Understanding the characteristics, experience and perspectives of consumers is an important element of designing products and services that are fit for purpose.

This report seeks to identify how Queensland community organisations incorporate consumer voices in service design and delivery. For the purpose of this report “incorporating the consumer voice” refers to engagement tactics that generate consumer information (such as the characteristics, perspectives and experience of service users), as well as the process of analysing this information and integrating findings into service design and delivery.

This report also explores the capability and capacity of organisations to enhance consumer engagement processes and shift the inclusion of the consumer voice from the individual level to the organisation and system level.

Over a period of three weeks, representatives from 20 community organisations in Queensland were interviewed and a survey was conducted. Consumers of community organisations were also interviewed and surveyed and a literature review was undertaken.

Community organisations in Queensland deliver services to people who are often experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability. This report found that organisations often use organic and informal engagement methods to understand consumer needs. For example, interacting with consumers in the context of trusted relationships and adjusting the way services are delivered based on an individual’s characteristics and preferences. These engagement methods usually occur at the individual level.

Community organisations also adopt more formal approaches to engaging with consumers to understand their needs. Examples of formal methods include surveys, social media campaigns, complaint management and service ratings.

There is enthusiasm in Queensland for using the consumer voice to improve service design and delivery. Organisations expressed a strong desire to be able to utilise more formal methods in the integration and analysis of consumer information. This was driven by an understanding of the benefits that can come from effective consumer engagement, such as improving accessibility of services for vulnerable and marginalised consumers.

Consumers also saw the benefit of being engaged in service design. Of those interviewed, there was a belief that services would benefit strongly from this approach, seeing consumer engagement as an opportunity to incorporate their lived experience to design better products and services. Consumers indicated a range of preferences for engaging with service providers. This included providing feedback on specific services, to being engaged in all aspects of service design and delivery through committees and boards.

However, organisations identified external structural factors such as the siloed nature of funding as barriers to shifting an organisation’s engagement from an individual level to an organisation and system level. As well as this, narrow service-level reporting requirements and defined service delivery outcomes did not always support organisations to meet the needs of the consumer. These factors were described as issues that prevented organisations from adopting a more structured approach to using consumer information to develop and improve services.

Significant opportunities are available to improve the collection and integration of consumer information. If data is captured consistently and shared in a deidentified and ethical way, it could be shared across organisations as a strategy to support consumer centric design and improve outcomes at a system level.

Read our full report.