Mildon Diversity and Inclusion Consultancy

Ep. 32: Inclusion for Customer Experience

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S?: Welcome to The Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.


Toby Mildon: Hello, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. I’m Toby Mildon, and today I’m joined by Christine Hemphill. Now, Christine runs a consultancy firm called Open Inclusion, which focuses on creating inclusive customer experiences, and I thought it’d be really great to get Christine along today to talk to us because so many of my podcast episodes have been about workforce inclusion and what employers need to do to attract a diverse workforce, to retain their people, and develop and grow their people, and create inclusive cultures, but we haven’t really talked about the customer side of inclusivity, and this is where Christine comes along. So Christine, welcome to the show, it’s great to have you.

Christine Hemphill: Toby, lovely to be here, and thank you for inviting me to it.

Toby Mildon: Cool. Christine, can you tell us a bit more about your company, Open Inclusion, and what you do for your clients?

Christine Hemphill: Absolutely. So we established Open six years ago, really with a very simple mission, and that is to help diverse consumers inform design so that design of products and services work better for everyone. So different ways we have done that, but essentially, it’s allowing businesses to understand where and how current products and services may be difficult for some of their customer base, or where things that they’re developing for the future, how they could design them to ensure that the greatest number of users can enjoy them, buy them and appreciate them.

Christine Hemphill: So really that’s the purpose of it, and the way in which we do that is provide different research and insight capability to organisations, anything from surveys through to ethnographic research, so literally watching people as they’re using a product or service, or in an environment, and the full spectrum of quality research in between. And we also work a lot with innovation and design teams to help them consider how new concepts, new technologies, new service approaches might be particularly valuable to people with additional needs, whether it’s a permanent disability, temporary, or just situational, and how they can firstly actually design something fundamentally better because of that insight, and secondly, ensure that anything they do design doesn’t exclude any of the potential users for it in the future. So, saving the fixing later.

Toby Mildon: Cool. I must admit, I do love the innovation side of your organisation, and how you get involved in some really cutting edge products. So one of the cool things that you’ve developed is the Inclusive Design canvas. Can you let us know a bit more about what that exactly is?

Christine Hemphill: Absolutely. Essentially, this was a structured way of thinking about customer inclusion, because we realise that a lot of people, especially in busy roles in an organisation within a certain function, see inclusion or accessibility through one lens of their role and the ways that they’re interacting with it. And then they might hear bits from another perspective, from someone else in a different role, and they didn’t quite know how it all fitted together, and then you’ve also got people are different and have different access needs, so what we have tried to do is just put everything on a page so as this different knowledge comes in, people can be aware of where that fits within the overall flow, and also they can see any gaps that they’ve got in the way they’re thinking about it across an organisation where they might be very aware of, say, one user group’s needs, but not thought about another, or very aware within one product environment, but not with the service capability that supports it.

Toby Mildon: I was going to say, because you start the canvas off by looking at the environment and needs, can you tell us a bit more about what that exactly covers?

Christine Hemphill: Absolutely. So for anyone who wants to look at it, it is on our website so you can get a visual to go with this. It’s under Services, but I’ll just describe it for you, audio describe it for you, which is, you’ve got environments and needs, which together combine to create customer experience, and when we’re talking about environments, we mean digital environments, so websites, apps, kiosks, and so on, physical environments, it could be physical products or physical environments such as shops or branches or transport hubs, then there’s customer service, which is anything where a person is involved, so a staff member involved in providing that service to the customer, and then brand and marketing, which is kind of the communications elements, that people have an expectation of your brand prior to stepping into the actual journey and experience of purchasing. So that’s really end to end channelling different customer experience.
Christine Hemphill: And then for needs, that’s how we differ as people, and it’s interesting, accessibility is often seen as very closely correlated with disability, but we all have different needs, and disability is an identity that some people own and some don’t, even with the same needs. So we really look at this as different needs, and those needs might be vision or hearing, the sensory needs, they might be mobility and mobility or dexterity in physical movement, or they might be the way we think and feel, so neurodiversity, mental health, and so on, and just vulnerabilities that may make us think differently, and under stress or anxiety in certain circumstances or with certain product sets. So that’s just how our customers differ, and that’s all customers, some of which will always be more significantly different and therefore require particular consideration, and some who might just step in and out of that.
Christine Hemphill: And that gives you, between them, this world of different environments that you provide for your customers, and different customers you’re providing for, the way they combine is through customer experience, so that’s the point at which you can bring it all together and start to understand what I talk of as the kind of bowl of spaghetti. There’s a lot of difference in those two, and then it’s customer experience that allows you to start to pick that up and go, “Oh, yes, that’s with this bit, that’s with that bit.” Because essentially, customers have an experience with your brand that they can tell you about.
Toby Mildon: And I suppose when you’re thinking about needs that you can go well beyond disability and accessibility. So, if you took me, for example, I’m a wheelchair user, so you might think about physical access for wheelchair users, but there are customers who might be temporarily impaired or situationally impaired, so it might be that the environment is very bright and you’re thinking about reflective surfaces, particularly if you’ve got things like touch screens, which might bounce light off them and make them harder to use, or somebody might be with children, or they might have broken their arm on a skiing holiday or something like that, so actually, this kind of way of thinking, or this canvas that you’ve created, is much more than just disability access, really, isn’t it?
Christine Hemphill: This is 100% of your customers. So as you very rightly said, actually, it’s people who permanently identify as being disabled or know that they have permanent access needs, so they’re the easy ones to find because they self-identify, and you can get that perspective very quickly, but they represent a very broad what I think of the long tail of inclusion behind them, which includes people who have temporary needs, people who are situationally impaired, such as my language ability in English is very good, my language ability in France where I also live is not so good, so I have a different level of literacy when I’m in France to when I’m in England. So these are some of the long tail benefits of your customers, and all customers will have differences. That’s the starting point. Humans are different, and it’s just being able to categorise those differences into things that we can design for and make sure that we don’t exclude people as a result of those differences.
Christine Hemphill: So if you think about creating a product or service or an environment, you’re trying to create it for as many of your target audience as possible. People tend to want to create things that people will be delighted by, and so the more people you can delight, the better, and this perspective of thinking about differences and delighting people with differences, recognising that we are all different but some people much more significantly so, and therefore they’re much more significantly excluded, that’s the kind of point at which it becomes really relevant, that just makes a product or service better. It’s just going to attract more people and have more loyal customers that appreciate, rebuy, tell their friends about more often.
Toby Mildon: So I know that if we had the canvas in front of us right now… It’s a bit hard because this is a podcast so we don’t have any visuals, but somebody can download a copy from your website, which I strongly urge them to do after they’ve heard us chatting. So on the left-hand side, we’ve considered the environment and the needs, but then I know you go through a process of assessing, analysing, prioritising after that. So what does that involve, exactly?
Christine Hemphill: I’ll just make it real in how we do this in practice with clients. So an organisation might come to us and say, “We’re aware that we’ve got some challenges with some of our customers.” They might have complaints, or they might just realise that they’ve got differences in customer satisfaction, or we’ve had certain issues raised by certain community groups, and so on. So they’ll have a reason that they go, “We do think that there’s something happening here. Could you come in and help us?” And we’ll go in and we’ll provide an insight campaign that’s relevant to the problem at hand, and the scale of the organisation, and budget and time, and all the rest of those good things, and from that we’ll get a layer of insight and we’ll get this assessment from different people’s experience with that brand with different needs.
Christine Hemphill: And there’s a real analysis point at that point to say, “If there’s 20 people have said this was difficult for them, and they’ve got these different characteristics, how many people does that represent? How deeply were they excluded? Was this part of the core journey for this business?” A supermarket, getting a basket of goods, of standard goods, or a bank, being able to move money between accounts, pay someone, check your balances, etcetera, or a utility, being able to top up an amount on a mobile phone plan, etcetera. But organisations know their key journeys. Is it a break in that key journey, a little bit of friction in that key journey, a break for many people, a few people? So there’s this impact and severity, and that helps us do that assessment and the analysis of it and the prioritisation, because of course, these organisations are busy, there’s always many things that they could be improving, and this helps understand if you’re going to improve a current environment, how does this fit with any other priorities that you might have, and how is this going to help that organisation make sure that it’s succeeding with the widest customer base possible?
Christine Hemphill: So we’re very cognizant of how we help turn that data into insight and that insight into actionable planning, so that organisations can go, “Right, these are the three things we have to do within the next quarter, and here are the nine things that we’d really like to do in the next year, and then we’ll build that into the backlog and planning.”
Toby Mildon: That’s cool. So after you’ve done that body of work, I suppose the model then splits, doesn’t it, because you can take an organisational track or you can take a product track. Can you just let us know about what those two tracks are, and then we’ll do a bit of a deep dive on the organisational side of things.
Christine Hemphill: Absolutely. Essentially, you can fix the product at hand, or you can build capability in the organisation, so the next generation comes out more inclusive to start with, and these aren’t judgmental. Both of them are right answers, it’s just, again, if a time priority, which one, or how much of each of them the organisation focuses on. So starting, I’ll start at the solution, ’cause we’ll deep dive into the organisation. Once you’ve found something doesn’t work for people, this is about how do you rebuild that, either in the next iteration of it or just improve it within the current iteration? And that’s a standard human-centred design process where we say, “Ask and learn, understand where those breaks are, particularly go to the edges of experience, so people with very severe mobility needs, people who are blind and screen reader users, people who are visually impaired, who adapt the visual products and services they’re using, people who think differently, and quite significantly.” And the more significantly different they are, actually the more of a perspective you will get. You get more insight per person, basically. Then designing so that you bring in those needs, so that’s that, “Okay, now get creative. How can we do that?”
Christine Hemphill: And you can co-design that with people who have those needs because they’re usually incredibly creative at solving for those needs because they’ve got the lived experience of daily life that are helping them build fabulous skills and innovative, creative capability. Then obviously trialling it, building that thing, testing it, checking it in with those users, and making sure that it works as planned, and then putting it out to market. So standard human-centred design, just thinking about humans as more specifically varied and making sure that variance is included. So that’s improving a product or a service. It works for pretty well anything from creating a new environment such as a new branch experience, or creating a new product such as an app or a physical product, even a cereal box, and thinking about how that could exclude and therefore how you could re-include people.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, I love that approach, because in my book, I talk about colleague experience and design, and how we can take human-centred design and create inclusive employee journeys to remove speed humps and road blocks that prevent people from completing a journey. So you could take something like recruitment and break that down into its different stages, and what are the things that are preventing people from getting through the recruitment journey, for example. So I think it’s a great approach to apply to diversity and inclusion.
Christine Hemphill: It is, and it’s actually a fabulous tool, but it’s underwhelming at the moment in the way it’s often used. So it’s not that the tool that’s broken, but the practice of using it. If you think the human-centred design as an engine and insight as the fuel, you’re putting a very low quality fuel into it if you’re putting the insight of a lot of people that are quite similar. The more diverse the group of people that you’re fueling that system with insight with, the higher quality human-centred design can be as an effective tool to make change.
Toby Mildon: Yeah. I love that analogy, actually. So the alternative route that people can take is to go down the organisational route. So what does that involve?
Christine Hemphill: That’s basically embedding capability in the organisation to ensure that any future products and services and customer-facing environments are by default more inclusive, and it’s let’s recognise this is a journey. It’s not that they’re 100% inclusive for 100% of people. The world, we are all, including inclusion agencies like Open, let me put my hand up and say we are always learning, and we are always developing. So this is an ongoing journey as opposed to a one-off product, you put it out and yes, it’s got specific characteristics around it that have a finite point. An organisation is always maturing, and the kind of key areas we think of in that maturity that can particularly support inclusive product and service development are first and foremost leadership.
Christine Hemphill: Leadership is just such a critical enabler of everything else in the organisation, or a dampener to it, depending on what the priorities are that are being set by leaders. There’s some fabulous programmes such as The Valuable 500 to really highlight those leaders of large organisations today that have inclusion right at the heart of their business, and from the CEO level, so I think leadership and particularly executive leadership to provide space for everything else to happen is really important. Obviously, Purple Light Up is coming up on the 3rd of December. Another great opportunity for organisations who might think, “Well, what’s that do to us?” It actually shows that there’s a level of leadership from the top, and it provides space for all the capabilities sitting in the organisation to then have room to do what they need to do, and to know that that’s in line with their leadership intention. Measurement and metrics actually really support that leadership because they enable the leaders to know that what they’re doing is changing the organisation in a positive direction, and the things that they’re specifically leading on are having the impact that they are expecting and hoping for. So I think those two work absolutely hand-in-hand.
Christine Hemphill: Then we have the four Ps, which is Policy, which is everything that the organisation says that it does, it’s all the rules and what it says it does. Procurement: How it buys things, how third parties provide part of the value chain. People: Skills, capabilities, recruitment, all the work you do in terms of having a diverse workforce is such an enabler of having inclusive customer experiences, because if people have their own experiences of disability and they happen to be within the workforce, then that workforce hasn’t excluded them. That experience is already sitting there and those skills for all that we all need to learn skills about other people’s needs, there’s an understanding and some of those skills already sitting within there. And then Process, which is actually what really happens as opposed to policy, which is what says it happens. Process is how things really happen around here, and it’s the tools that you use, and it’s the what actually happens on the ground. All of that creates a culture that is more enabling or more disabling of an inclusive creativity and product and service capability.
Toby Mildon: Cool. So I really like your canvas, and I suppose it’d be really helpful if you could explain some examples of how you’ve brought this to life for some of your clients, and some of the results that you’ve got, so we can kind of see it in action.
Christine Hemphill: I’ll give you two, one that’s very much around a stable as-is environment, and one around creating something new. So one that very much goes to the top of the canvas and one that… Although both do both… One that goes more to the bottom. So the one that was very much the product environment was working with a product that was just pre-launch at the time, a government product in the health sphere, and we got involved two months prior to the launch of that product, and it was working absolutely hand-in-hand. It was a lovely product because it was very collaborative.
Christine Hemphill: We tend to work very well when we collaborate with others to put things out, and in that one, we had the design agency that were building the thing, and literally getting input and overnight fixing things, changing things and having a new one out from original Figma. So prototype screens through to actually having product that was, yes, pre-release, but live and testable. So working with a design team, working with a standard user research team that were doing usability research with a very broad audience of people that didn’t identify as having any specific access needs, and working with an audit partner that was doing the technical WCAG audit and had passes and fails against specific criteria under WCAG 2.1.
Toby Mildon: And just if the person listening to our conversation hasn’t heard of WCAG, can you just clarify that for us?
Christine Hemphill: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. So it’s kind of the rules by which all government websites now need to comply to 2.1 AA standards, so a certain level, and actually which most organisations should use, ’cause it’s a lovely baseline of minimum requirements to ensure that user needs are being met with diverse requirements. It tends to be behind what people’s real user experience is in terms of their expectations will be higher than that, but it’s a great safety net of requirements that are quite well-defined and have good tests around them, so you know you can get someone if you don’t have the experience in-house to say, “You have passed or you have failed this one, and here’s how you can improve so that you can get past that.”
Christine Hemphill: So it was a collaborative team. We were providing the user insight, so we were doing usability testing and we were also just supporting the design team consider ways that they could address various challenges, and we were doing guerrilla testing with specific users. So if they had a challenge and said, “We’re not sure whether this would be difficult for this kind of user,” literally in 24 hours, we’d go away and we’d get two or three users with those access needs and say, “How do you feel about this?” So it stops the round the table conversation between people who don’t have that information, and it puts information into that so people can resolve the issue quite quickly, and it was a very fast-moving product and project.
Christine Hemphill: So that allowed us to really work hard-in-hand around the table with these communities. We also engaged the standard user research organisation. We ran the same protocol across both usability tests, both ours and theirs, and then we integrated our findings, so the design team wasn’t confused by having, “Here’s what users without access needs think, and here’s what users with access needs think,” and that they don’t add up to the same thing. We, as we always do, found a huge amount of consistency within them anyway, but we brought it together to one set of prioritised activities that needed to be changed prior to release. So that was a lovely project that was a particular app-based project with one digital tool in mind.
Christine Hemphill: The other one going the organisation sense is we’re working with a large financial services organisation with their organisation to build a process that constantly fuels their design and their customer experience insight with diverse experiences. So whether it’s considerations for innovation, they’re a very innovative company and they have quite a lot of very innovative pieces of work underway at any time using new UIs like Voice, so user interfaces. If you think about your Amazon Alexa and being able to use that to do your financial service transactions, and that’s quite innovative and needs insight. Whether it’s looking at different ways that services can be offered and value can be provided to clients, but from that innovation sense through to the ongoing everyday improvement, they just want voice of diverse customer feeding and fueling them all the time.
Christine Hemphill: We’ve worked with them on how they build that from the inside out, so we’re helping them build their own voice of customer, so people with different disabilities or any other specific differences that mean that financial services may be more difficult for them, depending on how they’ve developed and designed and provided that they can connect with those customers more easily and those customers can tell them, “These are the things that I’d like from you, and I want to tell you once, not every time I come in, or every time I engage with someone different.” So that’s really embedding capability within the organisation, within their own people, structures, processes and technology.
Toby Mildon: Cool. So you are on The Inclusive Growth Show, Christine, and I’m interested in hearing what inclusive growth means for you and the work that you do in terms of inclusive customer experiences.
Christine Hemphill: We were joking about this before. I am going to say, it’s almost like a trick question because inclusion by definition means bringing more people in and not excluding people; hence, that would be growth because there’s more people in [chuckle] so it’s almost like this trick very simple question, but actually there’s so much to potentially unpack there, because that’s not just a standard truth that everyone just buys and understands, and it’s such an interesting thing for us to think about: Why is it that people just don’t see that very obvious truth there that excluding customers is probably not a great thing for your growth? Including customers is fabulous for your growth, and actually, if you think about exclusion as not, “These people are in and these are out,” which of course exclusion can be, and in fact, plenty of products and services do fully exclude people, it’s also about that very, very long gradient from “I’m completely excluded” to “You know what? I wouldn’t even be able to put my finger on it, but I don’t like that environment as much as I like this one. This one makes me feel a little bit more welcome.”
Christine Hemphill: And that’s that inclusion has so many gray scales within it, and by taking that inclusive mindset, that ability to engage and build real relationships with your customers and build real value to them, which of course they will then share back because they’re happy to be buying your products and services because you’re supporting their needs well. That will generate great growth. I also think it’s really sustainable growth. I think the risk of poor design, design that doesn’t take a really broad range of needs in mind, is that whatever circumstance changes, not just in one customer’s life but in technology or in the broader society… Just think about the lockdown this year, we have all become disabled, we have all become mobility-restricted this year.
Christine Hemphill: Now, for those organisations that were beautifully set up with fabulously inclusive products and services beforehand, they’ve just gone, “Oh, yeah, okay, we’ll just swap over and do more of this and less of this, and it’s not a problem because we had it designed in.” For those organisations that had always been holding off going, “Oh, that just seems,” for whatever justification, “small group, it’s only that 30% of society out there, 20% permanently disabled and the extra 10% that are today,” for anyone who thinks that’s small, but they’d held off on that. They weren’t so robust this year when we had a 100% of society all of a sudden restricted in different ways.
Toby Mildon: Absolutely. So today’s interview has been about the canvas that you’ve created. It really gives a structure for the person listening to our conversation today to think about those inclusive environments and the needs that customers have, and then what they need to do in terms of assessing, analysing and prioritising what they have to do to create more inclusive products and services, and then you can branch off, basically. You can go down the product route, co-creation, create accessible products and services, and you can go down the organisational route, which is my forte, I suppose, in terms of how you create accessible organisations in terms of policies, practices, leadership, culture, etcetera, etcetera. So it’s quite hard for us to describe. There is a copy of it on your website, so how can the person listening to us get their hands on a copy?
Christine Hemphill: Yes, please feel free to go and reach to it. We have open sourced this, and it’s available on openinclusion.com and it’s under Solutions, so the tab that has Solutions is where you can go and find it, and you’re welcome to go and download it. It’s really just that reiteration of, “This is a journey. For every organisation, this is a journey we’re on.” We want to make it a little clearer as to the various stages of that journey that you can be at, and that this is cyclical, so that there’s always this… It’s like a momentum through the organisation that once you start building it, it has this nice cyclical nature of reinforcing the next piece of it. So you create a better product or service, you’ll attract more customers that have particular needs, they’ll then be able to tell their friends, and builds momentum. You can then see the impact of that, that incentivises you to build more aligned products and services for your current customer base to grow a share of [0:30:13.1] ____, and it just, you can see this kind of nice cyclical nature of inclusive growth.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, it sounds so elegant when you put it that way. Yeah, it feels really rhythmic to me. Christine, thank you ever so much for joining me on today’s episode. Before you go: How is the best way that the person listening to us can get in touch with you?
Christine Hemphill: Toby, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Anyone who’d like to reach out to us, just contact@openinclusion.com is an email, or you can just send it directly to me, christine@openinclusion.com. If you’d like to follow some of the social media stuff we do, our Twitter handle is @openforaccess, and you can find us in all the standard formats of social media and so on, and our website is just openinclusion.com.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Thanks, Christine, thank you for joining me today, and thank you for tuning in and listening to Christine and I have a chat. I hope you enjoyed our conversation today, and I really look forward to seeing you on the next episode of The Inclusive Growth Show, which will be coming up shortly. Until then, take care. Thanks very much.
S?: Thank you for listening to The Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.

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