Getting centric with the humans

Who wants to be relevant? OK, now really, who not only wants to be relevant to the ‘humans’ you seek to provide your services to, but is actually prepared to do something about being relevant? You all still with me? Excellent!

I have spoken and written about innovation that is truly “human centric” [1]. I have taken much joy in the work of Amy Jo Martin and “humanology”, [2] and even coined my own phrase for the discipline of studying our interaction and engagement using technology.  

Yet I speak to many businesses who have as their goal making their services ‘more accessible’. Solving the accessibility equation for many has proved elusive. There is a reason for that. They have started trying to solve the wrong part of the formula. They have focused on accessibility. Accessibility is an input, not the answer. What we should be trying to solve is ‘centricity’. What has made the equation even harder to solve is the item/service/product we are trying to make accessible should not be part of the equation at all.

Take for example financial services, and please allow me the licence in this example to bundle a suite of services together here (life insurances, retirement savings, mortgages). The great elusive quest is making financial advice accessible to more people. In other words, if we can park the possible altruistic motives of this quest just for a moment, the quest is to sell more of our products and services to more people and gain a greater share of wallet.

To solve this quest, our strategy managers in organisations dazzle their colleagues with terms like ‘omni-channel’, ‘blockchain’ and ‘mass customised automated marketing’. The quest begins to position product at points in the customer experience journey, a journey determined by the organisation, not necessarily by the human consumer. What seldom happens therefore is a solution that challenges the conventional and delivers customer centricity. This means that the solution is not relevant and therefore by definition not accessible. The quest becomes an epic fail.

Let’s turn the equation around. Let’s remove accessibility as the problem we are solving and place it as an input. Let’s include relevance. Let us then solve centricity. How about an example to help cement this thinking?


ValoraLife is a digital life insurance buying process and experience that was tailor-made to the needs of middle class families [3]. Relevance was a starting point for the company behind this initiative MassMutual. They discovered that while people thought life insurance was important, they also felt that it was a complicated process, and their perception of cost was that it was unaffordable. In other words, it was not ‘accessible’. What MassMutual did next was to look at how to make life insurance ‘relevant’.  

There were some key factors they needed to consider:

1)    The current process of life insurance distribution was not finding and reaching the middle class (household incomes between $50,000 to $100,000);

2)    Information was confusing;

3)    Mobility of quotes was not efficient;

4)    Consumers did not identify with life insurance brands; and

5)    The actual process of applying was complicated, time consuming and not user friendly.

How did they make life insurance relevant?

They started looking for solutions to centricity. This approach is about creating value – for both the organisation and the consumer – by empowering people and depending on creativity, information and the connectedness of process [4]. Going deeper here, it is about developing processes for engagement that start by connecting with the consumer at very basic human levels, through our senses. Understanding the emotional reactions of humans after information is delivered to them through their senses – particularly sight, hearing, touch – is critical to developing engagement scenarios that appeal positively to human emotions that lead to not only attracting the consumer but engaging them in a process that ultimately leads to the purchase solution.

Technology can play therefore a huge role. Imagine utilising technology to recognise the emotional state of a consumer – by voice, expression and image recognition – and applying that knowledge to frame the language and process they are sequenced into.

What MassMutual did was to create ValoraLife. A genuine, simple and human-centred life insurance tool they launched in June. What you will see is relevance through images, language (note the website and design was customer researched and co-created) and accessibility. A (squared) plus R (squared) = C. 

Where do you start? If you’re an enterprise, perhaps speak first with someone who has researched not only human behaviour but also worldwide examples of customer engagement. I know a guy you can speak with. 


Andy Marshall is the regional sales manager APAC at SuiteBox Solutions

[1] Fujitsu, April 2016



[4] Fujitsu, April 2016

Getting centric with the humans
Andy Marshall
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