People always ask me why I chose to go into consulting and not psychology given that I spent 5 years studying Psychology and Occupational Psychiatry at university. I guess when you say you are a consultant, people’s perceptions of what you do really varies. Some think you are stuck behind a computer screen for most of the day, while others think of suited, corporate robots who work a lot of hours. Whilst the hours can be long and I spend a significant amount of time on my computer, the largest part of what I actually do is interacting and having conversations with clients and their customers and applying my psychology background to drive the ways I approach these conversations and shape their feedback into actionable insights.
Let me take a few steps back – for the past year I have been working in a large retail bank in the Republic of Ireland. I am part of the Customer Validation team and our goal is to test new features that will be rolled out to the bank’s customers, as well as the user interface prototypes ahead of the design and build. We use both quantitative (online surveys) and qualitative methods (focus groups, stakeholder workshops and usability testing). My role is to make sure the customers have a say in shaping their experience with the bank. I am personally in charge of is testing, whereby every week I visit different branches across Ireland (both urban and rural areas) and collect customers’ feedback which is then used to inform the end product design. To put this simply, my team acts as the voice of the customer. What the customer wants, the customer gets – in theory! In doing so, we ensure the customers are happy and have a positive customer experience when they interact with the bank, which then translates to higher retention and higher spending.
As a member of the Business and Technology Innovation (BTI) capability team, I am able to appreciate the importance of technology in today’s world. Because of my psychology background, understanding how people are impacted by technology is at the forefront of my thinking. Rather than building the technology, I therefore focus on how technology is received by customers and I can use my technical and people skills to ensure customers benefit from digital transformation programmes.
So what does a typical week look like for me?
Sunday: a day of rest is cut short by the inevitable last minute panic about packing – shall I take the trainers or shall I not take the trainers? Maybe I will actually use them this week I tell myself, and so in the trainers go.
Monday: my alarm goes off at 04:30 and I am at the airport by 5:30 to catch my 06:50 flight to Dublin. I am in the office by 09:00.
Now that the hardest part of the week is over, I have two to three cups of coffee and head to my first stakeholder meeting of the week. I use these meetings to work out what new app’ features or customer journeys are the most urgent to test, as well as to decide what type of customers they would like us to approach. I then spend the rest of the day designing the right testing method:
- If it is an app’ or website feature, it will probably be a usability test. For these tests we would use an agency to recruit 6 to 12 participants. However we are responsible for booking the venue, setting up the interview and observation room and conducting the actual test. The customers we invite to the test will have a chance to actually play with (and often break!) a prototype.
- It could also be a focus group where we gather 6 to 10 participants in a room where we guide a discussion around a specific topic whilst our stakeholders watch the session behind a one-way glass. A focus group can last up to 90 minutes and this method allows us to gather richer, qualitative findings, and elicits customer insights we couldn’t get by using other testing methods. It could be a Guerrilla Test, which is the fastest to put together and most cost-effective. This is when we go to different branches and ask customers questions about how they would feel if the bank introduced new products or made certain changes.
Tuesday: finalise test preparations.
Wednesday: testing day. Depending on what type of testing session we have decided on for the week, we will either head to a branch or to the focus group/usability testing venue. We will record our findings throughout the day and in some cases take video recordings of the sessions. This can help us identify the key issues the participants have had with navigating the app’ or website.
Thursday: I will collate the findings from the previous day’s test, extract any key insights and come up with recommendations. I will use this analysis to build a presentation that I will deliver to the relevant stakeholders in the afternoon, providing actionable insights and guidance to my client. Then into the taxi and back to London.
Friday: catch up with stakeholders (remotely) to discuss any next steps and how our findings can be used to add value to the customer. Friday’s are also an opportunity to catch up with my colleagues in the London office.
Now, I hope that conveys some of the excitement this project brings! My role has provided me with the opportunity to travel around a beautiful country, and promised me work that ensure my day-to-day activities are varied. Moreover, as we spend the majority of our evenings in Dublin, the team and I regularly go out for dinner and drinks or even for a run (turns out, despite the naysayers, the trainers have come in use!)
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