Towards a new school of customer experience with Advice & Matter

Summer recap 1: The good user/customer researcher can land a job in any city. While this still rings true, the field is undergoing some big changes.

Emil Fuglsang going through Matter, a case that puts transparency for the customer first.

The leading current practitioners within customer experience are making some interesting moves. They are breaking up with the simplified idea of “hooking” the digital user and switching to a serious empathy: Why make anything, if you are not solving the user’s problem well and for good? Take that ethical turn together with an increased attention to physical touchpoints: from live company events to the bank+bakery (Arbejdernes Landsbank in inner Copenhagen) or architectural office+winebar (COBE’s new headquarters in Nordhavn), and the UX toolbox becoming everyman’s skilset. When any product comes down to a series of experiences, it is hard to argue it is not your domain — no matter your team role. How to navigate it all? Not too long ago, we took in learnings from two very smart UX heads, Advice’s Client Director & Partner, Anja Thrane, and Emil Fuglsang, Co-founder & COO at the pension startup Matter.

1. Anja Thrane, Advice: A few of the big changes

We are moving from a total view on customer journeys to a focus on selected moments for the customer. What is this change about?
We’ve seen for a while that companies are tempted to look at the journey of their customer from start to end. Now we see an increased attention towards selected moments and interactions with the customer. This change makes sense — for several reasons. First, the redesign of a complete customer journey is a challenge for a big organisation, because the journey goes across departments, and will always take a great deal of alignment and a big budget. It might also become a matter of internal politics, if the redefined ‘ideal user journey’ gives a bigger execution responsibility to new teams, so the budget will be cut differently. A focus on updating a few moments can be cheaper and faster. And it also makes sense, because we know that we as human beings remember any company in moments: the first interaction with a product, the end, and the highlights in between.

The dream of being the one-stop shop for the customer. This is another thing, you want companies to reconsider.
Yes. I think it can be tempting for companies to think: Could we contain more of the customer’s journey? Buying a house is a great example. If you’re a bank, the customer needs you for the financing, but is it really necessary that you also supply the moving service? Becoming a one-stop shop is a tempting ambition, but rather companies should ask: How do we create new highlights for the customer? It needs to happen in moments, where something is at stake. Some moments might look like a place, where you want a strengthened touchpoint, but it is not necessarily the case. Continuing the buying a house-example, the customer might disappear for a while — if you’re a bank — because time is spent looking into the municipality for a potential house purchase or talking to family members to support the buy. The customer is out of sight for natural reasons and here it does not make sense to step in as a company and say: we can help you with this too.

You talk about the importance of creating new highlights. Take us through a few examples from your own UX work
Sure. When you work with user experience, health is an interesting area, because you often meet the users in sensitive situations. With Steno Diabetes Center, we looked at the meeting between diabetes patients and healthcare professionals. There is a physical meeting, when the patients come for a checkup, and because it is face-to-face, there can be things that are awkward to talk about or things that patients forget to say in the moment. So we looked at: What can we do before the meeting, so it goes more smoothly? Here, we introduced a digital diary, so the doctors and nurses had a full brief from the patient beforehand. With diabetes — because it is a lifelong treatment — you have the challenge of putting in tangible user moments in a timespan that feels abstract to the users. Within health at large the user meeting also has a lot to with tone of voice. How do you address the users, so they feel comfortable? Diabetes patients do not want to be called patients, because they live with the decease for so long. On the other end of the scale, we did a project for the Alzheimer community, and we learned to adapt a quite tough humor around their decease. Because that’s how they talk about it themselves.

What’s your toolbox these days for improving an existing customer experience for a company?
Interviewing is a major part of it. We ask the company: When does your customer disappear? That can show us some potential touchpoints to develop or strengthen. We do interviews with their existing users too, but we often combine it with observations. For instance: How does the user meet the front door that is a company’s website? Recently we worked with a large corporate, where we discovered that no matter where users went on their site, they wanted to learn more about the product. And if it is so difficult to find, it opens for the possibility of splitting it into two websites for two journeys — one product portal and one where you put all the other stuff that it is hard to leave out as a big company in your external communication: Your social responsibility policy, your investor relations, and a section for career opportunities. Finally, whatever company we work with, we give equal attention to the physical and digital touchpoints. For a company with a very complex product, the website is just a supporting customer meeting, the actual conversion from meeting to a finished sale, happens person to person.

2. Emil Fuglsang, Matter: A new pension experience

Provide a bit of context: What kind of pension space is Matter entering?
We are entering a pension market facing potential regulatory changes on one side. Many people expect to see an increased unbundling of savings and insurance within the pension product. This comes at the same time as a new wave of new pension players — like Matter — and with that increased competition. It has different consequences, but one of them is a strengthened focus on what we give the customer. How do we make pension easy and digital and something people want to be conscious about? Today a lot of people don’t know the name of their pension provider. Together with the potential unbundling of the product itself you have a general public conversation that demands transparency from financial service providers. We’re at a point, where most big pension companies has had at least one bad piece of news about where they place their investments. How do we provide a proactive transparency, when it comes to this, as we meet the customer? That’s at the heart of what we’re trying to do with Matter.

What does the new pension customer want?
Before we launched Matter in December 2018, we interviewed 200 people within our target audience. For us, the core user is between 25 and 40 and what we call ‘modern idealists’. These are people in the first half of their career with an optimism, when it comes to technology, and a belief that you can change big issues. Across the interviews, people expressed a need to take responsibility. And not responsibility in the narrow sense of ‘be responsible about your personal economy’, like their parents taught them. Their responsibility circled around the larger society and protecting the planet. So we knew that we wanted to build that aspect into our product.
One of the things we do is that we curate the companies in our portfolio — together with Skandia — so the customer’s money is only invested according to strict and concrete principles for sustainability. A big realization for the new generation of pension customers is that they have money they can put to work. Our typical user has a pension of around 250.000 DKK. We tell them: You cannot spend this sum. But you can activate it, so it pushes towards the sustainability agenda you believe in. This is a giant shift from the traditional way pension companies approach the customer: Instead of only pointing towards aging and the future, we say: This is about what you do now. We also increase transparency. When you become a pension customer via Matter, you can see how all your pension money is invested. Not just down to a pie chart, where one chunk is called ‘Danish investments’ and another ‘Foreign investments’. We showcase where the money went, down to company level and whether it is a loan or a piece of equity in the company.

Take us through some of Matter’s highlights, when it comes to meeting the customer
We try to make the first meeting with Matter feel like a wake up call: We want the customer to think — wait a minute, where is my pension money placed? You can see this in our digital campaign, where we articulate the problem very clearly. Then our second touchpoint is a retarget campaign of the same audience, where we offer the solution. When the customer actually reaches the platform, we have completely toned down the blue color universe of traditional fintech. We could have gone in two visual directions, a serious, trustworthy, technical one, and one that just owns the sustainability point of view. Our user research showed that people wanted the latter. Then we left out an actual ‘register as a user’ process to make it as easy as possible. You just login with your nem-id, then we receive your data and you receive an onboarding e-mail.
Finally, the good question: After onboarding, how do we keep customers engaged with the platform? We don’t offer them a lot of information, but we give them a chance to dive into each investment, if they want to. We offer them selected pieces of news about the companies — ‘yay they launched this new initiative linked to clean water’ — but it is less about a continuous stream of new content all the time, instead we offer a few interesting things once in a while. We want to offer them a calm platform — without the busiest feed — where they feel: my money is safe and it makes a difference in the world. In that sense we offer a simple customer promise. Our design in general contains a management of expectations. People bring their expectations from one digital platform into another. We don’t want to be blue like an online bank or showcase a huge amount of features, because that comes with another set of expectations, we do not deliver on.

Give some anti-examples: What is the user experience, you don’t want to create?
The biggest old pension touchpoints we want to avoid, are the fundamental things. The tone of voice that the traditional pension company uses, is a reflection of traditional values: Our most important job is to be compliant, so we speak to you in a voice that is completely correct and a little dry. The letters you receive in the mail from your pension provider as a customer, are made with Finanstilsynet in mind more than you. Because it is crucial that you are notified in the case of any mistake regarding your pension. It is going to take time for us to develop the opposite of these pages of heavy legal content: A conversation with the customer that is informal and a two-sided dialogue. At the same time we want to make the specialist knowledge inside the pension company available. We don’t want to drown the user in statistics or data, but it should be more available than a footnote on the platform that gives you a 20 page pdf with a small font.