What on earth would Aneurin Bevan be thinking today if he were alive?
As the founder of the NHS I wonder how Bevan would react to the news that two NHS hospitals have been told by the Competition Commission that they are not allowed to merge as the move will ‘eliminate competition and choice’.
The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospital and the Poole Hospital claim that the merger will greatly improve patient experience. That’s what we want isn’t it? In the past year hundreds of Patient Experience Strategies have been written throughout the country by the NHS, setting out plans and intentions to improve the experience surrounding what happens to the people in the 107,444 hospital beds provided in England.
The fact is that these hospitals are in great demand. Nearly two thirds of people admitted to hospital nationwide are over 65 years old and while the average age of people in the area is 49, there are lots of older folk using these facilities, including my Dad who is 87!
The time for action is the rallying cry from the Royal College of Physicians whose document ‘Setting Higher Standards’ talks about how there are 10 priority areas for action including: promoting dignity and patient-centred care, redesigning services, changing how we organise hospital care, reviewing medical education and training….etc. Yet, when the people responsible for making the change happen have the Competition Commission telling them it’s not possible because these hospitals are in competition with one another, it makes one wonder if patient experience really does matter all that much.
Take a look at this…
So a recent visit to Berlin wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the legendary Bauhaus Museum, just south of the Tiergarten. Walking around the museum it was amazing to see the influence the Bauhaus and modernist German movement had and still has on architecture, design, arts and crafts. The modern office chair, from where I’m writing this post, has descended from the design principles outlined by Walter Gropius and his peers. The Bauhaus School of design underwent many significant changes between 1919 and 1933, not least of which was its harassment and final demise at the hand of the Nazis in the early 1930s.
So what can UX learn from Bauhaus?
Well, the principles of Bauhaus would have any UX expert clapping for joy. The school taught a range of approaches to design which we’d find familiar and reassuring in today’s digital age. In the world of Bauhaus the design of architecture and crafts was to be done with aesthetic and functionality working together. There was a strong absence of ornamentation and overt decoration, especially if it would detract from the overall functionality of the item under design. An ethos of simplicity, ease and accessibility ran through the teachings.
Bauhaus was about creating great design by balancing look and feel with functionality. We should look to Bauhaus the next time we sketch out a wireframe or think of our latest app design.
Privacy continues to be one of the biggest social and political debates today. From the mire of the NSA leaks to the UK’s hacking scandal, privacy continues to climb the agenda. A recent conversation with a friend concerned our lack of effort when it comes to signing up for new products and services that do not allow for ‘sign-in using Facebook.’ We both discussed the merits of using Facebook, which basically came down to the second and milliseconds we saved in having to remember and type in our unique details. The fact that our security was compromised never entered our heads. We didn’t think once about how having a single key could open us up to all sorts of hidden dangers.
The privacy debate (aside from surveillance and hacking) pivots on the issues concerning whether personal privacy ever actually existed and how important it really is. A great article in the recent Management Today (October 2013) questioned whether privacy wasn’t just an invention or consequence of the Industrial Revolution. The article highlights the views of famous American computer scientist Vint Cerf, who talked of privacy using the analogy of life in a small village. What he meant was that there is no such thing as privacy.
Privacy for the majority of us is not something intangible or something that we’re prepared to give away. I recently undertook an audit of my digital footprint and found out that everything about me, including my home address, phone numbers and place of work, was easily accessible online. It only took a few more searches before I found I’d openly told my social network of my current banking arrangements.
Conducting the audit has made me sit up and think about how secure my personal data is and how valuable it is to businesses out there. I’m constantly targeted (albeit very incorrectly) by those touting female companionship via Facebook. I also learned from reading Management Today that the value of people’s digital identity could be worth up to £20bn in the UK alone by 2017.
With continued privacy stories breaking almost daily I’m starting to think that I might take as much of my personal information as I can offline and sell it back to those who want it. Some companies are already starting to look into this, and it would be great to see a trading system for those prepared to give away all their information, albeit for a small, nominal fee. Data relationships between business and user are already two-way. My concern is that there’s a growing consensus that my data is too valuable an opportunity for it to stay within those confines.
The arrival of the Samsung Watch and the continued speculation over Google glasses leaves you thinking ‘where will this wearable fashion trend take us?’ Wearable technology isn’t necessarily a new thing. A great article in the latest edition of HBR gives a few examples, from the Polar heart rate monitor to the Nike+ trainers.
These predecessors to Google and Samsung’s endeavours were created in a world where technology such as apps, tablets, consoles and the internet were either in their infancy or still in the world of HG Wells. The concern now is that humans will draw inwards and become ever more isolationist, relying on their digital channels for interaction and relationships.
At a recent wedding a friend told me that ‘liking’ something on Facebook does not equate to friendship in the same way as sitting down over coffee. The question is whether this debate will actually matter in a few years’ time. When technology and society change you risk feeling left out, old or surrounded by an alien world which is difficult to understand and adapt to.
For business the opportunities are endless but so too is their societal obligation to ensure that online doesn’t dominate over the offline world. Both have to compliment each other. We don’t want to end up in a world where Glastonbury is a downloaded video headset play and pause event.
The arrival of Metro Bank in the UK has helped to shake things up. It’s helped older, more traditional banks to sit up and listen to customer demands for longer hours, more self-service online and better integration. Metro Bank’s ability to offer debit cards within 10 minutes in branch was revolutionary all on its own.
Whilst Metro bank have helped to start the change, there’s a bank in the United States that’s taking digital banking to its very limits. Meet Simple. A bank which avoids overdraft charges, that allows you to block a stolen card using your mobile phone and amazingly enables you to deposit a cheque just by taking a photo of it. The ethos at Simple is clear. It’s about giving customers the freedom and tools to control their spending and finances in ways they’d never thought possible.
It starts to make you think about the progress of digital initiatives in the UK banking sector. Next time you walk past a newly-refurbished, cavernous Barclays ask yourself whether they’re investing their time and resources in the wrong place.
As we asked in one of our recent tweets ‘when are you coming to rescue us, Simple?’
Working in customer experience? You could learn a lot from your colleagues in user experience.
I’ve recently attended conferences in both areas and the differences were stark. I started thinking about the differences and what those of us working in customer experience could learn.
Sharing – UXers are definitely better sharers. They’re eager to showcase and share their ideas and experience. My recent visit to UXCampLondon introduced me to a whole community of people I could tap into. I felt I could ask for help, guidance or even critique. The customer experience community can often come across as a closed community where work is rarely shared or is always ‘highly confidential.’
Innovative – UXers are always changing tack. Whether they’re discussing GOMS analysis or the ‘above the fold’ debate, it often feels like a discipline that continues to thrive on new ideas, adaptations and evolutionary thinking. Customer experience can feel less invigorating. At a recent customer experience conference, delegates were repeatedly told about the importance of customer experience and senior leadership support. It was a case of ‘preaching to the converted.’ Most of us sat there, waiting with our pens and paper in anticipation of a new idea or way of thinking. Such conferences are often totally devoid of any ‘how to’ hints and tips.
Excitement – I’m hoping this will change soon, but UX events are far better in terms of excitement, engagement and audience participation. UXCampLondon felt very organic, with people sharing ideas and sparking debates independently and without guidance. My most recent customer experience events left me feeling drained by hours of PowerPoint presentations, staged and stilted panel discussions and misguided workshops. It would be great to attend a customer experience conference where delegates are put in the driving seat.
Finally, can we please have a customer experience event where sponsors do not spend their time targeting you during the coffee break? At UXCampLondon the sponsors were evident but it didn’t feel like you had to run the gauntlet of avoidance.
An emerging thought in all this, is that it’s easier to define UX. It’s a discipline with a clearer definition, outcome and set of activities. Customer experience is more of a business ethos which covers several disciplines. One thing is for sure, I can’t take another conference where 90% of the presenter slots are for talking about customer journey mapping.
Work for a Telco? Suffered a major network outage and are now working out how to pacify angry customers?
If you’re in this situation then you could take a leaf out of GiffGaff’s book. Having suffered a recent outage the company has been working out how best to make amends to customers who suffered from a service impairment. The tack they took was to ask customers how they felt about recompense vs. investment. On a simple blog post they asked customers whether they’d like a financial credit of £5 or would prefer the money was invested back into the network, with the aim of reducing possible further outages. The customers were told that those requesting a credit would be given one whilst others would continue to receive an update on how the remaining pot of investment money would be spent.
It just goes to show that you can engage positively with your customers even when you’ve just recovered from a disaster. Well done GiffGaff!