I sat in on a great workshop at IA Summit yesterday about Leaving Flatland: Designing Services and Systems Across Channels, by Jess McMullin (Center for Citizen Experience) and Samantha Starmer (Manager of User Experience at REI). These are my notes!
If I could summarize the workshop in one sentence, it would be: “Don’t design for users’ needs on one website, design for the experience customers expect to have.“
Now, that’s actually what designers should always strive for. And it gets complicated in large organizations where marketing, product, executives, and designers don’t necessarily all work together.
So it’s important — albeit challenging — to design across channels. People are leading multi-track lives these days and our experiences span across spaces and mediums. College kids prefer to receive a text message than an email…we visit a new city and have to navigate signage, paper maps, word-of-mouth information, iPhone directions, etc…so many touch points (pain points!) while traveling to the airport and taking a flight.
At REI, for example, customers research online but buy in the store (for bikes), but often research and purchase tents both online. Strategies (or user needs) are different for different products! But to customers, they just care about their experience purchasing gear with REI — whether it’s online or in the store.
Why do we need to sell multi-channel design? Practitioners aren’t thinking enough about designing for holistic experiences, but people’s experiences are always holistic. Also, marketers are way ahead of us! (Only 4 out of ~80 people at Adaptive Path’s Managing Experience conference raised their hand saying that system design was something they thought about or practiced.)
Multi-channel design requires full company buy-in. Executives need to be on board. Designers need to understand the organizational structure, executives’ perspectives, the business goals — and importantly, how things actually get done in the company. UX here needs to work both top-down and bottom-up. REI’s got a new mandate: “Transform the Customer Experience” which was delivered from the higher-ups. This changes how everyone approaches their work.
Mid-morning we went on a field trip to understand how the Hyatt Regency hotel deals with customer service. My group looked at front desk interactions, but other groups went to the restaurant services and meeting services place. We asked a lot of questions. Took a lot of notes. Drew a bunch of pictures.
Then we came back and did a customer journey mapping exercise, where we thought about all the touch points for different services. For example, for front desk check-in, touch points include: face-to-face, web, TV, email, kiosk, phone, and physical space (lobby). An experienced business traveler might flow through this system like this:
The next exercise involved Business Origami! The point was to map out spheres of interaction for the check-in process.
This was really fun because it got us thinking about all the players in the system (not just the agent & the guest). Of course, we started by thinking about the front-desk interaction, but increasingly drew out more and more spheres that all played into this one interaction. All the training and support the agent has…the immediate Hyatt chain…Hyatt corp…but also the whole sphere of the business man’s life.
We learned that this is a method of doing “service blueprinting” where you have to think about all the physical actions, guest actions, customer-facing actions, back-stage actions (like training), etc.
Finally we talked about some tips for building good experiences across multiple touch points. On websites, you have to consider how every single page looks because lots of users will come into your site via Google (e.g., through a “back door”). So on every page, every touchpoint, you have to:
- be consistent
- use the same information
- and reinforce your brand everywhere.
Designing holistic experiences also means listening holistically:
- the usual UX research, along with:
- call center
- social media
- sentiment analysis
- market research
- store follows/shop alongs
- email queries and feedback
And finally, make new friends (marketing, finance, distribution center, packaging, different industries); wander the halls; get out of your comfort zone and have new experiences. This will give you perspectives on customer experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise glean.