How can we shift the conversation with our customers from a commodity transaction to a meaningful, long term trusted relationship?


A service company for chemical producers with a distribution backbone. They market and distribute specialty chemicals. The Company offers polymers, sweeteners, oils, adhesives, sealants, lubricating fluids, greases, thermoplastic, paints, and coatings.

The Ask

Identify opportunities to enhance ChemPoint’s customer experience to provide value for current and potential customers throughout key phases of the research and purchase life cycle

The Approach

I needed answers to the following:

  • Verify customer profile/segments attitudes & behaviors
  • Identify all user needs, tasks and motivations
  • Understand the similarities and differences between customer roles in the Lubricants, Coatings and Personal Care industries

The first phase was the discovery phase were we needed quality insights to their customers. I conducted stakeholder interviews to find out what the client’s perception of their customers was as well as getting insights into the stakeholders and customers’ day to day jobs. These insights would set us up for more intelligent customer interviews, which was the next part of the discovery. In this discovery phase I:

  • Conducted 4 stakeholder interviews covering 3 different lines of business and 2 supporting departments. I added the customer service reps to be part of the stakeholder interviews. I was hoping they would bring an additional perspective to the discovery being so close to the customers.
  • Conducted 18 customer interviews across 3 lines of business with different roles To validate stakeholder assumptions about their customers we interviewed customers. If there were any inconsistencies between the stakeholder assumptions and the customer’s reality, I would be able to translate these into opportunities.
  • Added support to competitive analysis to gain insight and to see where other business where successful and where there were opportunities for Chempoint.
  • Build Personas, User Flows and a Mental Model to visualize customer needs and pain points and spot opportunities.

This whole project I worked closely with the chief content strategist for the agency as well as the project manager on the client’s side.

The Challenge

Finding the right customers to talk to is always a challenge. I did not want to rely on the client to forward us a list of their customers so I carefully created a screener document to find clients in several industries and roles. We circled back with the client and after a few revisions I was ready to move forward with this. We hired a few recruiting firms to find clients, but after validating a couple of promising leads we still hadn’t find any suitable customers to talk to, and were close to having to push the timeline out.

In the end we had to rely on the customer to get us a shortlist of their customers, both current and previous. Those customers turned out to be the right groups.

The Insights

One of the key insights that set up the UX strategy was that in order to differentiate, Chempoint had to set itself up as an innovator thought leader.  Another key insight was the sustainability of formulas. Often, regulators or customer would demand “safer” or “greener” ingredients. Chempoint wasn’t often seen as a supplier for this – this was one of the assumptions that was busted in the discovery. Ergo, they needed to be there for the customer, pro-active and have a conversation with the customer.

The UX Strategy

The UX strategy was build on 4 key elements. In order to have a great experience Chempoint needed to:

  1. Inspire –  let customers know there is a place for innovative thinking.
  2. Show – Present evidence for rationalizing their decisions
  3. Connect – Give them the data and resources they need
  4. Help – Extend the stellar reputation of the customer service.

The Execution

To implement the strategy I came up with the following recommendation. Have the sales people sign up customers to their mailing list (Connect) so Chempoint would be able to show off their innovation prowess (Inspire). The newsletter would contain thought leadership articles and could be used for promoting webinars or other gatherings, where scientists and Chempoint people would be able to converse with customers directly (show/help).

I advised the newsletter to have an image and contact details of the regional sales reps, to give them more exposure and – some customers didn’t know their sales rep – have a direct contact number on the screen. I suggested to swap out the regional sales reps based on location of the user (through the user’s IP or Geolocation).

My Impact

The key difference I made in this project were to bust some of the assumptions the client had. I worked closely with the content strategist throughout the project and closely with the clients. I made user journeys and distilled all the interviews I did from the transcripts so that we would have a visual representation of the customers. Just seeing all the stickies and organizing them led us to some of the insights discoveries we made along the way.

In the UX strategy part, Scott and I worked many hours on the recommendations for the client. I would think my contribution was essential in helping to figure out how to translate what we heard into actionable insights. I would like to think my journalism background helped me quite a lot.

In the last phase of the project I worked with the visual designer on the execution of the templates for the newsletter. I did a series of lo-fidelity wireframing iterations which Rusty, the designer, could work his magic on.