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Bringing stakeholders close to the customer experience

The following is a guest blog written by Simon Herd, Director of Design Research at Sutherland Labs.  

Traditionally, user-focused activities have been conducted by specialists who either move from research to design directly themselves, or who pass the baton to others. This is partly a factor of history, but with UX now in the business mainstream it’s increasingly important to bring others closer to customers and their lives. Collaboration with stakeholders is king, but how do you do this smartly when we all have too much to do and too little time to do it in?

Why is collaboration so important?
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Often product managers and those responsible for success are primarily understanding their customers via metrics such as CSAT and NPS. These are deliberately simple, but create a challenge in understanding the why behind the what, which is crucial for identifying low-level change that makes a difference.

Involving users is the key to overcoming this, but techniques for doing so owe a huge debt to an academia and rigour in experimental design. Anything involving real users or customers is moderated by specialists, with stakeholders disconnected behind a one-way mirror or getting their understanding from an after-the-fact synthesis. There are very good reasons for this, as anyone who has seen stressed product managers observe their ideas being casually dismissed in a user session can testify.

However as UX moves out of labs and into mainstream business, UX activities can’t be solely conducted on this basis. There are too few UX professionals, who are in evermore demand as it becomes a mainstream concern. Also, an increasingly multi-touchpoint world means that knowledge needed to make products more effective for their users becomes increasingly diffuse.

So why doesn’t it happen more?

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Rule for Robot Overlords: Trust and Robotics in Customer Experience

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The following is a guest blog written by Benjamin Little, Director of Design Strategy, Sutherland Labs. Learn more about Sutherland Global Services by visiting their website.

The service environment is evolving. As technology becomes more intelligent we see consumer demand, competitive pressure, and economic sense all pressing us to bring robots into the customer experience. If you are an aspiring human handler of our robotic workforce, it is important to consider the tentative trusting relationship humans have with robots.

Before my smart phone, before my Roomba, there was my my first GPS navigation system. I happily followed its instructions and my wife made fun of how quickly I lost the ability to get anywhere on my own. I was very happy to shut off that part of my brain that used to visualize the system of streets and remember the requisite steps to reach my destination. I’d outsourced that cognitive process of navigating and could now focus my energy on something more fun. A generation later and my daughter will likely consider navigation by paper map akin to penmanship and butter churning: vintage skills that were once ubiquitous.

What happened to me relates to what experts call “transactive memory.”[1] Transactive memory is, in essence, the externalization of information. For anyone familiar with how software works, think of it as a pointer and then get a little creeped out by how memory allocation rules apply the same to both biology and silicon. Since the advent of Google, society has largely talked about outsourcing human memory to the internet, and transactive memory has begun dominating how the average consumer thinks. We are really good at remembering how to find information, but increasingly we are not storing that information in our brains quite as readily.

Which brings us to robots. Memory is one thing, but modern robotics is giving us new opportunities to outsource cognition. Navigating was one of the earliest versions of this, but recent research from Georgia Tech [2] shows that we over-trust our mechanical sidekicks for more than just memory. The study focused on human propensity to keep following a robot out of a burning building, even when it had proved itself unreliable. Despite repeated warnings from just about every science fiction story to do with robots, we still trust them. While this situation has more dire implications than my phone trying to send me the wrong way up a one-way street, we are seeing more and more service opportunities for robotic workers to merrily lead our customers in the undesirable outcomes.

The lesson for business about how we consumers think is that we consumers don’t necessarily care about how amazing the technology is behind the interface. From a UX perspective, asking Google to tell me the capital of Ecuador (Quito, by the way) is not tremendously different than asking a policy question about my healthcare coverage. It is a matter of adoption and comfort with robotics that takes us from there to walking into a SoftBank store and asking a robot which phone I should buy. Now, I individually care that the technology behind each of those interactions is different, impressive, and complex, but at the point of service there is an expectation that everything just work. Continue reading

The Missing Link Retailers Need to Turn a Cost Into a Revenue Generator

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The following is a guest blog written by Edward Kowalski, Associate Vice President, Retail Marketing, at Sutherland Global Services. To download a free white paper on the topic, visit  http://www.sutherlandglobal.com/Retail/WP-20160104/Default.aspx

Most retailers are missing a key opportunity. It’s a way to take what’s now an expense and instead use it to build awareness, create loyalty and even grow profits.

It’s customer care.

Companies should combine customer care with customer experience, big data and predictive analytics. It’s a transformation that requires retailers to break down silos and start sharing information that’s widely available.

Consider the constant signals customers provide, based on multiple experiences, with brands across multiple touchpoints. Retail marketers use the information to develop a customer journey that’s seamless, relevant, authentic and omni-channel.

But it’s a missing link that needs to be shared with the customer care team.

Retailers should develop a new system that arms customer care agents with intelligence that spurs personalized engagements. This helps resolve complaints, increase Net Promoter Scores, improve customer satisfaction, create loyalty and, yes, generate revenue.

Here are the steps we recommend: Continue reading