Everyone today talks about improving customer experience, but what’s the best way to achieve this? A key challenge for solutions providers is how to obtain valuable feedback from users without experiencing their pain points first hand. Increased engagement is a must to achieve this. While this means dedicating more resources to the client, there is a great deal to be learned from such remediation programs.

Firstly, it will help to grow the relationship with the dissatisfied client. Secondly, valuable data can be gathered to assist in the creation of Personas and future user journeys that will inform the design of future products. I’ve outlined four critical factors for success below:

1. Increase engagement
If users are frustrated by the performance of a system, it is likely that confidence in your ability to solve their problems is very low. This is a dire scenario that requires immediate action in the form of increased engagement with the client, so feedback can inform remediation.

When feedback indicates a severe dissatisfaction with a product, a more drastic approach might be necessary. In my experience, the most effective way to engage with an unhappy customer is to send business analysts (BAs) to work alongside users, so that their issues can be experienced first-hand.

Observing users at their work and having the chance to query issues as they arise provides a fantastic opportunity to really put yourself in a client’s shoes and to deepen your product team’s understanding of their business.

The main goal of observation activity is to determine how, and in what context, users really engage with a product. To this end, BAs should remain impartial and simply watch and record details, with analysis and questions coming later. While it sounds simple, it’s not always easy for someone so closely involved in product development to remain nonbiased, patient, and non-judgmental during user research sessions. Key tips and considerations business analysts should keep in mind when observing users are:

  • Tasks: What is the typical outline of a user’s day? BAs should plot an outline of user activity during the day, where all potential tasks should be listed, even if they don’t occur on a daily basis, regardless of which software is used. The tasks can then be grouped depending on the goal they serve.
    • Importance: How impactful is the described action for the end-user? How important does the end user perceive a given task?
    • Interactions: Does the client need to exchange or pass on any information to others?
    • Tools: What software is used to perform tasks?
    • Performance Expectations: What level of performance is expected by the user for each specific task? Do they expect instant results, or do they accept some actions take time?
    • Emotions: Are users frustrated or happy with the tools they use?

2. Be transparent
When engaging directly with users, BAs must be mindful that they are not just entering someone else’s workspace, but also potentially disrupting workflows. This is why transparency must be a priority from the start of the remediation programme.

Communicating exactly who is needed to provide feedback, and why, is essential. BAs will need to engage with a variety of users, from front office roles, to middle office and operations, to data management and IT support. If this is communicated and approved from the start, operations will be more understanding of any disruption that occurs.

For minimal impact on users’ day-to-day work, and to ensure quality feedback, BAs should be trained how to observe effectively.

3. Develop personas and user journeys
Key to establishing your proposition as a software provider is pre-empting the issues users may have with products. To achieve this, customer-centric R&D is essential. The two most effective methods of building in this process are Personas and journey maps. These tools help provide an in-depth understanding of a customer’s business, challenges, and how they interact with your software. Moreover, they allow you to take targeted action to improve customer experience by setting priorities and defining relevant use cases. Journey maps are also useful benchmarks when it comes to quality control and end-to-end testing.

Personas are fictional, yet believable archetypes that represent target customers. They go deeper than the generalized customer segments by not only having goals and frustrations, but also names and stories that reflect personal attributes and behavioural characteristics.

Once the distinct personas are created, they are used to create user journey maps that describe each persona’s experience at various touch points during their lifecycle with the product. They also consider factors such as context (tools, apps, interfaces), progression, performance expectations, and emotion influenced through product use. Journeys could represent the whole value chain from choosing to buy a solution to using it, or a short segment of a user’s day. This helps to build an accurate picture of opportunities and gaps, and to define the long-term product strategy.

Good journey maps not only benefit R&D, they are vital to the high performance of other teams. QA should be able to validate developed functionality based on the path user journeys prescribe, and sales teams could use journeys as a baseline for demo scripts. They can even be useful to the clients themselves as they can highlight process inefficiencies. Journeys can also be taken a level further, such as their use in the QA cycle to perform automated end-to-end testing for each software release.

4. Collaborate to succeed
It’s critical to create a user journey based on real customer feedback rather than taking your requirements and attempting to retrofit them to a journey just to tick the customer-centric design process box. Using data gained from BAs, which is fed into product teams, as well as Personas and journey maps, which are also informed by feedback from real users, software providers can ensure products are built with a customer-centric mindset.

Another benefit of increasing time with clients, and developing persona and user journeys, is extending the collaborative relationship with clients into new product roadmaps, as well as securing interest in upgrades once remediation has occurred. It’s not very often that a client is both unhappy and willing to dedicate time to improving the tools they use and ultimately their business operations. When the opportunity presents itself, I strongly recommend taking the time and dedicating the resources.