Creating User Experiences That Exceed Expectations by Developing Products and Services together with Customers

Ryoko Shimokawa
Sony Corporation

Using a cross-organizational approach to UX design to create better experiences

I am responsible for the cloud services business for camera users in the Software Services Business.
I also act as the owner of the UX Design Working Group (WG), a cross-organizational group that thinks about UX -- the user experience customers get using products and services.
Until recently, we had been working on refining the UX for each product and service but came to recognize that in order to realize UX that would please our customers, we needed to engage in monozukuri on a more cross-organizational basis. Several years ago, we launched the UX Design WG, a cross-organizational effort to develop products and services by increasing the touchpoints with our customers.
As technology develops, the UX of even a single camera is no longer limited to photography. Sony's goal is to utilize Sony technology to improve the experience after a photo is taken and develop products and services for a wider range of creators.
UX design aims to provide better and more consistent experiences for customers, and HCD (Human-Centered Design) is one way to achieve this. The UX Design WG brings together members from various departments within the business division who wish to provide better experiences, share knowledge on issues and HCD in each organization, and tackle the task of implementing and spreading UX design.

I want to maximize delightful experiences for customers

I have studied software engineering since I was a student and have gained experience as a software engineer since I joined Sony. I still enjoy monozukuri as much as I did when I was a student, but my happiness has grown as customers praise the products and services we develop.
Monozukuri is not easy and involves a great deal of routine work. Nevertheless, the more experience I have gained, the more the idea of pleasing customers has motivated me.
At the same time, my growing motivation has made me more aware of the importance of not only enjoying monozukuri, but also of delivering a pleasurable experience to our customers through our products and services. I want to pursue technology to its limits and deliver it to our customers in the best possible way. This is one of the underlying thoughts behind the establishment of the UX Design WG.

Touchpoints with Sony for customers are extensive

All our members involved in products and services have constantly striven to get to know our customers in depth and have been active in related activities. I believe that building on these individual efforts and going beyond organizational frameworks enables us to provide better UX. Many people are involved in the area of cameras, including the hardware and software design teams, promotion managers, sales managers, and customer support managers. For customers, these are all touchpoints with Sony, and I believe that better experiences can be achieved by, for example, strengthening collaboration between designers and customer support teams.
All of us at Sony are working to fulfill our appointed roles, but I believe that expanding the boundaries of these roles still further will enable us to deepen our understanding of our customers and better meet their expectations. I am always conscious of touchpoints with Sony from the customer's perspective and tackle my daily work without being constrained by organizational frameworks.

I want to listen to our customers and work with them to create and nurture products and services

The appeal of this job is being able to communicate directly with customers, reflect what we learn in our products and services, and then receive further feedback. I personally find it rewarding to work with customers to develop products and services, and my motivation is rooted in a desire to exceed their expectations.
There are several specific HCD methods, but instead of simply putting these methods into practice, I believe it is important to keep in mind what we want to deliver and to whom. The priority is to clarify the type of UX we want to deliver to what kind of customer, and we should incorporate HCD into our approach to embodying and verifying this in our products and services.
One project that has left a lasting impression on me so far is the development of a service that combines cameras and mobile applications. What we can do with cameras has always centered on photography, but expanding into cloud services has created infinite possibilities and solutions.
That said, our customers may be seeking potential solutions that we have not yet imagined. For this reason, we have held numerous interviews with photographers to develop our products and services. The process is very challenging. First we try to trace the discomforts and inconveniences experienced on the customer journey, then build prototypes to test hypotheses based on these experiences.
The experience also reminded me that we should tackle manufacturing on a cross-organizational basis in order to provide better UX.

Meeting and exceeding customer expectations

I find it interesting that everyone at Sony is passionate about what they do, and that people on the same wavelength participate openly across organizational boundaries, whether in the UX Design WG or other projects. I feel our organization is quick on the uptake because someone always responds when I suggest creating a certain new kind of UX.
Since our corporate culture actively pursues grass-roots activities, it is not uncommon for ideas to emerge accidentally or for like-minded people to suggest new projects. Looking ahead, I will also continue to accelerate and broaden activities that transcend organizational boundaries and make them part of our daily lives.
As Sony is a company that provides products and services to customers in return for consideration, I believe we must understand our customers well and focus on the user experience in our monozukuri. I would like to reach the stage where HCD is so pervasive and commonplace that there is no longer a need to highlight it in special feature articles. As a manager, I will continue to build a business that meets and exceeds the expectations of our customers.