The best of your business is backstage

April 15, 2021

Non-profits, start-ups and large corporations often have one thing in common. 

They all have a complex patchwork of systems and working practices that have grown organically over the years. Some of these start off as short term solutions, such as keeping records in offline spreadsheets, or printing out forms only to scan them in again. But intended quick fixes sometimes out stay their welcome, and become more of a hindrance than a help when a service has grown rapidly or in unexpected ways. 

More often than not, what can appear as a slick and professional operation, is actually supported by a loyal team of (stressed out) staff, unstable systems and laboriously manual administration. 

Luckily, improving processes like these is our bread and butter, chips and gravy, or if you ask our American colleague, peanut butter and jelly. Enough about food though, the proof is in the pudding.

Understanding the daily realities of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust team was vital in supporting an improvement to backstage processes to decrease the drop off rate during the onboarding process. Image of the Myplace team by Furthermore.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Understanding the daily realities of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust team was vital in supporting an improvement to backstage processes to decrease the drop off rate during the onboarding process. Image of the Myplace team by Furthermore.                                

Case study: Monitoring, refining and adapting an onboarding process

Through our ongoing work for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, we were set the challenge of decreasing the drop off rate for their ecotherapy service during the onboarding process. Our research process in the discovery phase not only explored the lived experiences of the trust’s target users, but also looked in detail at the internal processes used by the team during the onboarding process. 

Key strengths of the team such as their knowledge of the service and empathic approach were hidden within the current system, so we worked with them to develop a more standardised and consistent process. Finding the right technological platform to help the team better manage the onboarding process was a key element of our work, but training and supporting the team to learn how to use the platform was also crucial. 

What was most important in helping to boost backstage processes was helping the team empower themselves to notice emerging trends in the way their users interact with the ecotherapy service- how to recognise the signals and change in metrics that could trigger the need for a shift in process. Not only does this improve the experience for the service user, but it makes the jobs of the back office team much more fulfilling when team members share the mission of monitoring, refining and adapting. 

After all, whilst digital channels often have a key role in improving backstage processes, the human touch through a quick call with a team member or seeing a video of a rep’s face can be vital in reassuring a service user. 

Whilst we’re only midway through the project, the team can already carry out more granular reporting which helps to monitor drop offs in discrete touchpoints during the user journey as well as more easily keep track of their client relationships. This is especially important as a significant number of prospects may choose to put the onboarding process on hold if they’re experiencing particularly poor mental health. 

Most excitingly, this change means that the team has more time to carry out innovation experiments such as testing the impact of 360 degree video on user acquisition. The time saved by email templates that only need a few amends for personalisation, frees up the team to learn and test these techniques. 

Case study: Moving from consideration to engagement

A personal finance organisation came to us with an unnecessarily confusing onboarding process for service users. Lengthy face to face meetings between staff and customers, manual admin tasks that were stuck in the physical world as well as workflows that lacked a deep understanding of their users, meant that the user had to complete reams of paperwork before seeing a return. 

Whilst on the surface this was a frontstage problem with the processes that the customer sees, these issues were grounded in the backstage processes. For example, advisors working for the organisation spent a long time putting together their presentation material for each prospective user, and would have to travel across the country to present. This combined with the aforementioned paperwork meant that users were falling off the journey during a slow and laborious process. 

Through a series of sequential prototype experiments that tested the impact of a prototype in each part of the journey individually, we were able to isolate hiccups in the customer journey and look at how the service user interacts with the service as a whole. We were able to measure the impact of time between touchpoints or using the service through multiple devices and found that a timely connection between the organisation’s team and the target user, supports customers in sound decision-making and positive action. 

Understanding, mapping out and iterating a business’s backstage processes often brings unparalleled rewards to the consumer. Image of workshop by Furthermore.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Understanding, mapping out and iterating a business’s backstage processes often brings unparalleled rewards to the consumer. Image of workshop by Furthermore.                                

This was only possible through a hybrid digital and real-world approach. Insights from Google Ads told us whether a prospective user was desperate for answers or taking a more considered approach to the financial product. Based on this data, we could then tailor video recordings of the advisors and ensure that any real-time face to face interaction was targeted and time efficient, focused on real advice rather than form filling. 

So by tackling these laborious backstage processes through online experimentation, and encouraging customers to self-serve but with a human touch, we managed to get users through the entire funnel, disproving the assumption that users wouldn’t want to engage with the service online. 

The bottom line

We totally get it, old habits die hard and sometimes the uncertainty associated with making a change can feel overwhelming. The truth is though, beyond bottom lines (although we love seeing these rise too), better backstage processes benefit your people, your customers and your organisational culture. Why? Because it frees up the time the brilliant people who work for you, in all sorts of different functions, can fulfil and enjoy their true missions in your organisation.

Cover image by Jessie McCall. Reproduced with CC licence via Unsplash.

We're an evidence-led, product & service design studio founded in 2013. We believe that the research and strategy behind great design is just as important as the design itself. By gathering data and insights to inform our decisions, we help organisations create services and products based on evidence, not opinion. A hypothesis driven design framework helps us achieve this. Please get in touch if you would like to know more. Using our methods we envision unique experiences built on a solid functional foundation that are a pleasure to use and have the potential for meaning, delight and significance in people’s lives.

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