So what inspires you about customer experience?
The new HS2 railway has to look great and work perfectly. But it also has to be easy and enjoyable to use, for everyone. So our team makes sure it’s designed that way.
Part of it is understanding who your customers and passengers are and what they really want. Then you use what you know to develop the design - because any good designer should be designing for the user. But it’s really important not just to guess what people want. Don’t assume you have the answer - or know the problems in the first place. You have to ask users and test things with them, all the way through the design process.
And good designers absolutely do that already: that’s how we have great design! But we have to get everyone on the project thinking about designing for our customers now – even though it’s still 10 years before the first customers arrive.
So – explain it to me in 15 seconds!
We’re designing the end-to-end journey experience. It’s not just about being on the train. It’s about how people feel about booking the journey and when they arrive at the station. What makes the experience fun, interesting or easy? What parts of the journey are stressful or difficult for people, and how can we make them better?
Had you heard of Customer Experience before you did this job?
Not at all. And even when I started, I was worried that I’d be really squeezing my future career options, I thought it would be too specialist. But I enjoyed it so much – even more than I thought – that I wanted to stick with it.
It’s only in the past year that I’m realising what this industry really is. It’s about the experience of customers, and any business has an interest in the experience their customers are having. It’s not too specialist at all. You can apply the same way of thinking to any industry – which I love. And I think it’s really important!
How did you get started?
I wanted to be an interior designer, and that was purely because when I was growing up, we had an interior designer come to our house and decorate it! I enjoyed creative things and took a lot of arts subjects at school, but didn’t really know what I could do with those skills.
I studied Interior Design for three years in Australia, where I grew up. It was so different to how school worked. That was a bit of a shock: you’re now an adult and it’s really up to you how well you do. But I enjoyed being in a design college with lots of designers in different areas, I loved the creative side and working with like-minded people.
Is that where the people skills come from?
Maybe. But I finished my course at a time when there were just no jobs for interior designers. I’d always wanted to move somewhere new, rather than go travelling – I wanted to experience a place the way people do when they live there.
So when I moved to the UK, even though it wasn’t part of the plan, I managed a bar in London. I learned so much about the industry, the history, the business side of things. But I also discovered that the interaction with people was what I really liked.
So it’s not just about what you study at university, but what you learn from your job?
I believe that a random job like that can actually have a really positive influence on your skill set. I can pick things from all of the jobs I’ve done, and say: “That’s where that skill came from.”
I only recently made the link that all the jobs that I’ve enjoyed have been about people. Even at the start, when I was studying interior design, that’s what I loved: you can influence the way people feel and behave. Sometimes without them even realising, you can really change an experience for someone.
The job you’re going to take the moment you get out of school isn’t the job you’ll do forever. You learn so much about what opportunities there are as you go along. I realise I’ve not always been making a conscious decision about what direction to go in, but I’ve ended up doing something I really love.