Business expectations of design research

Clive Grinyer, Director of Customer Experience, Orange UK

The value of research in business
Two years ago Orange collaborated with the British Design Council on a project that looked at ‘design research’ and how it influences our ability to understand the future. After a year of research activity, however, we were unable to wholly quantify ‘design research’. And so, many questions remain. We can, however, offer some insight into what it is that businesses hope to gain from such information.

What is ‘business research’?
For Orange business research is an amalgamation of the following three areas:
  1. Market Research — gathering information about people who use your products and services
  2. Logical research — finding out about the future technologies that will affect and enable our
  3. company to develop new products and services, then determining the good from the bad
  4. Design research — exploring viability through experimentation
Quantifying design research
From a business perspective, research has a very tangible impact — to manage risk. It allows us to make considered decisions about what to do and what not to do. By integrating with business research activity, design can contribute in helping to paint the bigger picture, and so enabling the company to make informed decisions.

The customer as researcher
Orange spends a significant amount of money on research. As a company, we pride ourselves on being straightforward, honest, truthful, dynamic and refreshing. And, because we need to know if this message is being translated to our customers, it is imperative that we keep asking questions:
  • Does our customer see any of those things?
  • Are they satisfied with our services?
  • Do they share the values of the brand that Orange is aiming to communicate?
  • Do they share the same values as Orange?
We find out by asking them what they think.

The benefit of simple technology

When it comes to technology, our research is specific. A good example might be when we take a selection of typical handsets and ask people to use them while carrying out normal everyday activities. Our goal here is also specific: we want this research to generate something for us — money, or ARPU — ‘Average Revenue Per User’. Because while it is our remit to help people use technology, or to make it simple and easy, it is not solely because we want them to enjoy using our product, but because we want to encourage them to increase their use of it. That is our business model. We don’t actually sell phones — in fact, we pay people to buy them. In so doing, we hope that when they then use their phone, that the technology and services we provide prove beneficial and easy to use. Hence, customer research is fundamental.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

 
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