Innovation: what about our customer’s WHY?

Featured article - 29 January 2018
By Sara McKee, Evermore Founder & Director of Market Innovation

Head-shot of the author, Sara McKee, Evermore Founder & Director of Market Innovation

There’s a great deal of good thinking and good work being undertaken around the country to solve the challenges that face our ageing population. Much of this focuses on those most vulnerable in our society and quite rightly so.

But what about the rest of us?

It’s a scientific fact that we start to age from the point we reach the age of thirty. Interestingly, despite this onset, we are treated as part of a consumer group up until around sixty whereupon we tip into the real beginnings of “old age”. Attitudes suddenly change. And not necessarily in a good way.

Too few consumer organisations focus on the vibrant, leisure-led, financially savvy 60-90 year olds, which is at their peril according to Joseph Coughlin in The Longevity Economy. I’m not going to talk about this missed market opportunity here. I want to focus on the core principle of individuality and our inability as an older age sector to address our customers as consumers with desires and aspirations.

In my experience, we tend to focus on dependency and what needs to happen to people. We don’t seem to make the time to understand what really matters to them around their independence and control. What gives them meaning and purpose - their personal WHY.

We’re much better at engaging with our own teams and spending time to understand what the next generation of the workforce will want. We need a fundamental shift in our thinking and approach to designing new products and services if we’re going to be truly consumer driven.

Early adopters

In earlier parts of my career, I was involved in bringing new technology products and services to market. We spent a great deal of time mapping our potential customer journey from their motivation, education in the benefits and values of our offer through to adoption. I’ve not come across this approach within the older age provider community - whether housing, care or other related services. We love working with early adopters who help us to develop our services and expand them.

We’ve got masses of data on the ‘tsunami’ of older people ageing with multiple co-morbidities including dementia. We only seem to have small pockets of deep knowing of our customers, which I would argue is of at least equal value (if not greater) than all this accumulated data.

When we piloted our @home service we learnt we needed to completely redesign our service offer after speaking to our customers, listening to their thoughts and collecting their ideas. We’d made assumptions on what we thought people needed without meeting them first. We now engage with our customers, both commissioners and individuals, to really get under the skin of what they’re trying to achieve and get out of life. This is core to our values at Evermore, and if I reflect on my earlier tech career, our values are our operating system.

Whatever we create in whatever industry, the purpose of our new product or service must be to help our customers achieve something meaningful in a lasting way.

That’s what we’re intent on doing at Evermore.

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