Thursday, September 23, 2010

Get first-hand experience with the task to understand the experience

I've worked with a lot of teams who have been trying to design a feature or product to help people with a particular task. Oddly, I often find that people on the team have not tried the task itself, either with their solution or with any other method. While this might seem strange, let me give you a common scenario that might illustrate how this can come about:
One of the top call drivers to support for a product was around a specific task. A team was pulled together to fix the feature that supported the task. Although this team is quite familiar with the product and the feature, they have not experienced the task for themselves. They do take a look at the feature and decide that there are user interface elements that might be unclear or are probable causes of usability issues. They make some changes and roll out the revised feature.
Sure, you might suggest that they do a usability test to understand what the issues are, or a site visit to watch a customer using the feature... and you'd be right to suggest that. But, a very simple first step is often missing... have each of the team members attempt to do the task themselves.

I was recently working with a team that was thinking about how they needed to change the customer service/support IVR to be successful at routing calls to the right agent. The first thing we did was give the team a scenario and had them call the live phone line to try to accomplish a common task. They came back and discussed their experiences, recognizing a number of issues that they would have missed if just talking with customers or listening to the support representative's conversation with the customer from our side of the phone.

It's low-hanging fruit... it's easy... and, it can give a team a quick hit of empathy for the customer.

Getting first-hand experience with the task is method 4 in my list of 101 methods for getting Deep Customer Empathy, and falls into the "be the customer" category, although it obviously falls far short of actually becoming the customer on the depth of empathy you walk away with.

97 more methods to come...

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