Understanding the Needs of Users
Enterprise software companies have a tendency to focus their product development efforts on pleasing the buyers who write the often very large check for their services. The financial buyer rarely if ever has first-hand experience with the product. Yet, you can bet that when renewal time comes around, their ears are buzzing with complaints from users that have had no choice but to use the product everyday to do their job for the past year.
Problem to Solve
The president at my client’s firm wanted to change the culture of his organization to become customer-focused. To better understand the value delivered to end users, and to identify opportunities to serve them better, we initiated a user journey research project. The goals included seeing the client’s offerings from the customers’ point of view, detailing the larger ecosystem in which they played, as well as to understand how customers resolved critical problems in a product-agnostic way.
As is often the case, time and money were in short supply; a board meeting was scheduled in just over a month, where the research findings would be delivered to validate the product strategy. Travel was not in the budget either, so we decided to conduct remote phone interviews. Fortunately, I had the collaboration of two product managers to help in conducting the research and analyzing the findings. Sales was involved in the selection of customers to engage, and the customer success team was included every step of the way to help them become better advocates for end users.
We began by identifying the market segment and key user roles to focus on, and decided upon three personas. We started by interviewing internal staff whom had experience in these roles in the past, and drafted proto-personas that scripted a series of ‘day in the life’ activities. It became clear that we had little knowledge of how the roles collaborated to resolve problems, and who was responsible for the actions taken. The drafts felt more like a work of fiction, where the characters were fuzzy and the details of the plot unclear. I captured our assumptions in a document, and then developed a research plan to learn directly from customers how theft and fraud were discovered, investigated, and resolved within their franchise restaurants.
I created a set of discussion guides to aid in the remote interviews of 14 customers, representing the 3 key user personas. The interviews were conducted on the phone, in 50 minute sessions. Staff from engineering, customer success and product were invited to sit in on the calls to hear directly about their challenges. The majority of the questions centered around how they spent their workday, telling stories of how they’ve resolved theft issues from their own experience. The often outrageous and colorful stories of customers faking accidents for insurance money, cashiers stealing from the till, and robbers making demands at gunpoint led to a clearer picture of how they investigate these matters, what they care most about, and what evidence is required to prosecute the offenders.
The narratives around each persona began to take shape, and we condensed our findings into a short summary for each of the 3 personas. The findings were shared with each group within the company, along with opportunities to serve each of them better.
Without a doubt, many of our initial assumptions were inaccurate. We had only a stick figure understanding of who the users were at the beginning. To analyze our findings, we correlated the answers to each question by persona to reveal patterns and themes in a spreadsheet. Then we borrowed details from the user stories shared to create prototypical flows of incident resolution, laid out in a timeline. The most relevant product features for each incident were indicated at the bottom, along with competitive products mentioned, moments of truth, and opportunities.
In the end, we learned that there is a complex web of people with conflicting motivations involved in managing theft and fraud at quick serve restaurants, from various levels of management, to human resources, law enforcement, and insurance companies. The research project was the first of its kind at my client’s organization, and it helped reveal exactly where their product is most effective and valuable for customers, while also suggesting how to become a more integral part in helping customers solve critical problems.
Many thanks to the collaborative design efforts of:
Katie Greif, Product Manager
Brandon Line, Director of Product Management