The use of design thinking in human service is increasingly taking hold in the aged care and disability services sectors in Australia as service providers on the NDIS journey seek to improve customer experience. Organisations are already increasingly seeking customer insights to strengthen service quality and viability. What is the potential then for ‘person centred information design’ where design thinking was applied in a way that supports consumers to co-create the information tools and timelines that best meet their needs?
Information design has been the realm of graphic designers who seek to present information in a way that makes it easy to understand and use. Person-centred information design would go a step further looking not just at how information is presented and utilised, but how it is developed and delivered using the channels identified by the user. As far as possible, codesign would drive content, look and feel. Person-centred information design could offer people with disability a seat as the co-pilots on the information design journey.
Although there is more marketing and promotions in the disability sector than ever before, online communities reveal the enduring frustrations of people who want to know how the scheme works, what services are available and which provider they should choose. The NDIS is going to be less about selling services and more about selling quality customer experiences and outcomes. In the experience of your customer lies your opportunity to improve and that includes communication. The Productivity Commission Report on NDIS Costs also provided a long list of information requirements needed to help mitigate some of the risks facing the NDIS.
Typically, information is designed as part of a communication strategy around the disciplines of advertising, public relations marketing and digital. The short version is advertising raises awareness, public relations is about relationships and reputation, marketing is about engagement and sales and digital is an avenue for dialogue. All four communicate information to support business viably and each defines and targets a specific audience. Each creates information products that function as decision making tools for consumers that are pushed out or pulled down at key decision-making points in the customer journey.
Traditionally, this information strategy is developed by communication experts and tested by customer juries, UAT, even mystery shoppers. It’s rare that any communication channels or tools are designed as a result of direct customer involvement through co-creation at the design stage. It’s rare that information products are rapidly produced to meet demand or designed to be responsive to ongoing inputs. However, in person-centred human services, there is far greater recognition now of the expertise borne of experience. Individualised planning, services and funding already recognise that people are the experts in their own life and can best decide their own needs. Might that not also be true for their own information requirements.
Person centred information design would recognise that consumers of information and people delivering information have valuable insights into what information was required, how it should be presented and how it should be communicated. It wouldn’t mean letting go of a brand. It wouldn’t replace the need for professional writing and relevant, high quality images and artwork. It would be more like an ultimate creative brief where lesson learned from the customers experience inform information production. It would encourage the intimate involvement of customers to help business better understand meets their information needs and improve their future customer experience.
Person centred information design wouldn’t just look at external promotional information either. It would also view business information as part of an organisations’ values proposition. Quality, culture and experience are key factors in conversations about service choice and policies, customer charters and complaints processes are just some of examples of the information used by consumers when judging the quality and suitability of services.
Business information is, of course, about regulation, accreditation, governance safety, quality and a whole lot more besides, but where your business information can influence your customer, it’s part of your marketing. It would be hard not to consider business information as a viable channel for your value proposition.
This user experience, when captured and understood could be potent in achieving business objectives. Market driven information. Win-win. As organisations increasingly turn to CRM to track and monitor customer relationships in the human service realm, person-centred information design could offer a new opportunity to build real customer relationships.
Person-centredness and design thinking can combine with customer journey mapping and provide insight into the decision tools and decision points of people travelling towards and through the service system. Mapping the customer experience can inform service design or troubleshoot service processes. Staff are another credible source for feedback on the information gaps in your organisation. The good news is you do not need to be an expert designer to be able to do this. You need a set of tools and an open mind. Customer mapping is about listening and questioning in order to develop understanding while providing a mechanism to record the customer experience.
Similarly, person centred information design could never succeed if were a rigid, defined discipline with right or wrong answers. It must be a tool for problem solving and continuous improvement based on design principles. It must be a cooperative and responsive effort to collectively define challenges and identify options. The next step would involve trying, refining and reframing information until the appetite of your customers (and potential customers) is sated. Organisations that map their value proposition will identify weaknesses and opportunities and develop an informed, targeted information strategy that better supports viability because it better meets the customer’s needs. It will be less about selling and more about informing.
While consumer law must guide organisations on what they can and can’t do in terms of sale, the principles and values that might be agreed during a person centred information design process could help ensure authentic outcomes:
- Information is factual and complete
- Information is available when people want it, where they want it and in the way they want it
- The communication channels used are those preferred by the customer
- Information is accessible and available in a range of ways
- Information is intended to support informed decision making and choice
- Information refers to business information and promotional information
- Private information is protected and kept safe.