Transforming customer insights into innovative CX initiatives

Our guest for today's episode is Rod Netterfield. For the past 10 years Rod has been embedded in a variety of mid-tier and large global organisations leading customer experience strategies and functions to uplift capability and improve delivery across brands, products and services. He believes design thinking is the secret sauce for transforming your customer insights into innovative CX initiatives.

We're excited to have Rod on the show to do a deep dive into design thinking as it relates to customer insights and CX.


Connect with Rod on LinkedIn

Podcast

Transcript

Ryan Stuart: Welcome to Insightful Leaders. I'm your host Ryan Stuart, and this is the show where I interview proven leaders in customer insights and CX who share their stories, strategies, and insights to drive meaningful change at your organization. Our guest for today's episode is Rod Netterfield. For the past 10 years Rod has embedded in a variety of mid-tier, large global organizations leading customer experience strategies and functions to uplift capability and improve delivery across brands, products, and services. He believes design thinking is the secret sauce for transforming your customer insights into innovative CX initiatives. We're excited to have Rod on the show to do a deep dive into design thinking as it relates to customer insights and CX. Rod, welcome to Insightful Leaders.

Rod Netterfield: Thanks very much for having me.

Ryan Stuart: Let's kick things off with design thinking, obviously an area that you have quite a deal of expertise at. Can you explain the process of design thinking and how organizations can benefit from it, please?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. So design thinking I guess, is a set of practical mindsets and methods. And so what it does is it allows you to take customer insight and actually turn it into really innovative, sustainable solutions. And so what I think great design and great design thinking projects look like is that they start from that human centered core. But I think importantly, and I guess what I'm really passionate about, is in your design thinking projects you bring together this diverse group of people, both inside and outside your organization, to actually build a balanced solution so that everything that you build is actually going to stack up and actually deliver a meaningful benefit to all concerned.

Rod Netterfield: [crosstalk] So sorry, so I think to the second part of your question, I guess the importance for this, and I think why it works so well within customer experience function and team, is that it allows you to make sure you're focusing on the right problems from your customer's perspective. But I think also it means that using frameworks like a double diamond for example, that you can have that balanced conversation. So you're bringing in stakeholders and diverse groups of people so that you've got desirable, feasible, and viable solutions coming out.

Ryan Stuart: And double diamond, that's something that I have heard in passing but don't have a lot of experience in myself. Do you mind going a bit deeper on what double diamond is?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I think yeah, most people when they think about design thinking somewhere along the way people say to me, oh, that's that diamond, isn't it? And so I hear that a lot. And so look, the double diamond is probably most popularized by the UK Design Council, and I think that's where most people probably have seen it come from. But fundamentally it's exactly what it sounds like, you've got the two diamonds there. And the first diamond is really about understanding the problem space, and then the second time in is really about understanding the solution space.

Rod Netterfield: And so if you think about sort of the nature of a diamond, there's periods here where you've got in your problem space where you're trying to diverge your mindsets and go out there and get all of this information before, I sort of say that then you're making sense of the mess. And the beauty there is that you've gone from a general understanding of the problem to the specific problem or opportunities you're trying to explore. And then you go into your solution space. And so you go out with divergent sort of methods and mindsets where most people would do sort of brainstorming or ideation sessions before you then zero in on what actually is the solution or solutions that you're coming out with at the other end of your project.

Ryan Stuart: Got it. And how does this translate into, or how have you seen it translate into organizational design? Is this something that you've seen influence organizational design at all? The reason why I ask is it feels like the people doing the first diamond, getting the insights, going wide on the insights and really distilling down the understanding, there needs to be some sort of transfer of that understanding and [inaudible] internally the organization to then move to the solution phase. And is that solution phase often done by different people?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, it's a good question. And there's probably not a consistent answer I can give you in terms of, if I think about every organization I've worked in or supported, it's slightly different in every single organization. And that's okay, it needs to make sense in the context of your organization. But fundamentally I think it sits well in the, at least the first diamond it sits well, and typically within a CX type function, particularly in insights function. I often believe that it needs to then have at least those people continuing into the solutioning phase, because otherwise you can lose sense or lose sight of what it is that you're trying to deliver.

Rod Netterfield: But in essence, yes, it must have a broader application than just your CX or your insights function for this to actually ever sort of, a solution to see the light of day, but actually so they'll be sustainable. So the way I sort of think about it is that the more people you can bring into these design thinking projects along the way, they have an opportunity to contribute into it. And therefore they have a little part of ownership of the outcome at the other end. And so actually it will be again, more likely to be successful down the track.

Ryan Stuart: Yeah, so I imagine for those, particularly in the solution phase, and I guess also in the problem phase, success here is probably at least somewhat determined by your ability to engage the area of the business that the particular problem pertains to and get them to participate in the solution?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. And it's not just design projects in general, but clearly we've got to talk about sponsorship. And so it's about getting the right sponsor or sponsors for your design thinking engagement. So when I think about at the very, very onset of a project that you're starting with design thinking, you'll typically get at least one, two, or three sponsors. And those are the people that we expect at the other end may have an action, an outcome, or an ownership of what might come out of the actual design thinking projects. Because ultimately they're the ones that have to, I guess take it forward when the actual specific engagement finishes. But somewhere along the way, sometimes that does change because what you think is the problem that you're exploring at the very, very start, once you've actually gone wide and then synthesized your findings, you'll actually understand there's a different root cause driver, or it's actually a different problem from the customer's perspective, or all of the above.

Ryan Stuart: Yeah, interesting. And coming back to organizational design for a minute, in the application of let's say double diamond in particular, have you seen this work best in organizations that have centralized insights functions? Or is it more to do with insights functions that sit in individual business units and it's the business unit rolling out the double diamond or design thinking process?

Rod Netterfield: Look, in my experiences it's probably been more of a centralized function. But the context may be to provide there is that in the organizations I guess, either working for or working with, they're in their infancy of their design thinking maturity, if you like. And so the centralization of that helps you build a small center of excellence. Over time, and I guess if I reflect back and I go and have conversations with organizations I've worked for in the past, they over time if you like, I won't say diffuse, but I guess they go into a more decentralized, more hybridized model. Because at the end of the day design thinking, the mindsets and the methods, effectively anybody can utilize them. But I think it needs to really, certainly at the onset of this into your organization, needs to be led centrally for maximizing success. And that's in my experiences.

Ryan Stuart: Yeah, cool. Got it. So is there anything else in the rollout of design thinking in particular and the insights in CX teams that you think ,is there any gold standards or benchmarks that come to mind in terms of how to roll out something like the double diamond inside those teams?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. So look, we spoke about sponsorship there already and sponsorship is critical for any project, but in particular for a design thinking project. Because otherwise you will get to the end and you'll have these great ideas, initiatives, or recommendations that just can go nowhere because there's no funding, or resource commitment, or whatever that might look like. I think typically if I think about what some of the stumbling blocks may be that that hit early on is that if you don't spend enough time in the problem space. And so I think this is where it's about getting people to really be comfortable with spending time in problems.

Rod Netterfield: And I think so often in projects and design thinking engagements you see everybody's trying to race for a solution, and the more time you can actually spend understanding the problem, you'll actually find greater levels of success. Because I think, and I guess if you draw all the way back to the double diamonds, the visualization has got two diamonds that are the same size. And so I sort of described that you need to spend enough time in both. And so it's about getting those right people, rallying them together around that common cause. And again, the sponsorship and getting the right people into that engagement and spending that time in the problem space will actually ensure your success.

Ryan Stuart: Is a framework like the double diamond, does it pertain in particular to projects or is there a way to operationalize it and kind of bring it into the day-to-day and the weekly flow of an insights, or even a wider organization?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. So you can use it for big and small problems. I think sometimes you might get to a point where the problems are becoming so small and simple that actually it's not a good value for your return on investment there. But it can be used for tactical and operational problems right through to using design thinking actually to develop strategy. So it's got broad application in terms of that type of function and utilization. And ultimately it works across all industries. When I think about, I guess my experiences, and training courses, and seminars, and that that I've been to you, I've seen it used from everything. From context center environments out to people that are doing things in agriculture and farming, and everything in between.

Ryan Stuart: Something we didn't mention in the intro, right at the moment you're working at a university here in Australia called Griffith University. And for those that are unaware of the context of Australian universities right now, it's a particularly challenging time with COVID having had a big financial impact on that sector. What are some examples of things that you're working on where you've successfully managed to roll out on the design thinking or the double diamond to improve, I guess in this instance the student experience rather than customer experience?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. I think COVID in one way, shape, or form is impacting everybody, and it's obviously had some unique challenges for the higher education sector here in Australia. So if I think about it at Griffith, so again, the context here is that it's a small experienced team that is building a level of capability around design thinking and other toolkits as well. But we fundamentally have got two customer types where we think about, which is exactly what you described. So number one is obviously the student, but we also have a second customer type that where we think about that there's a core, if you like, centralized set of services that is actually providing service internally to a set of academics and researchers. So I guess there's that sort of, if you like double lens, if you like about providing experience improvements for colleagues and experience improvements for students.

Rod Netterfield: So we've had, I guess applications of design thinking here across both in terms of those engagements. So I'm going to start the colleague example first and then we'll go to some student one. So if you think about the colleague experience where we've been engaged around an end to end procurement process. So the ultimate trigger for this was coming of, there was some feedback that was coming out of a staff survey where this process was deemed to be complex, and confusing, and hard to administer and navigate. So we were engaged to there work across with the various areas. And so I think this was a great example where you had multiple functions inside the university community that were providing the service end to end. And so each of them had been focused on optimizing their own part of that process, but no one had ever actually taken the step back and thought, what does this look like from a colleague perspective? And what does this actually look like end to end?

Rod Netterfield: So everybody's going, it's great, we're turning out our piece of that process in a small number of hours or days, but the cycle times and that when you looked at an end to end wasn't actually supporting the community. So in terms of what we did here, so we started off by actually going out and having a whole raft of just interviews, and going out and seeing people that were administering this process. So we spoke to people that were high-frequency users, people that have been at the university for many, many years, people that were new to the university, and everything in between. And we took all of those insights and then we worked with the internal service providers to actually go, well what does this actually look like end to end?

Rod Netterfield: And I guess the deliverable of the artifact here was, I guess it was somewhere between a journey map and a service blueprint. And I think what was fantastic for this as we were making again, sense of all that mess if you like, or all of that feedback that we'd heard through the empathy and the interview stages, was that where the colleagues were reporting frustrations, or confusions, or problems with the process was lining up really nicely with where the internal people providing that service were experiencing pain points and frustration as well. So all of a sudden it actually provided this alignment where, okay, if we fix this for ourselves we can also fix it for our colleagues, and we ultimately all win.

Rod Netterfield: We flipped then into the next phase and we understood what were existing in-flight initiatives that were going on, we did ideation around where there was still gaps that would need to be looked at to improve the process. And then rather than just going straight to implementation, what we did is we did a whole lot of paper-based prototyping. So we got, I'm literally talking about drawings. We drew what we thought that process would look like end to end. We went back and we tested it with those colleagues we've done initial interviews with and they said, yes, if you can deliver that, that would be on track with my needs.

Rod Netterfield: We went to the next stage and we started them building wire frames. And so again, we didn't go straight to solution, we just kept testing and testing to make sure that we were building with that continual focus for colleague-centricity in this case. And ultimately we've now got to a point where that process has been delivered in an enhanced way. And the cycle time has reduced from days to weeks, to hours to days. And ultimately improving service, reducing the pain points for the people providing the service, and delivering a better colleague experience.

Rod Netterfield: That's probably a big example, but much the same with student experiences. We've done a whole lot of work where it's probably been looking at, I guess let's call them more tactical opportunities either for a segment of students, or looking at tactical opportunities for a specific component of their overall experience. So the wonderful richness of a university like Griffith, and obviously many other higher education institutions, is the richness of diversity we have in our population. So we've done a design thinking engagement where we're specifically exploring, how do we improve online student experiences? Now thankfully I guess that was just before all of the COVID lockdowns where I guess everyone went online for a bit, so that was actually really well timed.

Rod Netterfield: Whilst everyone was at home and doing their study from home we ran a design thinking engagement, and this was all then virtually, which was very different for us, where we said at some point in the future we'll be coming back to campus, and in a post-COVID world, how does everybody feel comfortable in a post-COVID world with accessing places and spaces on campus? What does collaboration and building senses of community look like? And so it's allowed us then, prior to people returning, to actually get people to think about, well how can we improve those spaces and make everyone come back to campus when we can, but actually be able to do it safely?

Rod Netterfield: And now, and this is literally engagement we're starting right at the moment. In our new normal, I guess in terms of that language set, let's actually look at the end to end journey and go, in light of COVID and what it's now brought to the higher education sector, what does this experience now look like for students in a post-COVID world? So it's a really exciting one that's been building over on top of a number of engagements.

Ryan Stuart: And the discipline of the student experience, obviously customer experience has got a fairly well known history, is student experience something that's been relatively new in the higher education market and has COVID really accelerated the focus on that?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. So the short answer is probably yes, obviously COVID has improved a fixation or a focus around the student experience, because of its, I guess the impact of the international students. So there's obviously a greater focus one, on domestic student experience, but importantly how do we provide for those students that are international students starting in their home country? How do we provide a great experience there? But I think even before COVID it was probably a couple of years ago now where it was seen, not just here at Griffith, but across multiple universities where there was these director of experience roles or something like that that were starting to come into the sector. And I think much the same as, even sort of public sector and all of that as well, there's this feeling and flavor that customer experience initiatives, or student experience, or whatever you call it, makes sense and is just good business.

Ryan Stuart: Yeah. And I'm curious, have you seen much of a change in the process you've gone through with students? Is the way that they're wanting to interact with education changed now that they've experienced digital-only education?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, it's been fascinating. And sorry, I've got little tingles thinking about all of the stories that I've been hearing from people. But what I think is a really, really fascinating insight is that the idea of a large lecture, and I certainly when I did my study I remember the large lectures with 500 people in a-

Ryan Stuart: Yeah, you're not alone.

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, 100 Stats or whatever it was. And that's obviously not possible right now, and maybe we'll never actually go back to that. But I think what was fascinating was when we could have people starting to return to campus, we weren't returning them here for large lectures, but we were turning them all into tutorials, and seminars, and practicals, which obviously makes sense in smaller groups and cohorts. But what I thought was interesting was that we were seeing behaviors where students were choosing to come together somewhere and watch their lectures together, because they felt something and they felt a benefit from, I can come together with people. And even though, yes, I'm actually watching a lecture online, by coming together and having that opportunity for informal discussion and collaboration, it gave them that sense of community that they were expecting within their student experience.

Rod Netterfield: So I guess the challenge for us now is we don't necessarily have a space at the moment that actually is suitable for that purpose. So if this is something we think is going to be part of that ongoing experience, well how do we create spaces that we can lean in if you like, to this and allow students to come together?

Ryan Stuart: Interesting, very interesting. I think it's pretty plain to see the depth of your expertise when it comes to design thinking. So I'm curious as someone that has that level of understanding that you do, is there a particular industry verticals or market segments that you feel like are really well-placed to benefit from a customer-centric design thinking approach? And if so, why are those industries in particular jumping out at you?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, it's a good question. I think to some extent it has its place in every single industry sector that I can think about. I think if you've got ultimately somebody that is a customer, or a person, or a stakeholder, or a colleague, or whoever it might be that you can focus on, and you've got that idea of a human-centered core, if you've got a problem or an opportunity that is worthy of that investment of time for design thinking engagement, then fundamentally it works. I think the, if you like, the mindsets and the methods that come in design thinking, it's not a cookie cutter playbook. You've got all of these tools, if you like, that are on your toolkit and it's them working to understand, what's the problem I'm looking at? What's the end desired outcome I'm working towards? And how do I build that engagement together?

Rod Netterfield: So even though I've done many design engagements and projects over the years, yes, there's some level of commonality there, but every single one is different. So I think it does have broad application, and sort of something I think I touched on earlier where there's sometimes problems that are too small, and probably where I see some people make those common mistakes early is that they pick just too small a problem to start with their design thinking sort of maturity build. And if it's not big enough and it's just a very, very simple problem, actually it's not a good way to start building that muscle, if you like, for design thinking.

Rod Netterfield: I could go to the other end of the spectrum as well and sometimes I see organizations that are in the chaos situation and they try to say, oh, how can we use design thinking here? And I think if you go to that complete other end of the spectrum there and an organization is in chaos, you really there initially need someone to just make some decisions to alleviate the immediate burn. Because design thinking, yes, it could help you, but it's got obviously a tail to it. That period of time and an investment. So you need strongly just to make some decisions early, and then potentially you could use the thinking down the track.

Ryan Stuart: Interesting. Imagine for a second that I'm someone that's watching this podcast online. I've just listened to your description of when the situation is right to deploy design thinking, and I feel like my organization meets those criteria and has a particular problem in mind that isn't too big, it isn't too small, and I want to give it a go, what do I do next? What are some go-to things that I should think about in terms of trying to get my first endeavor into design thinking off the ground?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. So I think it's about again, if you've got probably the right sponsor. So you need obviously somebody that will champion in the cause, will I guess in a way that if you think about it will give you, let's call it a seed funding to say, I've heard about design thinking, I think I've got the right problem, I'd like to have a go. And so you need somebody that will, I guess give you that opportunity to have a go and give you that funding and time. I certainly think there's lots of people like myself that that can help you, or there's obviously other organizations, consulting firms and what that can help you if you have those types of funds, but there's also so much training material out there. And a lot of it is very accessible and available. So you can certainly enrich your own skill set and knowledge there as well.

Rod Netterfield: But I think it's if you've got that permission to start you've got somebody that can help show the way, I think that you want to try to build some of these capability in-house, so it's about finding the people that have got the right mindsets. And so when I'm thinking about people that have got the right mindsets for design, it's people that have got, I guess a customer passion, if you like, or a human-centered passion. It's people that are comfortable with ambiguity and comfortable with, I guess I've described it a few times as a mess. There's periods in those design phases where you're going out there and you're going wide, and it gets messy and it gets ambiguous. And you've got to have people that are going to push through and have that curiosity to actually keep going and keep digging.

Rod Netterfield: I think probably the last part, if you think about mindsets or base skills that are great for people if you're trying to invest in your internal people, you need people that are really, really great storytellers. Because so much of what actually gets these engagements through the design thinking project period and then ongoing is the ability to keep telling those stories that you've learned through that initial empathy phase where you're going out and you're interviewing or you're watching people.

Ryan Stuart: Okay. Well imagine for a second that I've found my internal stakeholder, I've found the funding, I've done the training, I've found the people with the right mindset who are comfortable with chaos, and I found my people with the storytelling skills to keep the right people engaged during the process. How do I know that my approach is working? My design thinking approach in this particular problem I decided to apply it to. What are some of the leading indicators of success?

Rod Netterfield: Yep, good one. So I will start with that idea of messiness. So design thinking will feel messy, and oftentimes when I'm coaching people that are early on in their journey and they say, I've lost which way's up, there's just so much here. I'm like, okay, that's means we're doing the right things, it means we're exploring it wide enough. And then it's about helping them obviously make sense of that mess. So I think the first leading indicator for a successful engagement when you're in it is that it's feeling messy at periods. It shouldn't feel clean. So often these problems or opportunities you might be exploring have been within an organization for so long, and this is just a different way to look at it. And so it is hard and it will be hard. So I think if it feels messy, certainly at the onset you're on the right track.

Rod Netterfield: I think it's probably for the core team of people we spoke about there, but there's a behavioral piece as well where those, if you like, the stakeholders or colleagues that you're taking on the journey with you, when people stop using the language, I think, and people start saying, our customers want, or our customers need. And so they've got that shift of, I'm not thinking about just myself now, I'm thinking about that customer or that human that's at the center of what we're designing for. That's a great success indicator because you're actually not just using the methods, you're actually infusing into people's mindsets.

Rod Netterfield: And I think probably the third one, it probably makes it fairly sort of a bottom up approach. But when people that have potentially had exposure have heard about your work, you're having people bring your problems. So when people start seeking you out and you're getting that groundswell or that bottom up groundswell, that's success. Because it means that people are seeing the value in what you're doing, they're captured, they're interested. And importantly if you can get that groundswell of the people, they'll typically be invested to then work with you and partner with you to deliver something great.

Ryan Stuart: Awesome. And what are those pitfalls or potholes as a newcomer to rolling out design thinking on a problem that I've got in the organization? What are the ones that I need to be aware of that I can easily avoid if I know about them?

Rod Netterfield: Oh, goodness. Unfortunately this list is probably a lot longer, but I'll try to keep myself to three here. So look I've mentioned it briefly earlier, I think the main, let's say issues that I see arising is when people don't spend enough time in the problem space. We typically as project teams, or as individuals in an organization, get rewarded and recognized for delivering solutions. I'd love to see it where you get to a point where it's actually your rewarded and recognized because you've just gone and understood the problem well. And investing in that gets to the right root causes or the right implicit needs and really will set you up for success, I can't emphasize that enough.

Rod Netterfield: I think, look number two, is probably more when you're getting into your solutioning space. If I think about, so at some point there's typically post-its that come involved here, and no matter what engagement I work on, one of the first post-its that always goes up in an ideation session for whatever reason is, oh we'll just do a mobile app. And it's not all about technology. There are so many examples I've had where it's not actually a technology fix, it's a culture fix, or it's a process fix, or it's a communication fix. And the beauty is those are a lot simpler, and easier, and cheaper typically to do.

Rod Netterfield: And I've had one where it was briefed in as we've got a technology problem we think, we don't quite understand it though, we want to explore it. And it ended up being that a communication piece had got reverted to a previous version. And it was just the version was now incompatible with the product that it was being dispatched with and it was causing the issue. So it's spending time to understand that, and then look at what's the actual problems we need to fix, and it's not all about technology in that solutioning space is probably number two.

Rod Netterfield: Number three, actually I know what number three would be. So when you think about your prototyping. So in my earlier example I spoke to, was that idea that when we did prototype testing of our solution we used hand-drawn diagrams in the first instance. And I think when you're doing prototyping I typically see people over-invest in those initial prototypes. So it can be scrappy and it can just be a drawing, but it allows you to test your thinking. And then you can build the maturity of that prototype over time or the fidelity of that prototype over time.

Rod Netterfield: But the other thing to caution in that prototype testing phase is something I call confirmation bias. So you're going out there, you've been working on this project for so long, and you go and have these discussions with people to test your prototype, you've got a caution of watch yourself. You're not just listening for people say what they like, you've got to make sure you listen as well for what they don't like or what they would change. And if that's too hard for you to do, get someone neutral to go and do those interviews for you.

Ryan Stuart: Yes, yes, confirmation bias is very real.

Rod Netterfield: Very, very real.

Ryan Stuart: Another question for you as a newcomer myself to design thinking, what's the right way to set expectations internally, particularly with my champion and my stakeholders around how long they can expect me to spend in the problem space? Should they expect me to spend as much time in the problem space as I do in the solution space? Or is there any kind of rules of thumb that I can use to set those expectations internally?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, yeah, good question. In the broadest possible sense I always budget, if you like, 50/50 for the respective spaces. And I think without any other knowledge, if you like, about what the specific problem is, that's the best indication I can give. There is something in it's going to be a number of weeks, because for anything where you're trying to schedule time to go out and understand the problem truly, you're going to want to have interviews with actual customers, or interviews with internal SMEs, let's call them, subject matter experts. You might actually want to do immersion and you might want to watch people doing things to see what their actual experience is like. You're going to want to go out and get data from data sources that might be available to actually validate this is what I'm hearing or this is what I'm seeing, but what does the data tell me? And that takes time.

Rod Netterfield: So I think it's obviously setting that expectation up front, but then what I typically suggest is if you hit that sponsorship perspective of this is all taking too long, let's just increase the frequency of your sponsor check-ins. And so typically I'd say do more frequent check-ins but smaller amounts of time. And in a way I guess you're nearly training your sponsor here about, I'm showing you lower fidelity and I'm helping you build it with me. And the beauty is obviously if they're contributing into the design engagement as well more frequently, they own the outcomes a little bit better as well. So again, they're more likely to take action as a result of your design thinking projects and engagement.

Ryan Stuart: Right, that was a really a comprehensive, if not a rapid dive into design thinking. I certainly learned a lot so thank you. If it's all right with you, we might move into our rapid fire question round.

Rod Netterfield: Excellent, let's go.

Ryan Stuart: Okay. Well I've got five rapid fire questions about customer experience and about yourself. So let's kick off with the first one, what's the best piece of CX or insight advice that you've ever received?

Rod Netterfield: Okay, definitely. So if I think about, so the first time I ever came out of a contact center manager role into a project sort of space, and at the time I didn't realize how much of an impact it would have. The program manager there kept pulling me up for weeks and weeks and weeks about, don't tell me what you think, tell me what the customers think. And that has stayed with me forever. And it's now interesting, I find myself repeating that language to people so often. But yeah, absolutely the best piece of advice I ever got.

Ryan Stuart: And what's the thing that you're most excited about in the world of CX right now?

Rod Netterfield: Oh, okay. Oh, there's a bit. I think the COVID situation has obviously thrown everything for many organizations and industries up in the air a little bit. And yes, it brings problems, and I guess globally it's obviously got still a tail on it. But in that there's also a lot of opportunity at the moment. And there's a lot of opportunity to think about how you might want to do things differently and to engage with customers differently. So I think there's problems, but yes, there's opportunities in it. I think the only other part I'm personally passionate and excited to see is that with COVID and the situation we've had last year, there seems to have been this increased flavor for sustainability, for health, particularly mental health as well. And obviously a greater level of conversation happening about equity. And I think that's all good for us as a global community.

Ryan Stuart: Personally my favorite question because I'm a big fan of books, what book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Rod Netterfield: Oh, okay. So if I think about design thinking, we'll talk about, this is testing my memory. It's a book called Sprint by Jake Knapp. And this is a great book which talks about how you can do a design thinking engagement end to end in five days. And it has literally got detailed session plans within it as well, so it's a great one to be able to just have a bit of a read. And there's some great stories in there about how they've utilized that approach. The only other second one I'll quickly put it in there as well would be The Power of Moments, so this is our Chip and Dan Heath. And it's probably one of the best books I've read over the last couple of years because it talks about that idea that not all moments are equal. And so I guess when we're going out on these design thinking engagements you don't have to go and fix everything, it's about finding the moment that really matters and going and doubling down your efforts there.

Ryan Stuart: Right, we'll link to both of those in the show notes so people can get to them easily. If I was to ask you which personal company is really nailing it when it comes to customer experience or insights, who comes to mind?

Rod Netterfield: Oh, okay. Actually there's a couple of here, but yeah. So I think AIA Health and Life Insurance, I think are doing some really interesting pieces. There are new to market player in the health insurance space specifically, and they seem to be doing things differently. They seem to be wanting to partner with me as a customer, they seem to be returning values to me above and beyond what it is that I'm actually expecting. And I think I love that they led the way last year by doing just a refund to customers recognizing they couldn't get health insurance benefits last year, particularly around extras. And the led the way. So I think they're doing things differently, I think they're shaking things up and it's exciting.

Rod Netterfield: I think the other, there's probably the two examples but it's probably talking broadly about sort of the group of companies around, you know RACQ for me up here in Queensland, and certainly the NRMA down in Sydney. I think it's fascinating to see what these companies are doing in the face of challenges, about how do they stay relevant in a world where cars now just work more effectively? And so I think what I love seeing there is their focus around a member experience, returning value. And they're finding ways to stay true to their brand essence, but in different ways, which is really exciting to see. Those are probably the ones that come to mind, yeah.

Ryan Stuart: And last one, what's an interesting little fun fact about you that most people wouldn't know about?

Rod Netterfield: Oh, goodness. I guess my 2020 way of decompressing. I guess in the lockdown I got very, very addicted to Lego again. So my two daughters absolutely loved that. But yeah, it was lovely to be able to decompress using my hands and to build some really, really crazy things. And it helped me get some ideas and things out of my mind actually into something tangible.

Ryan Stuart: Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun, maybe I'll follow your lead. If people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Rod Netterfield: Yeah, definitely. I would love to start conversations with anyone that's listening. So please get in touch on LinkedIn, it's probably the easiest way, and certainly happy to pick up a conversation from there.

Ryan Stuart: Awesome. Well chuck a link to your LinkedIn in the show notes as well. Rod, thanks for joining us today on Insightful Leaders, it's been really insightful and it's been a pleasure to have you on the show.

Rod Netterfield: I really appreciate the opportunity, thank you very much.

How to improve your customer insights