Dave Wolf, VP of Strategy, Cynergy
For decades IT Departments have fallen victim to a flawed software development construct that when a user needs something and you build it, they will automatically use it and they will like it. Read more...
Jon Bradley, Director of Research & Development, Cynergy
How do you create a relevant and meaningful experience that transcends the digital interface in order to make a real impact on your business? Read more...
Bruce Tansy, Program Manager, TRANE
The in-home sale of products like HVAC units, home windows, siding, or gutters is a unique animal with many nuances and possible pitfalls. Read more...
By Ted Schadler, Forrester Research, December, 2012
The days of simple, marketing-focused mobile apps are waning. Great mobile experiences require a native app or optimized mobile website. Download the full report.
By Kes Sampanthar, Director of Media Strategy, Cynergy
Customer journey maps, the latest fad in design circles, have many of the same flaws as the last approach to understanding people—the trusted user personas.
Alan Cooper invented the concept of ‘personas’ in his early software development days and made it famous in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. The idea of developing a fully fleshed-out description of a typical user was a great stride forward from the stick men that represented people in UML diagrams, but today we know that isn’t enough.
Personas can give people a false sense of security that they fully understand their audience. A typical persona description might read:
“Jane is a married mother of two, aged 32, stay-at-home mom. Likes shopping at Target and Wegmans. Is price-conscious and buys store-brands.”
Designers often illustrate their personas with photos, back stories and personality traits. They may even create large poster-sized versions and plaster them around their design war rooms.
Unfortunately, most designers only produce a handful of personas for a given project. Fewer than five personas are normally created, but unfortunately that doesn’t provide enough information about the breadth and depth of the people using your software. While a full-color poster of Jane and her back story is more life-like than a stick figure in a UML diagram, it doesn’t come close to understanding the complexity of a single customer, let alone the full range of customers.
The same can be said for the latest incarnation of customer research: the customer journey map. A map of the customer’s journey is a huge leap forward from flowcharts and workflow diagrams (regardless of the number of swim lanes you add), but again it falls short of any depth or understanding. Similarly, when customer personas are one-dimensional stereotypes, the customer journey map falls flat. Ultimately, customer journey maps can turn the complexity of life into a children’s story: Jane Goes Shopping.
Designers have added many flourishes and keep expanding on the maps, but they still fall short of understanding our busy, multi-faceted lives. It’s like comparing Shakespeare to Twilight. Story arc visuals and simplistic emoticons don’t even come close to replacing the reality of a simple shopping trip.
A customer journey map of a shopping trip would likely illustrate a shopping trip as a single, focused activity:
If you looked past the fancy visuals that would normally accompany a journey map, you would be left with a simplistic story. Maybe it’s mapped to a consumer purchase process and includes notes from the ethnographic research. Maybe it’s tied to a persona (or five), their photos and back stories. Ultimately the journey maps still don’t provide much more information or, more importantly, understanding than a workflow diagram.
Some designers and researchers claim that ’personas’ and ‘customer journey maps’ are mental-reminders of actual people and their experiences. They are not meant to be taken too literally or the be-all and end-all of customer understanding. This is true up to a certain point because, like other design heuristics and artifacts, they become the focal point for the team and start becoming thinking short-cuts; i.e. WWJD (What Would Jane Do). The ‘customer journey map’ falls prey to the same misconceptions that turned usability into the ‘less clicks’ mantra [See my talk on Motivational Design at TEDxPennQuarter for more on this and why usability engineers shouldn’t be allowed on golf courses]. The customer journey map becomes the gospel and replaces months of research and understanding.
We’ve been working on the next evolution of the customer journey maps to add more depth and understanding to the design process. Similar to our work on personas grids, which map multiple personas onto behavioral and motivational axes in order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the customers (personas grids can be as large as 8x8 grids or multiple 4x4 grids, resulting in 64-96 personas for some complex projects), we have been looking at all of the dimensions that make up a customer’s journey. We have developed what we call the 3D Customer Journey:
The 3D Customer Journey incorporates a variety of artifacts that capture the complexity of life. It helps our customers understand the myriad of goals and needs that compete for their customers’ attention. A shopping trip is rarely an isolated task. We might be dropping off our kids at a friend’s house while we’re on the way to buy hot dogs, beer and chips for a barbecue later tonight. We also need to fill up on gas and go through the car wash. And we can’t forget to pick up a card and a present for the wife’s birthday next week. The complexity of these competing demands and needs are further complicated by our individual motivations and buying style. This is woven together with the multiple locations we need to visit, the people around us and the date, day and time. At the moment we walk into the grocery store to buy hot dogs, beer and chips we are in the middle of a complex multi-dimensional journey—physically, mentally and emotionally. And let’s not forget that we are only one of many personas that span multiple behavioral and motivational dimensions.
Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor, has written about a fast food restaurant chain that wanted to improve milkshake sales. The company took the traditional marketing approach: segmenting their customers and conducting focus groups. The research suggested the restaurant chain increase the variety of milkshake flavors they sold, but after doing so, sales were unaffected. Another researcher was brought in who conducted ethnographic research and observation. The researcher discovered that 40% of milkshake sales happened before 10am. Further investigation lead to a better understanding of the problem: customers were buying milkshakes for breakfast to consume on their daily commutes because they were easy to consume while driving. Using this new understanding, they developed a plan to address this unique need and sales improved.
A traditional customer journey would have focused on the steps in purchasing milkshakes and considered alternative fast food options. Without an understanding of the full context of the customers needs (replacement for breakfast, drinking while driving, etc.) the solution would not have been obvious.
Our lives are complex; software and technology needs to meet the challenge of creating the right kind of experience across the right kinds of devices for the right mix of people. Our design toolkit needs to expand to be able to meet these ever-more complex demands. Let’s not settle for stereotypes and children’s story-like artifacts.
Clay Christensen's Milkshake Marketing — HBS Working Knowledge
Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure — HBR December 2005
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
Dave Wolf, VP of Strategy, Cynergy
According to a Forrester report released last year, in 2016—just three short years—350 million employees will be using smart phones at work. Of those, 200 million will be bringing their own devices to work to do so. By this same year, the money spent on mobile technologies is estimated to reach $1.3 trillion (with a ‘t’) globally–that's 35% of the technology economy.
What the report doesn‘t spell out is how these mobile trends and the changing expectations of these mobile users are also impacting the remaining 65% of the technology economy; creating an unprecedented opportunity for companies.
As your employees become more comfortable with mobile experiences, their expectations of the digital solutions they interact with at work—desktop, web, embedded devices, and of course, mobile—are changing as well. If you provide them with the right experience, the right solution to the right problem, your value to shareholders will increase. If you give them more of the same “build it and they will come” solutions cobbled together in a closet by IT, you'll lose not only your employees attention and motivation, but your value to shareholders will drop.
The opportunity to improve your digital experiences cannot be seized by doing the same things over again. To capitalize, enterprises must do something unusual... focus on Michelle.
She is your retail sales rep, your financial advisor, your cancer screening engineer. She is one of many employees that you and your business depend on to grow; to increase profits or control costs; to increase margins and market share. She is one of many whom your shareholders depend on to return the value businesses are designed to create. You may not know her name, but she’s there, in the org chart under “sales,” or “advisors,” or “engineers”. And she is not alone. There are many like her.
You may think you know her...captured in a “role” or “persona” that tells you she is one of the single moms who drive a second hand Honda minivan; or is an upwardly mobile married professional who volunteers on the weekends; or is a PhD student several semesters away from her thesis defense. You may think, because some agency created a graphic summarizing her, that you have keen insights into who she is; insights that will help you alter your processes, tweak your business and leverage her in more powerful ways. But Michelle knows you don’t know her. And if you are honest with yourself, so do you.
You know ABOUT her, but what you really need—what enterprises must get to in order to truly leverage new digital experiences that reinvent businesses—is what MOTIVATES her. It is possible to identify the behavioral patterns which resonate with her, but you have to go deeper in your research, your analysis. You have to peel back more layers of the onion than most bother to today.
When you can identify these behavioral patterns, you can design them into the digital experiences that power your business. The result is a digital experience, an application—one designed to enable sales, aid in the management of large net worth individuals, increase the accuracy and speed of screening medical examples—that Michelle wants to use rather than has to use.
Accomplishing this level of understanding requires a skill set and approach which enterprises are unfamiliar with. When done correctly, the results can be dramatic. Just ask Trane how their sales increased, their margins grew, and their profit increased as a result of the TraneMAP iPad application that we designed with them. Trane is just one of many that Cynergy has helped. Microsoft. Verizon. Callaway. They've all come to Cynergy to help them realize the business value of digital experiences that address the right problem, for the right people, in the right way.
If you get it wrong, your enterprise will watch, powerless, as others capitalize on a rapidly-increasing market. Michelle will avoid having to deal with the point of sale; the clearinghouse application; the excel spreadsheet of results—because she can’t wait to get to the part of her life that truly motivates her.
Enterprises have an opportunity to capture a significant portion of the trillions of dollars forecast for 2016, but only if they approach these projects the right way, rather than the same way they always have. As Mike Gualtieri, Forrester Analyst, says “If users don’t love your application, then they will simply move on to another application that they do love—or use no app at all.”
The key is simple: understanding the motivations of your users. Once you have identified your users and their motivations, once you have mapped them to understand how one behavior leads to another—how one behavior relies on another—you can design and develop digital experiences that Michelle loves and can’t wait to use, experiences that provide value to her, that motivate her.
Motivate Michelle to do what your business needs in order to capture a significant share of the market. Get it wrong and watch the market—and Michelle—move on without you.
Jon Bradley, Director of Research & Development, Cynergy
The most powerful solutions make a real impact on the lives of people. That requires understanding much more than just the devices and screens with which people interact. It involves the right observations, interpreting and framing the results in innovative ways, exploring multiple directions and testing assumptions early and often. It’s a process that provides creative opportunities to make a tangible impact.
Leveraging a true multi-dimensional process and approach–one that is repeatable, quantifiable and holistic–is critical to minimizing risks and enhancing the success of any project. People don’t live in a flat, stationary world and solutions designed without incorporating this understanding are destined to fail to live up to expectations and miss critical opportunities for meaningful impact.
To be successful, we must start by understanding the complex life of a consumer so that we can frame our observations appropriately around:
Once we understand the consumer or user in more detail, we can focus on the ideal experience–and must realize that the experience itself is the product. That experience may be manifested in multiple components, including digital interfaces, physical goods, sensors, and even the design of spaces—all with the consumer at the focal point. This makes understanding people and their environments the next logical step–focusing on their experience to gather qualitative and quantitative information that will help frame research in the right manner.
Creating artifacts from the insight provided by this research is a process that is part science and part art. The scientific aspect is a repeatable method and the art includes a keen ability to ask compelling questions. These pieces help to form our framing process and provide us the ability to ideate and iterate rapidly.
This ideation process is a critical path in the development of any product, whether it’s a multi-component experience or a simple single-environment tool. Our output is more than a solitary idea or concept that's worth making real. It is a collection of exploratory topics that make up the parts of a real, tangible experience, in a real place and time, with a group, or as a solitary individual.
If you don’t make the right observations, frame your research and ideate and iterate, you will not discover where the valuable paths of impact lie. If you don’t know what technology is available to leverage, and don't have experience with evaluating the state-of-the-art, you will miss opportunities to act on the results of your research. You won't be able to readily test your assumptions.
If we’re building an experience that has a physical component, like a rugged container for a tablet device, it’s better to utilize 3D printing technology to rapidly iterate on a concept. If one of the components of our experience design work requires a highly-engaging digital interface, on par with videogame interactions, we start with design and motion concepts driven by gestural interactions, coupled with physical explorations.
With all of these otherwise missing elements accounted for, we are able to quickly iterate and find the right solutions that makes a real, tangible impact on customers, employees, friends, and family. That holistic view provides businesses the opportunity to generate maximum positive impact and business return.
You can map out your goals, expected impacts and necessary business returns, but without the proper roadmap to truly understanding your users,understanding how a digital experience is enabled or hindered by other elements of a real-world experience, the only tangible impact you may have is increased market share for your competition.
Bruce Tansy, Program Manager, TRANE
The in-home sale of products like HVAC units, home windows, siding, or gutters is a unique animal with many nuances and disconnects. Oddly enough, many companies in this space never get a chance to actually interact with customers during the sale because they rely on a dealer/distributor network to sell their products.
While the dealer concept is a good one in terms of scaling your business and keeping cost of sales under control, the independent and inconsistent nature of dealers can be challenging. Dealers often favor certain manufacturers or products, leaving others (maybe yours!) out of the mix. Because dealers typically get just one chance to sell a product to an in-home customer, any deviation from the sales process, any miscommunication of the features, benefits or value of a product, or any poor customer experience, can kill close rates and limit revenue growth.
So how do you create loyal dealers? How do you keep your products in the mix? How do you ensure dealers follow the right sales process? How can you equip them to consistently and effectively communicate with each and every customer? How can you improve business-driving metrics like product mix, close rates and revenue?
Ingersoll Rand’s Trane brand of HVACs is a fantastic example of a company that has industry-leading products, great brand recognition, but a vastly sub-optimized dealer network. To see how we transformed the in-home sale, let’s first understand the sales process from the point of view of the homeowner:
It’s the coldest day of Winter and suddenly your house feels extra cold and drafty, so you turn your thermostat up. Fifteen minutes later, you notice the temperature in your house is continuing to drop. Your family is complaining and you don’t know the first thing about heating systems. You call your local HVAC dealer that a friend recommended and schedule an emergency appointment. A few hours later, you’re sitting around your kitchen table with the HVAC expert and several three ring binders chock-full of product specs and technical details. The dealer gives you a diagnosis of your problem and after a 45 minute crash course on HVACs, brands (sometimes not even including Trane) and models, you have to make what will probably be one of the most expensive home purchase a homeowner will have to make in their lifetime – a new HVAC system. You make a fairly uneducated choice, relying heavily on the recommendation of the dealer. You’re not sure if you selected the right manufacturer, the right model, or if you even paid the right price. The HVAC dealer draws up a ballpark quote before he leaves and promises a formal contract with all the correct parts, carefully prepared load calculation that ensures the system will adequately heat and cool your home, and a formal price the next day.
This is a classic example of a dealer network in need of an overhaul. Our dealers weren’t particularly loyal to the Trane brand, not terribly consistent with messaging and not as effective as they could be at closing business. We knew this dealer sales process needed more than an incremental improvement; it needed a dramatic and fundamental change in how we enabled dealers and engaged customers. We were also hoping this change would give us a clear competitive advantage in the HVAC space. To help us envision, design, build, and deliver a potential solution, we turned to Cynergy, an expert in the field of solving complex business problems with digital solutions. Early project work consisted of understanding our industry, business, products, and most importantly, our dealer network. One of the keys to Cynergy’s success was working side by side with our dealers to really “get underneath the hood” of how the in home sale worked and how it fell short. Following this strategy and research phase Cynergy recommended, and subsequently, designed and built TraneMAP, the new iPad app for Trane’s HVAC dealer network.
During its first six months in use, dealers who adopted TraneMAP increased product mix by over 8%, revenue by 22% and doubled their close rates. It replaced more technically written brochures in three-ring binders with interactive pictures and videos of our actual products that clearly and consistently articulate product features and benefits. It kept customers engaged through on-screen questionnaires pertaining to the customer’s own house. Most dramatic was that TraneMAP allowed dealers to prepare an accurate digital proposal on the spot so homeowners could sign the deal immediately and avoid the typical one to two day gap between sales presentation and proposal delivery. With TraneMAP, we ultimately “digitized the kitchen table experience” and allowed dealers to sell themselves and sell Trane more effectively to a fully engaged customer who finally felt good about their purchase decision.
By Ted Schadler, Forrester Research, December, 2012
The days of simple, marketing-focused mobile apps are waning. Great mobile experiences require a native app or optimized mobile website.
Download the full Forrester report,
The Business Impact of Mobile Engagement (737k PDF).