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Design: View the journey through customers’ eyes

Sutherland’s innovative Design Develop Deliver model for Process Transformation relies on new technology and software, but it begins with a tender human trait – empathy.

As American literary figure Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Process Transformation revamps the customer experience, so it must be rooted in genuine understanding of a client’s customers. To Design, we and our clients must climb into a customer’s mind and walk around empathetically in the customer’s skin to build exceptional customer experiences.

We do that with Sutherland Labs – a hub of world-renown psychologists, anthropologists, ethnographers, interaction designers, documentary makers, software engineers, and product managers tasked with guiding our clients through process transformation. At locations in London and San Francisco, the labs encourage clients to understand customers’ lives, wants and frustrations. From there, our designers engineer processes with people at the heart of solutions for clients. We never ask a client to accept an off-the-shelf solution or mandate specific technology to adopt. The process transformation leverages a design-centric approach tailored to each client’s unique needs.

“We don’t ask you to fit into our playbook – we fit into yours,” Sutherland Chief Marketing Officer Ben Stuart says.

This was the case when we partnered with suburban Boston’s Lawrence General Hospital to show how Design Thinking, which employs empathy, could help it understand better the patient experience and use that understanding to remodel its operations and increase profit.  We created a workshop for the hospital’s social workers, case managers, population health clinical leaders, outpatient rehabilitation employees, radiology staff, lab workers, patient financial services employees and clinicians. The team created typical patient “personas” and walked through their hospital journeys in all phases.

HfS Research Chief Research Officer Barbra McGann attended the workshop and witnessed the work that went into creating it.

“What was the person going through at the hospital?” McGann wrote. “They sketched it out and talked about what that journey probably looks like from the patient’s eyes. They also shared perspective from their roles as the patient access manager needing registration details, or the financial services manager knowing that at some point there would be claims, bills, and possible coding mistakes and questions, or the outpatient manager wondering what services would be needed post-discharge.”

Sutherland focused the team on the business context and got them to consider ways to introduce design thinking techniques and tools LGH could apply in its work going forward, such as personas and journey maps, and enable its employees to learn from each other the insights and challenges of the patients and the business.

Empathy also extends to the employees. Our client Petco had an IT Help Desk department that could not keep pace with in-store technology issues and it had an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau. We looked at the problem through employees’ eyes and found ways to solve those problems to improve customer experience.

We found the IT Help Desk was understaffed and frustrated, so we implemented a Store Health & Wellness Check, which included preventative store calls and root-cause issue analysis. And we created store mockups to simulate the employee environment so we could find faster, more efficient solutions for them. After that, Petco saw a 50 percent increase in cost savings, IT cases closed doubled to 80 percent and employee satisfaction reached 100 percent.

We then raised the Better Business Bureau’s “F” rating of Petco to a “B” by identifying and resolving the root cause. We trained Petco employees on product offerings, sales conversion and upsell values to let them help customers and raise average order values. As a result, customer satisfaction rose to 88 percent and the average order value increased 25 percent.

Customer experience is the new business battleground. Walker Info’s Customers 2020 report notes consumers will soon prize experience over product or price. Recent CEO surveys list customer experience as one of the top three issues companies face today. So organizations must understand customer experience is the new product, and they must provide exceptional service to remain relevant in the business landscape.

Successful design comes from seeing the entire journey through the customer’s eyes to create a holistic, 360-degree view. From that perspective, designers can see what customers see, feel what they feel, and identify their pain points and opportunities.

Now, armed with that information, it’s time to Develop