifetime revenues per customer, whilst increasing both brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

How to avoid omni-spamming

Just because a customer can be contacted via SMS, email and phone, it doesn’t mean they weight each channel equally or want to be contacted on all of them. Also, they might choose different channels for different kinds of interaction, depending on how urgent their need is. Omnichannel availability is really effective for inbound communication to the brand – making customer services responsive in the channel the customer wants – but that doesn’t mean the customer wants to be treated like an omnichannel contact center when the brand decides to contact them.

The only way to design the right kind of omnichannel experience is to map the different types of customer journey, understand more about customer personas, and study customer behaviors to work out which channels are most useful for different categories of task, and which ones are overkill or just plain annoying.

Omnichannel needs an end-to-end process

Omnichannel systems transform the old call centre customer service model into an online version of the same, but the omnichannel part is only half of the process. The other half is delivering smarter, re-imagined user experiences to extract the full value from new digital channels. The goal is to enable end-to-end processes, because a channel has to lead somewhere, rather than become a customer dead end. 

This means making sure that internal business processes (like workflow schedules and different departments) are joined-up where they intersect the same customer journey, sharing information and working more effectively in sync between business silos. It also means taking a close look at where these internal processes affect customer interactions on a channel-by-channel basis, and asking some fundamental questions, such as:

Does the customer have a contact preference?
Does the customer prefer to use a specific channel, or have they expressed a preference for frequency (e.g., did they check the “don’t spam me box” on their sign-up form).

Does the push channel have a return channel to enable an end-to-end process?
Does an email reminder link to an online self-service tool? Does a Facebook Messenger post link to a useful chatbot? Does an SMS have a reply function to enable an action? If the push channel doesn’t have a return channel (so it’s a one-way email, SMS, or social media message) is it clear what do do next for the user to complete a task?

Have you understood the customer intent behind information services?
If a customer has signed-up for information or alerts, it is usually to trigger an action, so does your omnichannel process enable actions, e.g., “Your train is delayed” is not as useful as “Your train is delayed, would you like to book an alternative route or get a refund?”

A contact centre agent is best used for complex queries, self-service is better for simple tasks.
A growing number of customers express a preference for self-service tools (usually online). Make sure there is a self-service option for simple tasks, like a web widget or chatbot that could deflect the need for customer calls. This frees-up customer agents to work on more complex customer interactions.

Does the contact agent have a rounded picture of the customer?
Are the agents calling someone who has already received two emails and an SMS and hasn’t responded, or are they receiving a call from someone who has emailed before, or posted on the brand’s Facebook page? Capturing the 360-degree view of each customer’s contact history helps the agent anticipate why the customer is calling, and helps them deliver a better level of customer service

Rethinking processes like this is the essence of modern CX design in the omnichannel era. It explains the value of studying customer journeys to understand the causes of customer frustration, and discovering the ways new systems can – sometimes – cause unexpected increases in customer effort.  

The key to successful omnichannel implementation is to consider the big picture. In each customer contact scenario, the omnichannel platform works most effectively if it’s integrated into a new contact process that uses the strengths of each channel to deliver an end-to-end experience.

The future isn’t channel-centric, it’s human-centric

The key to successful omnichannel implementation is to consider the big picture. In each customer contact scenario, the omnichannel platform works most effectively if it’s integrated into a new contact process that uses the strengths of each channel to deliver an end-to-end experience. Each channel is different, and presents a complex set of possible next-best actions, so it’s important to really understand your users and their preferences to offer relevant, personalized customer experiences. Regardless of how many channels your customers use, and how diverse their preferences are, they all want the same thing, an easy, intuitive customer experience. A deep understanding of the customer, and designing processes around them, is what makes the difference between omni-spam and great omnichannel customer service.

BBC World Service: Understanding User Needs in India Tue, 10 Sep 2019 12:25:35 +0000 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 +0000 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.

An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:43:23 +0000 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 +0000 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 +0000 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 +0000 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 +0000 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