Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Mon, 18 Jan 2021 22:37:35 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2021, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Roundup: Our Top Blog Posts of 2020 Thu, 17 Dec 2020 13:51:50 +0000 Roundup: Our Top Blog Posts of 2020

With 2020 coming to a close we wanted to round up our most read and revisited posts of the year.  Unsurprisingly many of them are related to advice around continuing remote research and design under the current circumstances, as well as the publications from our ongoing partnership with the UXAlliance

Image Credit: Sutherland Labs

Global Tips for Conducting Remote Focus Groups during COVID-19 

This was first published by our partners at the UXAlliance, and has continued to be an article that people have kept returning to. The global partners offer ten tips for how to continue to utilise remote focus groups despite the challenges that may have arisen from the outbreak of COVID-19 – suggestions include adapting discussion guides, organising test runs prior to the real sessions, finding the right online platform and using an online moderator and note taker.  If all are taken into consideration and through thorough prior preparation the challenges can easily be overcome and the result rewarding.

The Food Delivery App Experience During COVID-19 – 10 key lessons 

Another popular blog post in partnership with the UXAlliance was a global benchmark that was led by our partners Usaria and to which the Labs contributed to for the UK study.  The benchmark looked at the effects of COVID-19 on food delivery apps, and how they responded to the changes.  The benchmark also identified key lessons around responding to the constraints caused by COVID-19 and newly evolving customer behaviour both immediately and in the longer term. 

Remote Design Workshops; Plan, Rehearse and Test!

Authored by Mark, our Director of Design Research, we explored the remote working situation that much of the world found themselves in from March onwards and offered advice on how to successfully keep design activities moving forward.  Having had a number of clients asking how to keep momentum going from home we put together some tips by using our own experience and knowledge on how to plan design workshops while having decentralised design teams.  This article was the first of a two part series, with the second documenting how to successfully run the workshop.

Remote Research: Ten Tips to Keep Observers Engaged 

Continuing with the theme of remote, this is one of the earlier blog posts that we released following COVID restrictions while we were helping many of our clients  transition to remote research. We discuss ways to engage observers of remote sessions, and methods to facilitate active collaboration between sessions – even when teams are remote.

Design thinking and engineering: complementary disciplines, but very different cultures

We published this article back in September 2017 but it continues to be one of our most visited posts.  The article aims to unravel the complex relationship between design thinking and engineering and argues that in order for modern businesses to thrive they need to understand how the two thought schools can be used harmoniously to build products and services.  The article is summarised with the thought provoking idea that instead of striving for the unattainable goal of perfection, companies should be celebrating the beauty of human imperfection when it comes to design.  

We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog posts for the year, and look out for new content in the New Year!  To receive monthly notifications of our publications then sign up to our newsletter.

Christmas Gift Recommendations for 2020 Fri, 11 Dec 2020 15:30:16 +0000 Christmas Gift Recommendations for 2020

To celebrate the fact that the Christmas season is upon us and some of us might still be doing some (very) last minute shopping, we asked the team to conjure up some of the things that they would most like to see in their stockings on Christmas day – and this is what they came up with!

Image Credit: Jone Leupe

Image Credit: Jone Leupe

HP Sprocket Select Portable Photo Printer 

This cool little gadget is a compact photo printer that connects to your Smartphone which is perfect if you don’t want to carry a heavy camera around with you.  At the Labs we miss printing and hanging pictures so love that this brings both worlds together and can be slotted into your pocket to be used on the go – and as an added bonus it also prints onto water and tear resistant paper.  The other feature that really caught our eye is the ability to interact with the prints in augmented reality through an app that you can download and connect with on your phone – pretty cool!

The Click and Grow Smart Garden 

A lot of the Labs team are based in London and San Francisco, and for the majority of the year this has meant limited access to gardens and green spaces.  This gadget caught our attention because it allows you to bring the outside in with you, and comes with everything you need to keep them alive – because let’s be honest who hasn’t let at least 1 house plant die in the last few months despite the fact that you are always home?  The kit comes with everything you need to grow a successful garden, even including LED lamps and basil starter pots for you to get going.  We can’t wait to get growing!

Wacom Intuos Creative Pen Small

As soon as I asked the group their most wanted gifts this Christmas, Abi our Researcher & Designer jumped straight in with this product which is designed for those who are all about drawing, painting and photo-editing from one hand-held device.  The pen it comes with is said to give a realistic pen on paper feel and allows your creativity to come to fruition in one place, the added bonus being that it comes a lot cheaper than some of its other competitors on the market – so perfect for those who are just starting out, or simply don’t want their spending to go through the roof.

Blunt Metro Wind-Resistant Umbrella 

Ok so this one seems a little frivolous but hear us out – I think we can all agree that there is not much worse than a wet and windy day when you are trying to get to work and your umbrella suddenly blows inside out.  What impressed us about this is the innovative design features of the fibreglass ribs and the patented canopy tips which are designed to be safe for others when walking around busy city streets.  Designed and made by a New Zealand based company, this umbrella boasts being able to survive gusts of up to 72mph, and it is not surprising seeing as the country is home to the windiest city in the world!

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Marketing During COVID-19: A Human Centric Approach Thu, 26 Nov 2020 14:01:15 +0000 Marketing During COVID-19: A Human Centric Approach

Marketing, like many other business operations, had to make a drastic shift since the outbreak of the global pandemic. As people in many countries were encouraged to stay inside their homes, existing marketing strategies quickly became redundant and companies had to think creatively and turn their attention to online and social media campaigns to build a connection with their customers.  Here are some of the campaigns that have attracted our attention over the last few months.

Image Credit; Campaign Creators

Image Credit; Campaign Creators

Peloton Bikes

Gym and athletics became one of the industries worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and with retail sales plummeting, major sporting companies turned their focus to indoor workouts.  A company that has been at the forefront of this new exercise revolution is Peloton bikes, offering workouts that could be done without having to leave your own home. 

Purchasing a Peloton bike is a financial decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly (the lowest priced bike comes in at around £2,000). However, when you are able to pay in instalments of $45 per month, with the promise of a 30 day home trial and a 12 month warranty, it suddenly turns into a deal you can’t miss out on.  In March the brand announced they would be offering an extended 90 day free trial period, where users didn’t need their specific bikes and software to be able to sign up. The offer provided an incentive for the consumer and created a feeling of goodwill from the company, and helped attract new customers who had taken the leap to ditch their old gym memberships. 

People from all over the world can compete and track real time results through a shared platform, and although this may not be as good as the real thing, it may have helped fill the void in a time where people were craving human connection.

Another strength that Peloton has built upon is the online community that you are able to access as part of the membership.  People from all over the world can compete and track real time results through a shared platform, and although this may not be as good as the real thing, it may have helped fill the void in a time where people were craving human connection. To top it all smart design features create a great user experience, a 360 moveable screen that is attached to the bike works in your favour if you are working out from small spaces and flats where you can tuck a bike in the corner and twist the screen to give room for completing the home workouts.


While a toilet paper brand wouldn’t seem like the most obvious choice when talking about a great marketing campaign, this US based company really stood out.  Back in March people started buying up toilet paper and in that single month alone the toilet paper sales jumped up 213% in one week.

Cottonelle decided to try and tackle this problem hands on, by both trying to reassure it’s customers that everything would be ok, and by investing in a charitable cause that would help those directly affected by COVID-19.  Firstly they put out a message to their consumers encouraging them to ‘stock up on generosity’.  Following this the company partnered with the charity United Way and the brand pledged one million dollars and one million rolls of toilet paper to United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund, and as a final charitable bonus for every one person that shared the hashtag #ShareASquare on social media the brand announced that it would donate a further $1.  The company also shared messages on their social media such as ‘we believe our customers have no shortage of kindness’, bringing a human perspective to the brand at a time when the selfishness of consumers seemed rife. 

While a toilet paper brand wouldn’t seem like the most obvious choice when talking about a great marketing campaign, this US based company really stood out.

Ultimately the toilet paper manufacturers were one of the few industries that were profiting as the revenue of other companies was plummeting. In reinforcing the message that ‘we are all in it together’ it’s likely that consumers will continue to pick Cottonelle packs of toilet paper up from the shelves in the future.

Unexpected social media fame – US National Cowboy Museum 

Finally, an example of an unplanned and unexpected social media campaign that has taken off, and has provided the lighthearted humorous break that we have needed at times needed during the last few months.  This US National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma rose to social media fame when it inadvertently put their head of security in charge of their Twitter page after the museum had to close its doors.  His open discussions on how to use hashtags prove that sometimes it doesn’t take money for marketing campaigns to be successful, and that a little human relatability can go a long way – with the added bonus of getting the museum on the radar of those who would never have otherwise heard of it.

Image Credit @ncwhm Twitter

Image Credit @ncwhm Twitter

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Top Reasons Users Don’t Check Out (And How to Design For Them) Tue, 24 Nov 2020 16:54:47 +0000 Top Reasons Users Don’t Check Out (And How to Design For Them)

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday upon us, we surveyed our designers for the top factors impacting checkout conversions. Drawing on their hundreds of hours testing web and mobile checkouts with users, here are some common reasons why users drop out rather than check out. We’ve also added tips for how to design for these.

Image Credit; CardMapr

Image Credit; CardMapr

Best price addiction 

Everyone loves a deal! In our deal driven culture savvy shoppers can often feel like they need to do “just one more” price comparison to check if the item they want is cheaper elsewhere, or if they can save on delivery charges, use a promo code lurking somewhere out there. This is especially true the higher the value of the item, in our experience.

Suggestion: Always place promo codes upfront so that users can’t miss them. Plus, mapping your purchase journey across different price points may reveal opportunities to optimize conversion points.

Don’t make me enter my card details!

This is especially true at peak seasons, when users want to keep the process simple, and the cognitive load light. If you don’t have the payment options users are comfortable with, or worse if it requires them to leave their sofa to find their physical wallet, then they are likely to look elsewhere.

Suggestion: Integrating digital wallets like Shopify, Apple Pay, and PayPal can save customers lengthy account creation and keep the shopping experience seamless.

If you don’t have the payment options users are comfortable with, or worse if it requires them to leave their sofa to find their physical wallet, then they are likely to look elsewhere. 

Delivery Options 

It’s fair to say many users expect to see a free delivery option, and interestingly we’ve found that the type of delivery service needs to be well known, or deemed reliable in the mind of the user to provide reassurance. 

Suggestion: Upfront presentation of available delivery options, and minimum spend for free delivery can increase check out completions and upsell.  The same can be said for easy returns processes too.

Hidden Terms and Charges 

Continued from above, customers often complain about hidden delivery charges, delivery lead times, or other factors they weren’t expecting. Unless your brand offers a compelling reason to proceed, such as hassle free returns or the choice of specific delivery dates, this can be enough to lead the user to drop out of the final purchase. 

Suggestion: Make charges and lead times clear up front, ideally on the product listing itself, and consider additional ‘value’ elements you can add at the same time. Consistently signposting the compelling reasons to purchase can’t hurt either.

Customers often complain about hidden delivery charges, delivery lead times, or other factors they weren’t expecting.

My Basket is Really My Wishlist…

…until the next best offer. It can be frustrating, but in our experience customers can use the basket as a way to hold the item they want while they do further research to see if they are getting the best deal, or to return to at a later point. 

Suggestion: Use web metrics and testing to fine tune the placement of promo codes for new customers. ‘Saved items’ reminders may prompt purchases from registered users.

Cross-device Purchasing 

Some consumers may still feel more comfortable browsing on their phone but purchasing from a laptop, or vice versa, and brands need to cater for a seamless switch between devices. Also, it’s sometimes the case that web pages are easier than mobile for users to explore discount codes, e.g. when using integrated apps or cash back websites such as Honey, Quidco, TopCashBack etc. 

Suggestion: Understand customers purchasing behaviors and preferred devices, through observation and data metrics, and design purchasing journeys that meet their needs.

Do you need help determining if your checkout experience is up to scratch? Our fast turnaround UX Review identifies pain points and quick fixes, plus pointers for future activities to optimize your purchasing experience.


Remote Testing for Mobile Devices Thu, 19 Nov 2020 10:09:39 +0000 Remote Testing for Mobile Devices

If you follow our blog, you’ll know we have been developing best practices for remote testing. In this latest post, we look at how to run remote sessions on mobile devices.  

At the Labs we have been facilitating remote testing long before lockdown began and have been helping companies make the transition smoothly. Something that we have found from clients is a preconceived idea that testing on mobile devices is more complex or time consuming than testing on desktop. We are here to show you that this just isn’t the case!

Image credit: Sutherland Labs

Many researchers will be used to joining remote sessions via desktop. Smartphones can easily join collaborative meetings via tools such as Zoom and Webex, and screen share. In fact mobile phones can in some ways be a more useful tool as they can be used on the go, or by users who may not have access to a laptop or desktop – more citizens now have smartphones than any other connected device – 80% of people in the developed world now own a Smartphone.  I recently ran a user session with a participant calling in from a park near his home because his housemates were too noisy! Despite his unconventional location for a user test, we were able to have a video conversation and view his screen to see how he used the app in question.

Things to consider

  • There’s no ‘mouse cursor’ on mobile so you can’t see where participants are pointing or touching the screen unless they press a button.
  • Some older phones don’t support screen sharing, so your recruitment will need to take account of this.
  • We often ask participants to join via desktop first and then connect their phone as a second ‘participant’ on the call. This way the laptop / computer can handle the audio, act as a backup in case anything goes wrong, and can provide a better video angle for the participants face. 
  • Consider ways to protect participants information, especially when there are observers viewing the sessions.

more citizens now have smartphones than any other connected device – 80% of people in the developed world now own a Smartphone.

Let’s use an example of a real life study to bring this to life. Imagine we need to run remote sessions for mobile. How might we approach this?


  • Decide on a conferencing platform to use
  • Make sure the screener excludes those with non-compatible phones.
  • Set up the meeting details and aim to make it as simple as possible. If possible avoid passwords (extra barrier for the user) and use waiting rooms instead.
  • Provide clear instructions for joining your platform of choice.
  • Consider instructions for both desktop and mobile.
  • Ask participants to remove any personal information, websites, or apps from their phone that they do not want to be seen during the session.

Running the Sessions

  • Allow 10-15 mins of the session for getting the participant connected and resolving any tech issues.
  • To prevent this eating into sessions, have another team member ‘triage’ participants just before the session to get them up and running.
  • Ask for participants to turn off their notifications before the session starts to help prevent disruptions and any private messages being broadcast.
  • Know your tech! Be familiar with the mobile and conferencing platforms you are testing on (e.g. Android or iOS) and prepared to troubleshoot any issues.

It can also be useful to run a couple of pilot sessions with members of your team to make sure that the joining instructions are clear, and that there are no underlying tech issues that could come to light on the day of testing. In our experience the key to successful research, be it in person, or on desktop or mobile is preparation and prior planning!  This allows for the research to run seamlessly, and for the researcher to be able to enjoy the sessions without a glitch.

Hopefully this has helped to show that testing on mobile devices is more straightforward than you realised, to find out more about how we have been running remote sessions get in touch with and sign up to our newsletter to stay updated in the coming months.

A Smarter Approach to Customer Support Tue, 28 Apr 2020 16:19:00 +0000 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 +0000 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 +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