I think in the early days of the Web, we unknowningly limited ourselves. We made sure the Web expeirence was fantastic, but chose not to take our recommendations one step further to phones, to fax, to in-person experiences. There was an perception that the Web would eventually replace all that - which didn't happen (I'm not sure where that would have come from - what kind of future vision is that where people are sitting at home all day staring at a screen...but anyway...).
And there was a perception that the Web would redefine business to the point of redefining industries and age old business processes - which doesn't make a ton of sense (I have plenty of examples of this). Either way - it was a time of revolution on the old ways of doing business to create something new. It was optimistic and a little naive.
That's all probably why we didn't see the phone or store experiences as part of our job to consider. When I worked at Blue Shield of California, one of the many Directors of User Experience had one of her information architects work on an IVR line. She was trying to get us to this Customer Experience level of influence, but her team was spread so thin, this influence didn't take. She was on to something - UX should have grown to CX.
The UX teams I worked on always learned about the entire customer experience on- and off-line to create the ultimate Web experience. We wanted to mirror the off-line experience on-line. To know which features to include on a shopping Web site, for example, it helps to know how things are sold in a store or over a phone. And it helps to know how your audience thinks and approaches a shopping in general. Add to that knowledge system limitations or challenges - databases, security, hardware to give more insight into additional design considerations to make it easy to use. Yes - it all contributed to the final design.
Designers typically find solutions to problems. Engineers are similar to designers - except they use more math and science. As we found problems and challenges, we would raise these to the business and think about Web solutions to make things easier for the user to get what he needs or wants. At times, this meant that we would have something slightly different on-line to accommodate systems. Or there would be investment to make it better on-line than the phone.
The entire customer experience was fractured, but at times, the on-line process would be beautiful.
There was a struggle with ownership (there is still is in some ways...and we didn't follow the money). The Web teams sometimes tried to own things that they really didn't own, mainly creating a struggle with the business. We should have really focused on the user's experience with the company as a whole, and elevated what we were doing on the Web to become Customer Experience.
But that's the past - and we should learn from it.
What could we have done differently?
- Show how the issues with the Web site impacted the experiences elsewhere. It would have been so EASY. We had the illustration tools, we had the insights, we had the models, at times we even had the vision. We just needed to illustrate to the business what we were talking about and they probably would have gone along with our ideas. We didn't go that extra mile to show how the database change could have helped the call center. We just talked to it. We could have done more.
- Show the influence of the Web on other communication channels. Someone may shop on-line and buy in the store (or vice versa). Or even call to place an order. As I mentioned above, we didn't illustrate the entire experience all the way through. And we had the vision! We could have made massive changes to the business years ago.
- Focused on customers/prospects or buyers rather than users only. I think we lost the battle with words. I know - it sounds petty. But we were talking about people visiting the site rather than people saving us money or buying something or serving an audience in some way. Being so technical about users hurt us, I think. We couldn't get the business to personalize them and see the connection between their behaviors and the end result for the business. It was just too clinical, technical, and dis-associative for everyone to understand what we were talking about.
- We limited our own minds and worked on the project at hand. It's great to focus on scope and do what you can, but at times, being too focused on scope limits imagination and possibilities. Maybe we could have had more innovation if we saw how every customer contact point would work?
- Bite off the right amount - not too much and not too little. I know I just contradicted myself, but sometimes we were so tied up in a project's scope - we couldn't see the forest through the trees. And sometimes we took on so much it was just impossible to do. We didn't really understand incremental change in the early days of the Web. We also didn't understand the power of suggestion and how we didn't have to do everything today. We could have at least seeded some ideas.
- Influence change rather than dictate change. You can't make people change; you have to encourage change. Many times, business teams would be afraid of what I was proposing - it was just too much scope to do for the next launch. However, by telling them we didn't need to fix the problem today, that got them to put the issue into the queue and prioritize it with everything else. In addition, it got the team thinking about ways to improve the system. Imagine if we suggested changing the phones and offline experience in addition to the Web? Or if we provided phone scripts to complement a new business idea? Yep. Revolutionary.
- We positioned ourselves as magicians. That was probably one of our biggest mistakes - and is always a huge mistake in the IT industry anyway. People thought what we did was unique and required special training. Sure, some of us had it, but most of us honestly were self-taught. We should have tried to educate our colleagues more and tried to intimidate them less (even though that can be fun...wait - did I just say that out loud?).
I think this is why I moved to do more Customer Experience work - I wanted to be involved in designing the complete experience and how the channels come together for a customer to make a purchase or get support. This is definitely more fun! So yes, I think UX could have evolved and we missed a great opportunity.
What are your thoughts? Could UX from the early days have expanded into CX and evolved further? Is maybe this call for evolution is the key to creating a design organization?
For more information about UX/CX:
- Customer Experience v User Experience
- The relationship between User Experience and Customer Experience
- Customer Experience: How to Manage What You Don't Own