Five Question Friday: Mira Nair

Five Question Friday: Mira Nair

Mira Nair is one of the most impressive UX professionals we know.

Mira is a digital marketer obsessed with making technology work better to meet human needs. She is currently the digital marketing manager at innovation and transformation consultancy PA Consulting. Prior to PA, she was at Linguamatics, a world leader in healthcare big data analytics.

Before working in the tech industry, Mira learned her trade of digital outreach and communications working in the USA in higher education and at charities – sectors where data plays a surprisingly important role! Mira regularly delivers communication workshops – including using storytelling for business, and also data visualization best practice – and advises Cambridge-based startups on their CX strategy. She holds an MPhil in Management from Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

Mira has an absolute wealth of knowledge to share, and we couldn’t be happier to have her as our guest for today’s Five Question Friday.

What are your best tips to create customer-centric culture across an organization?

Customer centric culture should not be thought of as a new fad, but as a core goal which was always there but facing new challenges and opportunities.

Having a customer-first mindset needs to go beyond UX and CX teams; we need to de-centralise and invite all the teams who don’t deal directly with customers, from finance to HR to IT, to recognise how their work impacts customer experience.

Tip 1: Training. Part of the job of UX and CX should be to train others in the customer mindset. Exercises like persona profiling and customer journey mapping are not only fun to do with any team, but can also give you, the ‘customer expert,’ new insights and perspectives. HR and professional development spends lots of money on training and excursions to help, say, IT, do team-building. Why not use a customer journey mapping workshop for team-building? The CX will unite colleagues around a common goal and common values.

Tip 2: Humanise data. Now that we have exploding volumes of data around customers, it is even more important not to treat each customer as a single data point in time, but rather continuously look at the lifetime value of existing and potential customers. This means spotting patterns across a large population of existing and potential customers without losing a sense of each customer specificity. This customer-centric focus should cut across almost all corporate functions from billing and sales, to marketing and product design. Marrying the opportunities of big data with the power of storytelling will be key to customer-centric strategies.

Tip 3: Content. Produce content that eschews internal bias and thinking and is designed with the customer in mind. Modern organisations live and breathe content – be it the latest marketing collateral or a post on Yammer, employees can’t escape the content barrage.

Create case studies of how your products and services have had positive impact on customer lives – and share these case studies internally and externally. If your content can convince even the most jaded of your developers that the work you’re doing has real meaning for customers, then it can convince prospective customers that you’re worth buying from over the competition. Your colleagues are a great way to test the effectiveness of your content and your brand story, before it goes out to the public.

Artificial Intelligence

AI and other digital technologies are driving the future of UX. What are some of the most exciting new opportunities that these create for UX teams?

New AI and other types of digital technologies are creating new opportunities for UX teams across all stages of the UX design process. At the research and optimisation stages, we are able to collect more and better data. At the product design stages, we are able to create more sophisticated solutions and personalised experiences to help customers achieve their goals. But sometimes we get lost in all this technology and forget that we are using it for the benefit of human audiences. UX and CX professionals have the responsibility of ensuring technological advancement is for the betterment of the customer experience, rather than just a way for teams to drive their heads further into the sand.

The key is to think of AI and digital technologies as complements to, not substitutes for, the human element in UX design. A good example is using a neural learning database of thousands of videos analysed for emotional arcs to test the emotional attractiveness of potential storylines for a product. Multiple versions of the storyline can be tested in small audience samples to find how to customize each message to each audience segment or even individual customer. None of this can be driven solely by AI or other technologies – human analysis is necessary. AI and digital tech, above all, give UX teams the opportunity to harness their ability to EMPATHISE at deeper levels with human users, and let robots do increasingly more of the rest of the work. Empathy and understanding the importance of context are still two human traits that new tech is unable to automate well, if at all.

BiasWhat’s one tip you’d like to give to help avoid pre-existing organizational biases and focus on creating superb customer experiences?

Our manufacturing bias has kept our corporate functions product centric, instead of customer centric. The core in creating a good customer journey is to focus primarily on the customer, not the product. This means keeping every aspect of the customer experience from initial touchpoint to final sales and ongoing retention as the overall story. The product has to fit into this overall story, sometimes even only at the margin. Think of your typical car commercial – how the car appears only in the final seconds of a one-minute spot, in which the parent watches a baby growing up with a dog and finally transforms into the young adult driving the pet in a sedan. Getting to know what excites and energizes your customers to come into your storefront and keep coming back is key. Besides, your products may change or your brand may span a wide product portfolio. Keeping the customer at the centre of your attention can never be a losing strategy.

What are some emerging UX niches you see opening up in the near future?

The day is probably coming soon when we will see flat one-dimensional websites and apps as the dinosaur gateways to the customer experience. Instead, we will probably shift to customer interfaces based in virtual reality, augmented reality, voice commands, and AI all moving to the forefront of UX. Bear in mind however that this will not simply be a shift in technology. Successful UX will integrate technology with emotional design and probably dynamically messaged to different customer demographics and locations and also depending on the specific moment of the customer journey. In short, expect UX design to speak more directly, emotionally, and dynamically to the customer than ever before.

What inspires you to stay on the cutting edge of UX?

I find the explosion of technology options very exciting. This together with our better reach to individual customers by unlocking the potential of big data and AI. But what fundamentally drives my excitement is our greater ability than before to create that knockout customer experience. We live in a content universe where marketing teams can get more ROI on the 30 second, low-budget, but highly talented winning video spot than from millions spent in flat advertising messages. We are witnessing so many exciting new demographic segments globally, from millennials across the world, to ageing customers, and newly emerging middle classes. There has never historically been a better time to craft exciting messaging for these diverse segments using powerful, yet very accessible technology tools which were previously unavailable. There is no better time to explore what it means to be a user, and what it means to engage and design for users.

Joe Natoli
Joe Natoli

Can’t get enough Five Question Friday?  Check out last week’s entry with the great Joe Natoli.

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