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Making Customer Experience Strategic – Katie Chatfield Talks Actionable Insights

By Joanne Jacobs
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In this episode of the Disrupt Podcast, Gavin is joined by Katie Chatfield, Strategy Director at Apparent. They talk about large scale organisational change, design language and how to build bridges for people to reach their best next future.

Katie Chatfield

Katie Chatfield

Strategy Director

Change is hard. Disruption is not negotiable. The future started yesterday. Helping people find and embrace their best future is the passion and purpose of Katie Chatfield.

Katie is a senior creative strategist, experience designer and digital director. Her work sits at the intersection of organisational renewal, digital disruption, employee engagement, customer experience, behaviour change and service design.

Gavin Heaton

Gavin Heaton

Founder Disruptor's Handbook

Gavin is a marketing technologist, strategist and advisor. He is the founder of the Disruptor’s Handbook – a strategy and innovation firm that brings the best of startup approaches to the enterprise.


[00:00:01] Welcome to disrupt the podcast for social tech and corporate innovators.

Gavin: [00:00:06] Hello and thanks for joining me on the Disrupt Podcast. I’m Gavin Heaton the founder of Disruptor’s Handbook, a strategy and innovation services firm that helps organizations shift mindsets, innovate products and respond to a disruptive and uncertain future. Change is hard. Disruption is not negotiable. The future started yesterday. Helping people find and embrace their best future is the passion and purpose of today’s guest, Katie Chatfield. Katie is a senior creative strategist, experience designer and digital director. Her work sits at the intersection of organizational renewal digital disruption, employee engagement, customer experience, behaviour change and service design. You can see why I think you’ll love this conversation. For the last 15 years, she’s worked with clients such as Telstra, Microsoft, Ford, Woolworths, McDonald’s, Yum!, Pepsico and GSK. She has managed strategic teams, developed methodologies, created measurement practice and been a head of department since 2005. Katie and I worked together for years and were founding members of Sydney coffee mornings. The single longest running creative meet up on the planet. You can usually catch us each Friday morning at Single O in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

Gavin: [00:01:15] Thank you Katie Chatfield for joining me on the Disrupt podcast. Could you start by introducing yourself.

Katie: [00:01:22] My name’s Katie. I work at an agency called Apparent. They’re a strategic customer experience consultancy.

Gavin: [00:01:31] Strategic customer experience?

Katie: [00:01:36] I know, because if you’re going to do customer experience it’s probably a good idea to think about it.

Gavin: [00:01:40] So. It’s strategy with humour.

Katie: [00:01:42] Well I think that’s the best way to work out if somebody has understood what it is that you’re saying. Is to make them laugh.

[00:01:50] And I think if what it is trying to do is bring a human in to service design then humour is a really great way of doing that.[00:02:00] You know you’ve got two emotional outputs you can design for. Make them laugh or make them cry. Don’t get me wrong I love to make people cry.[00:02:11] The whole, “I’m overwhelmed by emotion”, like that’s a beautiful thing. But you know I think in a less formal settings making them laugh is a bit more powerful.

Gavin: [00:02:19] So you’re working in very interesting ways bringing in that human dimension to what would otherwise be traditional industry shall we say.

Katie: [00:02:28] I think so I think one of the verticals that we’re working with at the moment is financial services. And I think you know we’re always talking about disruption. What’s going on with money is incredibly interesting. You know a thousand flowers are blooming when it comes to not just what’s happening with fintech But I think the fluidity of money and how much and how much easier money is to get hold of, how much easier it is to move around, what’s going on with the RBA and how it is that they they’re trying to reconstitute what all the financial services industry. All those components coming together. So it’s an incredibly dynamic and exciting time to reimagine what money means. What “financial services” mean, what financial products are.

Katie: [00:03:21] And I think one of the challenges of those teams is that they are, by their very nature, very conservative and they are also from a product perspective very focussed on what their rails [are], what their technology [is], like how they can provision those services. And they’re very, very focused on probity, like how buttoned-down, how secure, how …

Gavin: [00:03:44] Compliance .

Katie: [00:03:44] Yes, how you comply with all of that. So very very conservative in a great way around that. And so working with those teams to give them insight as to how people perceive the products that they already have, what the new use cases of those products are, and start to imagine what building out those products might be from a future perspective, but through the lens of a person.

Gavin: [00:04:13] Right.

Katie: [00:04:13] Now really instead of trying to describe, “this is the feature” .

Gavin: [00:04:18] Here’s my product, buy it, buy it!

Katie: [00:04:18] Here’s all this crazy stuff this thing can do. And you go, “And why would anyone want that?” So that’s really … Absolutely not “101 stuff”. These guys are insanely good at what they do. They’re incredibly competent. They’re very inventive and innovative in their own way but it’s sort of taking in those human centred design principles and trying to work with them in order for them to build their language and their skill set, and provide them with the tools to design out from the standpoint of “this is what people need”, “what are their challenges”, what are their goals, what are their drivers. But what are the other contexts that are happening in their life, what are the other things that are happening with them that are informing their choice architecture, or their technology decisions, or their perspective of institutions … just broadening out the perspective of the end user and sort of how is it that they can go back from the end user as opposed to come down from here’s the rope we’ve got let’s solve that. You know let’s build this bridge and start to be talking about use case and end users as human beings and personas and that kind of stuff. So really great fun, such a huge appetite I think in financial services to build a sustainable, vibrant, engaging, exciting future. And so they’re always the best clients to work with, I think … humble, smart, funny, you know, people who know that they don’t have this tool kit and really want it.

[00:05:57] And that’s that’s exciting.

Gavin: [00:05:58] So you’re seeing demand coming from the financial services side of things.

Katie: [00:06:03] Oh absolutely. And this really is about it is you know it’s it gives you such great insight as to sort of how data informs the world, how the flow of money kind of works … just how the engine of industry, like how, you know, how it all sort of works in together – the four part banking system – all that kind of stuff.

Katie: [00:06:25] One of the challenges is my clients speak finance. They are 100% linguistically competent in finance. And I think it’s creating those experiences to allow them to step back and go, “the people that you are designing this product for are using these products in service of what they are trying to achieve”. So let’s actually have a look at how we can help them achieve those goals as opposed to help them understand what you’re talking about in your language.

[00:06:55] I think it’s just kind of opening those mental pathways.

Gavin: [00:07:00] So Service Design in pursuit of service rather than in pursuit of operations.

Katie: [00:07:08] Exactly, Or – it is the engine of industry, service design in pursuit of sales, clearly. In pursuit of making sure that either market share is being maintained or that there is opportunity to grow a new market. So it is it is touchy feely, but it is also very numerically based, business case orientated I think we all know that there is … that the emotional side of business is what allows business to be sustainable. But you need to be able to kind of couch it within the rational side as well. So you’ve got to have a number. The “What is it” and ” Look it’s lovely and it’ll work” because but you’ve also got to have a number behind it.

Gavin: [00:07:47] Perfect segue way to my next question which was, which is about the idea of “how do you combine, the combination of data and insight to create your strategies”?

Katie: [00:07:59] These these are my favourite thing. One very large project that I work on, is what I call … It’s a human centred design tool. And the foundation of it is an enormous piece of research with about three and a half between four and half and 5000 participants in this piece of research depending on what country it is, and it’s looking at their diary records of their spending behaviour as well as the data of their spending behaviour. And so that is you know what we’re trying to do there is … is to start to see well how do we how can we cluster that up, like how can we understand that different people have different drivers. And what are the narratives that we can carve out of that in order to better service, better design, better innovate, better communicate to those people about their opportunities – you know how we can enable them and what rewarding experiences we can unfold for them.

Katie: [00:09:01] So when that data comes to me it’s pivot tables and graphs and it’s just a lot of really pure data. And so for me the challenge is always, well, how do I add flavour and colour and movement, how can I visualize it, how does this become not a persona, how does it become a person? How can I understand that this segment is different from this segment. Like what. What’s the name. What’s they’re flavour? What’s their generation? What’s the song they listened to when they were fifteen?

[00:09:31] And so for me it’s having a core part of the data and then having a look at whatever else it is that you can find to add rigor but flavour to what it is that you’re doing. So for that project I think we have a look at something like a hundred and fifty other data sources. So this is anything from you know millennial reports from McKinsey to what’s going on with the Third Age in Australia to the entrepreneurial aspects of generation Z. And like really pulling out the eye-teeth so that we would be able to understand what does work mean to a 15 year old versus somebody who’s decided that they are going to work until they’re seventy five. Work means very different things to them.

Gavin: [00:10:15] Yes.

Katie: [00:10:16] Segmenting it out so that we’ve got the layer across the entire group but then the story and the narrative can be built down to each persona. But again not allowing it to be a data point. So what we do is we’ve created a massive icon set. So it’s all kind of hand drawn stuff so that you can have the picture being told it’s very much that infographic – you know, the Hungry Beast. When you were you were talking really complex stories using data points but because you had a really strong mnemonic device you can always ladder, and go OK I understand that this was a segment. Like “Penny’s” segment – it was this colour and in this context this was the icon and this was the number. What we’re trying to do is create a common language across the team who need to use these tools. So that when they are when they’re innovating or when they are curating what features might be pulled from a rail in order to service the needs of that person they can kind of go, “I think Penny would need this but Toula would need that” kind of thing so that they have a collective understanding. So what we’re literally trying to do is to create as powerful set of linguistic tools for them as they currently have around finance and around technology. We trying to give them a human toolkit for them to use in language.

Gavin: [00:11:46] That’s awesome.

Katie: [00:11:46] And it’s really you know it’s just wonderful to see you know when you when you walk into a space and they’ve actually used the tool kit to flavour the space and then it’s a common language and that that you’ll be in meetings and people will sort of repeat these data points back to you. And, you’re just going, “yes”!

Katie: [00:12:06] But they’re lengthy. They’re really intensive projects to do. But quite good fun.

Gavin: [00:12:12] So there’s a sense that anything digital can be done quickly. What you’re telling me that it really can’t be.

Katie: [00:12:20] You know there’s a great African proverb that if you want to go fast you go alone, but if you want to go far, you have to go together. So I think human, I think insight …

[00:12:33] If only we had a button push to get insight. You know it’s not I don’t think insight is fast. The difference between information and insight is …

Gavin: [00:12:43] Vast.

Katie: [00:12:43] Is quite vast. Yes. And you’ve also got the other challenge of, “I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you”. So for me it’s crafting the information through the lens of insight so that you can even make it your own, there’s no point in having the most powerful insight in the world that is inaccessible to people because you haven’t built a linguistic bridge or visual bridge or, or a … however they need to understand that this is a series of data points that you need. Is it a narrative that you need? What, you know, how can I build out from where you are to where this thing is so that you’ve discovered it in the way that you need to in order for you to use it. You know that’s that’s always the challenge is to is to build insight bridges .

Gavin: [00:13:37] That connects, yeah.

Katie: [00:13:38] Yeah to where that person is.

Gavin: [00:13:40] And so are there examples where it hasn’t worked. And of course not, I always get this wrong – a hundred percent!

Katie: [00:13:49] Of course.

[00:13:51] So that’s the challenge of change.

Gavin: [00:13:52] Yes.

Katie: [00:13:53] And there are a lot of barriers to change and usually they’re operational. I don’t think.

[00:13:59] I think human beings are you know that’s why we’re successful and dynamic as a species is that we’re pretty good and pretty agile around it. But I think a lot of organisations and enterprise style – like governments, like global organizations, they build in barriers to people up taking insights. So there’s no point in making a recommendation around change. If someone’s kpi is to do essentially the opposite of what it is you’re recommending. So I think that that whole notion of strategic insight needs to be built from you know what is possible to implement as well.[00:14:44] There is no point in it being overly academic in the same way that there’s not much point in being cooler than the room. You know it’s about actionable. It’s got to be actionable insights, you know you’ve heard me so many times – “take it over or burn it down”.[00:15:00] But the thing is those are the sayings of a young person. I think I’m a lot more patient. Where is the root cause of the behaviour. Where are the barriers to growth and let’s … You know it’s about building bridges. People need to be able to work from where they are to their next best, possible future. And that is the role of a strategist is not just to have that vision of what the best future is but also have a deep understanding of how it is that you can help people get there. And I think one without the other is you know that’s just frustrating for everyone. And I think that’s where the process falls down.[00:15:40] Because I have this big, shiny vision. And I think that there’s nothing more common than you know a bunch of consultants coming in and writing a 300 page kind of coffee table book that just never gets opened again. So here’s the answer to all of your problems … and everyone goes, like. how do we get there?[00:15:58] I like the you know I like making stuff, you know making change I like making change. I like baking. it’s great having a pretty picture just like the actual process of getting it under your fingernails and making a mess and then kind of having a “ta-da” moment. That’s the good stuff.[00:16:18] The “ta-da moment.[00:16:18] I want the ta-da, I want the wow! You know I want to make people cry. Make them laugh first and then at the end …

Gavin: [00:16:26] I could talk about this all day.

[00:16:29] So in terms of your own personal growth has there been something or someone or a piece of insight that you’ve taken on board and it’s changed the course of your adventure.

Katie: [00:16:41] Oh my god! Many I have to say many many people many people I remember I worked in the music industry for a long time. And so Barry Chapman was my boss he was heading up triple j at the time. And. I was working in fact managing three different record labels and quite focussed on hitting my target and making my goals and. You know was really driving the distribution team extremely hard. And you know digging into sort of pretty much everything and Barry kind of pulled me into his office and he goes, “it is much more important for people to like you than it is for you to be right”. And I think it’s such a such a powerful kind of insight – that whole notion that your success is built through collaboration but also through people wanting you to be successful.

Gavin: [00:17:36] Yes.

Katie: [00:17:37] You know I think the only way for people to want you to be successful is if you are genuinely in service of their goals. And I think that it really did kind of stop a whole bunch of very unproductive behaviours. I just think it’s something that I continually remind myself that you know to be present and in the service of other people’s growth is kind of where success lies.

Katie: [00:18:03] And it’s also where fun lies, where the real.

Gavin: [00:18:06] Adventure.

Katie: [00:18:06] Where real adventure is – you know that whole notion of you need to go far together. And sort of weave it back into that.

[00:18:15] Adventures by yourself …? Are so lonely.[00:18:19] Go Together.

Gavin: [00:18:22] Brilliant. Thank you for your time Katie and your insights. Where can we find you on the web?

Gavin: [00:18:27] On the interweb. I am on Twitter under Katie Chatfield if you search Katie Chatfild you will find my blog my wordpress blog which has about 700 articles on it. So, have fun there!

[00:18:43] It’s just a combination usually of quite silly songs. Mad ruminations and usually just exercises I’ve been trying to work stuff out, so please do jump in. That would be quite good fun.

Gavin: [00:18:56] Brilliant. Thanks again for your time. And I’ll put those links into the show notes and I will see you on the web.

Gavin: [00:19:03] Some brilliant insights and sound bites from Katie.

[00:19:06] I’m sure you have plenty of new ideas you can take and apply in your business or to your challenges ahead.[00:19:11] For those of you who have an interest in corporate innovation and how the tools and techniques used in the world of start ups can be applied in the corporate world be sure to head over to our website to view and download our library of handbooks for disruptors at disruptors handbook dot com. I look forward to speaking with you again next week.

The Disrupt Podcast is for innovators who work in business, government, technology or social impact. We believe that with the right tools, approaches and inspiration you can get scale your impact and our guests have the experience and expertise to help you do just that. You can listen online or subscribe via iTunes.

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