The principles of design thinking are making their way in many aspects of the business, including market research. As more companies seek to deliver better experiences, they recognize the importance of understanding customers more deeply and using that insight to inform their decisions.
In Asia, one of the researchers pioneering the adoption of design thinking is May May Wong, customer experience strategist at Asia Miles. May May is part of the newer generation of insight professionals and is one of the influencers we featured in my new e-book, Leaders of Change. A self-described "T-shaped" professional, she specializes in the analysis of consumer insights to improve the end-to-end customer experience.
Originally a curious qualitative moderator, May May moved from interviewing to getting more involved in the design process. In a previous role at Cathay Pacific Airways, May May’s work helped influence various aspects of the experience for first-class and business-class cabins. She used that experience as foundation for customer experience innovation at Asia Miles.
May May is an avid promoter of the design thinking process. In fact, many researchers in Asia today seek May May’s expertise on this topic.
In our Q&A below, May May shares her thoughts on her accomplishments and the big payoff of being a proactive researcher.
What is your proudest achievement as a researcher?
Establishing an online community as a strategic insight tool is a key success that I am very proud of. Our community, Asia Miles Members’ Voice, connects the business with our customers. It makes gathering insight a lot easier, alleviating the pain points of conducting research. It changes my stakeholders’ perception of research, and they are now more open-minded to getting members’ feedback through this tool. I cannot imagine doing my job without an insight community.
What are the main challenges that you have faced in promoting the role and use of insights?
In the past, I’ve had to work with different business units to show them the true potential of research. Sometimes, different business units have a misperception that research is time-consuming and purely for validation. Some decision-makers believe they know the market well enough that it’s not necessary to spend additional time and effort to engage with customers. This is particularly true when stakeholders are under pressure to hit their KPIs.
As a researcher, I find that taking a pragmatic approach works well. I proactively plan projects and studies in advance so that a bulk of the research phase is done in the beginning, eliminating some time pressure off other business units. Thinking proactively and strategically in this way is important for the new generation of researchers.
How do you establish the ROI of insights?
We are still in the process of establishing ROI measures. But I get a lot of support from our leadership team, who is also a strong believer of customer centricity. Qualitative measures like culture or mindset change among our business units demonstrate the value of research in a way that can’t be measured quantitatively.
Could you offer some tips on how researchers can take insight beyond its typical silos?
Leading or coaching strategic planning is an important step. Similarly, better storytelling helps business units absorb and internalize consumer insights. Expanding the influence of research takes effort—I have a record of presenting an insight deck for nine times!—but it pays off when insights inspire matrix teams to align or ideate based on real customer feedback.
Which resources or people have had the most profound impact on your career, and why?
I must give the credit to a number of mentors who inspire, guide and coach me throughout my career. They are mostly my managers I worked with at different stages of my career, including recent ones who inspired me about the true value of design, coached me on people management and leadership and taught me about quantitative and qualitative research. Their experiences and tips are invaluable to my career development. I’ll always remember their advice, and I hope I've made them proud!