Communications: Art vs. Science. A user experience perspective

18 May 2015

David Niland, User Experience consultant at Capita Employee Benefits, discusses member communications, user experience (UX) and the techniques involved in developing a more employee-centric approach.

According to recent figures, over 90% of all the data in the world has been created in the last two years. Certainly in our industry, we are now working with enormous quantities of data, which can give us great insight into understanding target audiences.

By analysing data patterns, we know how people act. However, we still need to answer the questions the data raises and we also need insight into what motivates people to do what they do. The danger is that we can become so focused on data that we stop hearing the real voice of our members. We have to focus on what members value, not just what they want. Satisfied customers don’t engage with their benefits. Passionate, enthusiastic, raving members engage with their benefits, and often encourage others to do so too.

Life would be easy if all people were completely rational. However people don't act rationally. Communications and User Experience (UX) are an art. Engagement is an art. It is important we don't get too lost in data and miss opportunities to draw members in. However, the dilemma is, communications is also a science. We measure engagement and the user experience. At the same time we are trying to put heart and soul into our communications. We are trying to get across the important themes of love, health and hope. Whilst trying to communicate pensions and benefits. It's tough.

But there are techniques we can use to reconcile the art and the science. To go beyond the data I would advocate creating personas. Personas are decision making tools, based on data, that bring user research to life in a way that is actionable. A good, well researched persona will tell you what a particular segment of membership is feeling; their motivations, their frustrations, their end goals and attitudes, what they currently know and what they need to know. Personas help you define who you are designing for. Personas help you walk in your members’ shoes, and with continued use can begin to feel like real people, leading to better, more employee-centred decision making.

As a User Experience consultant I would always recommend talking to users, in this case, the members, the recipients of your communications. Focus groups can make you rethink things you thought you knew. Many clients have been surprised by the results of their focus groups; and often they have proved to be the foundation upon which future strategy and design work has been based. Focus groups allow us to understand what users know about a topic. They allow us to see through the eyes of a “normal” person, avoid assumptions, understand the terminology really used, and endorse or challenge conventional thinking. They allow us to explore ‘the gap between what people say and what they do’.

Talk to your members, they might tell you a thing or two. It might not be logical but somewhere it will become passionate.

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