Designing Meaningful Customer Experiences

A Challenge From the World of Genomics

Imagine scientists researching and exploiting naturally occurring genetic variations in order to ensure food challenging, impossible even – but that is the mission that LGC’s genomics division has set for itself. In doing so, the division has grown rapidly, both organically and through acquisition, leaving it with a digital presence almost as complex as the challenges it aims to solve for its customers.

Many companies will be familiar with the inevitability of a confusing digital landscape that so often follows a quick growth strategy. The implications range from multiple websites and a bewildering array of ordering processes, to messy customer interactions that involve a perplexing collection of brands. Within the world of genomics – where products are often highly technical and bespoke and clients are large, complex, and few in number – such digital challenges can be felt even more acutely.

This complex digital presence was recognized as a barrier to growth, and so the company challenged Idea Couture to help deliver meaningful human-centered digital experiences. This is incredibly important in the staggeringly complex world of genomics; the human genome alone contains approximately 3 billion base pairs that contain the code for the hundreds of thousands of genes that reside in the 23 chromosomes within the nucleus of each cell.

Scientists are busy unlocking the secrets of how to use our understanding of the human genome to diagnose illness, develop better medicines, and enable physicians to select the most appropriate medicines for specific conditions. They don’t have time to navigate complicated web experiences or confusing order processes.

Genomic analysis technologies are also being used to help increase agricultural production by accelerating the creation and delivery of new crop varieties and animal lineages to alleviate the challenge of feeding an ever-growing population. Marker-assisted selection (MAS) and breeding programs allow farmers to select which seeds to plant or animals to breed to ensure that resources like fertile land, fertilizer, and water are used efficiently. Plants don’t stop growing on demand, and so gaining genomic data quickly is crucial if farmers only want to plant high-yielding crops.

An Evidence-Based Approach: Decoding Customers’ Challenges

It’s critical to build a coherent understanding around the different ways customers experience their working lives. This idea may initially feel obscure and vague, and it may seem more foundational than actionable. However, it is only through understanding people’s holistic experiences that we can ever hope to design something that works within the parameters of what matters to them.

The best way to understand what really matters to people is to speak to them. Within the context of striving to meet customers’ unarticulated needs, speaking with your clients is the principal way to understand the rich, messy nuances of their multi-layered experiences. It is through a deep engagement with customers’ experiences that we can begin the process of designing meaningful solutions, like a digital ecommerce platform.

With this in mind, anthropological expertise becomes especially helpful, because it brings together academic rigor and cultural understanding in order to build a detailed picture of customers’ experiences. This is achieved through discussions with customers that strike a balance between natural and honest, while still remaining focused and insightful.

It is crucial to engage customers in a semi-structured interview format in order to explore a brand’s specific area of interest (e.g. ordering habits, moments of tension, or access to dedicated expertise) while still allowing for natural conversation. In practice, this usually means asking people about their lives, listening carefully to how they make sense of the situations they experience, and then seamlessly steering conversation topics toward your key areas of focus.

Ultimately, an anthropological approach enables companies to explore the ways in which individuals (and groups) experience the complex network of components that come together to form what we know as a “genomics working environment.”

Designing for Complexity, Uncertainty, and Scale

Overwhelmingly, LGC customers live out their working lives in an environment that is engulfed with complexity, uncertainty, and phenomenal scale. As a result, these customers experience their working lives in ways that are fraught with difficulty, stress, and a fear of failure. Although genomics customers feel the pressures associated with such experiences, they have, on the whole, reluctantly come to know this world as a prickly norm that they have little influence over. They have, therefore, devised coping mechanisms (albeit convoluted ones) that lubricate some of the more unacceptable frictions in their days.

In the genomics industry, customers often fear that they will be (or will be made to feel) responsible for some kind of failure in the system. Both their current pain points (e.g. ordering, forecasting, or the integration of systems) and their future struggles (e.g. climate, distribution, or a competitive landscape) involve this overarching distress. Whether they fail to supply orders on time, deliver a new diagnostic test, or something else entirely, the fear of failure exists as a potent force in their working lives. The presence of customer fear has given rise to one particularly powerful insight: customers’ orders are delicate packets of emotions.

Customer orders often embody a significance far beyond the product’s actual utility. The stakes can be incredibly high – delays or errors can cause operations to cease, and careers, reputations, and vast sums of money can be on the line. Importantly, it requires hypothesized consequences that determine how emotionally connected (or not) a customer is to their order. In other words, orders are as important as the customer feels they are.

Findings like these, which dig deep into the fundamental nature of customers’ ordering experiences, are of great significance when planning and executing the design of a digital platform. When equipped with customer-experience evidence around the fear of failure, for example, we become empowered to design digital ordering experiences (or anything else) in ways that truly connect with the deep and unarticulated needs of customers. It is precisely this kind of evidence-based approach that enables the design of truly meaningful customer experiences.

What We Learned

The upper hand stems from identifying the right questions. Questions like:

/   How do we incorporate an understanding of customers’ fear of failure into the experiences we design for them?

/   What can we do to ensure we always know the importance that customers ascribe to their orders?

Genomics companies like LGC are faced with the challenge of curating experiences that are emotionally appropriate. Above all, it is through the identification of insight-led challenges that companies can innovate in ways that matter to people. Further, the rewards associated with knowing which questions to ask (and the cost of not knowing) are amplified in a genomics environment where there are fewer customers and larger accounts than in a typical B2C firm. This means that genomics customers’ interactions represent a much larger proportion of revenue than one would expect from a typical B2C transaction – so, designing it correctly is even more important.

Asking the right questions is not easy, and it takes serious, dedicated commitment and corporate courage. But such a commitment is only the first step toward enacting an overall approach to business that truly places customers at its core. Following the identification of the right questions, a “customer core” corporate philosophy needs to inform design processes, systems, and technologies that are based on what we know to be true about customers’ experiences, behaviors, and unarticulated needs. Crucially, it is the holistic commitment to embracing evidence-based action that will ultimately unleash the full potential of this approach: designing meaningful customer experiences.

the author

Dr. Eitan Buchalter

Dr. Eitan Buchalter is a former seniro resident anthropologist at Idea Couture.

the author

Dr. Matt Wilkinson

Dr. Matt Wilkinson is head of ecommerce for LGC’s genomics division.