Strategic Planning: Service Design Research Project
A complete design process aimed at creating a step-change in customer experience and business delivery in a service environment.
A High visibility strategic innovation project chartered to map customer needs to business objectives and make a significant change to the underlying experience model and business cases of a prominent eCommerce offering.
A great example of what executive buy-in, a budget, sufficient timeline and an amazing team can accomplish to transform a business. Results of this project have had lasting impact on both the evolving experience model as well as the technical platform developments for this Major National Bank
User interviews surfaced a set of tasks most important to users of mobile devices and this list was used to inform early product decisions and drive requirements. Several rapid series of prototype and usability tests helped develop a set of design guidelines in a day (2005) when mobile best practices were in their infancy.
Strategic trade-offs were made between the development of a custom application for a narrow set of devices or delivery of standard HTML markup through a translation layer to deliver to a broader set of devices.
This large national bank was in a good place – huge adoption, winning awards, and lots of support for their eCommerce offering. A wonderful place to be, but they knew they needed to invest to make the step-change needed to stay ahead of their competition. They saw the Service Economy rising and took the initiative to put their strategy behind a customer-centric approach and my long-term plan of starting with meaningful research and a multi-phase roadmap
Ethnographic research discovered what people actually DO, so solutions can be crafted that people will use
We watch people in their home or work environment to learn things which would not be possible in a controlled lab environment. Small behaviors, or interrelationships with parts of their lives they may not even be aware of are fodder for improving how we help them. Whether they use little crutches or tricks to complete their tasks, we observe what they do and then probe on why they do it do verify our observations.
Additionally, the sense of empathy this method brings to the researchers as well as the stakeholders who view the results is priceless for helping business people see through the eyes of the real customer.
In-Home interview activities
User activities help structure in-home interviews to facilitate discussion about habits, behaviors, pain points, etc.
The purpose of in-home observation is to develop empathy. The way to develop empathy is to get people talking about their lives and situation. The key to getting them to talk is to let them reflect on what they actually do, and why they do it.
I create activities that get people talking about what they do – their day-to-day lives. It encourages them to reflect on what their motivations are, where they experience frustration, and where they create workarounds or tools to fill in gaps.
In this project we had the participants call into a “Voice Diary” – an answering machine – every time they had a financial “moment of truth” for the two weeks leading up to the in-home interview. This kept them sensitized to their financial lives that so many of us brush under the carpet, and also gave us insight into what the group of participants were going through which helped us structure out moderator guide for the day of.
On the day of the in-home we had two primary exercises and a set of open-ended questions. The exercises were 1) to draw out a map of their various financial relationships and also not why they kept each one of these relationships and how money traveled between these different accounts, and 2) to map out on a timeline what activities they did, in what channel, and at what intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, annually). So, how often did they call the Call Center, go in to a Branch, log into Online Banking, etc.
Following that we had them show us their financial routines and explain what and why they did things the way they did and probed on aspects of their lives from their profile questionnaires and their Phone Diary entries.
Research analysis and synthesis
Multiple brainstorm and white board sessions to analyze observations and create possible scenarios for low-fi user testing
We transcribed interviews, printed hilights, reviewed tapes, clustered findings, created affinity diagrams, and then tore it down and did it again. The team at this point gets so saturated in the data they become simultaneously “one” with the participants they had the privilege of observing and at the same time wondering if they’ll ever find a clear path through all this data; this is natural and expected.
That’s when we bring in fresh eyes, from both the extended team steeped in the subject matter and cross-functional team members who know little about the project, but are vessels of free thinking and problem solving. We immerse them in the details of the business problem and reality of the users predicaments (through the eyes of our research participants) and engage in divergent thinking and brainstorming to come up with lots (and I mean LOTS) of ideas for what might help.
Then we work with those ideas, on top of the research findings, to draw some conclusions and direction in the form of frameworks and user journey maps where we map emotional highs and lows, looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience, and in that, improve the business problem.
User journey and frameworks
Based on brainstorming, scenario sessions and extensive analysis of the research, a set of design principals and behavioral frameworks are delivered to help prioritize experience enhancements
The frameworks developed here encapsulate behavioral modes we found most useful as we infer why people behave the way they do with regards to their financial lives. We mapped different services and products a bank might offer onto how humans dealt with their life – in the near-term, medium-term and longer term… and how they do things – were they purposeful activities, information gathering events or thinking and planning sessions. Were they things they did along or with family?
How did the activities the Bank expected people to do align to these frameworks? More importantly, how did they not? Were there activities the Bank assumed people would complete in a single session that the user wanted more human support in completing? How did this disconnect affect the customer, on an emotional level? What Product Opportunity Gaps (POGs) did these alignments and disconnects offer us as a product design team?
These were the implications that allowed us to create design directions to fill the gaps with early ideas for a service offering that could exceed the customers needs while making a step change in the business goals.
Low-fidelity testing of design extremes
Polar testing of contrasting design solutions
In keeping with the behavioral frameworks and value propositions, several sets of interactive and product features are shown to recruited research participants. At this stage, it is often common to experiment with significantly different solutions to gauge customer interest in differing levels of intervention or personalization from the interface.
Does the user want to go in and manually configure something, or do they want the “system” to make a predictive recommendation? How much hands on configuration is the user willing to take on? How much control are they willing to give up? Does the user see more value or utility in one extreme over the other?
These questions help us drive out more detailed scenario based “themes” and sometimes create persona or segment specific tools, or different “modes” for the experience.
Design principles and directional themes
Continued refinement of frameworks, design principles, and concepts for second round of user assessment
Based on multiple rounds of user feedback of concepts refined over time, and much more synthesis as to the human causal factors, we moved from the broad all-encompassing “frameworks” to very tangible, actionable principals that product and design decisions can be measured against.
We created meaningful scenarios of how users could navigate through the offering, and how each component we proposed would reinforce the design principals and underlying value proposition for the customer. Similarly, er painted a picture of the business value of how these different components interrelated to create a more engaging and therefor sticky experience for the Bank’s customers, and how that experience will result in increased usage and retention.
Design docs and service roadmap
A Design Document and Road-map depicting dependencies, synergies and behavioral objectives to guide future refinement in prototyping and implementation phases
Based on stakeholder analysis, technical readiness assessments we knew the areas where greatest impact could be made the soonest as well as the areas where the experience would need to be delivered in a phased approach as new infrastructure was developed. We facilitated workshops with the Product teams, leaders from development and technical architecture to understand their delivery schedules and roadmaps.
We broke the delivery roadmap into three phases to correspond with these technology enablers and their implementation schedule. We also planned for a tiered delivery of the experience so the most appropriate feature mix could be delivered along this timeline with complimentary features delivering together and feature enhancements building value as the roadmap unfolded.
The actual delivery milestones and design decomposition was left for later realizing the overarching concept would need to be broken down and funded as projects. A key recommendation was to develop an iterative prototyping environment to visualize the experience milestones as the organization delivered the component parts over time.
Demos and prototypes
Demonstrative screen comps illustrated the behavioral framework across recommended functional improvements
With the official recommendation complete the work turned to the internal team to visualize, rationalize and make work for the product arm of the organization. In a purpose-built prototyping environment many, many design experiments continued which allowed the Product team to prioritize the most valuable features first as the Service Roadmap was realized.
Justifying, decomposing and turning into projects
Various methods were used to map the implementation, from impact on user expectations, to platform infrastructure needs, to best packaging of a phased approach
In tight partnership between Design, Product and Technology we packaged the prioritized features into valuable, deliverable projects and allocated multi-year budgets to build new infrastructure (including new CMS, a core platform re-write, new search engines, rules engines and presentation tier rendering engines) to deliver the vision.