What I Learned From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away today and the world lost a great visionary, designer, architect, and technologist. He truly changed the world… for the better!

I recently wrote a couple of posts about Jobs: Customer Experience Lessons From Steve Jobs and Stop Listening To Customers… Sometimes. To honor his passing, I want to share some additional thoughts about what I’ve learned from him:

  • Passion can be an extremely powerful transformational force
  • Great architecture requires a singular vision to align the 1,000s of little decisions
  • Design isn’t something you can just layer on to a product, it needs to be integrated throughout the process
  • Great design can motivate people to try new things
  • Customers can’t easily articulate their desires, especially for new technology
  • Simple and easy is a wonderful design goal
  • Every device has a primary objective that should never be compromised
  • When it comes to design, every little thing counts

The bottom line: Thank you Steve, you will be missed but not forgotten. R.I.P.

P.S. I loved the way that President Obama described Jobs: “…Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it…”

The Design Of Little Things

Large companies regularly spend 10s of millions of dollars to improve their interactions with customers on projects like revamping their websites, deploying new CRM applications, replacing IVR systems, and can spend even more on redesigning their stores.

Do companies get the full benefit from those efforts? Absolutely not.

Companies obsess on major milestones like deployments, but don’t aggressively fine-tune those efforts once they go live. As a result, they don’t add the finishing touches that make things much easier or more memorable for customers. An example of this is the Marriott Marquis elevators; a $12 million system that completely confuses many guests. The hotel could use simple techniques, like signage, to significantly reduce the confusion.

What companies are missing is what I call the Design Of Little Things (DoLT); the small changes that can dramatically improve the customer experience of much larger investments. These are the ongoing adjustments that can have a huge impact. I’ve evaluated hundreds of interactions for companies and just about always find these types of opportunities.

Companies can use the Temkin Group SLICE-B methodology to uncover opportunities for DoLT; paying special attention to the “Start” and “End” categories. Here are some rich veins of DoLT to explore:

  • Provide a clear path for users to start in IVR main menus and Website homepages
  • Confirm next steps and reinforce value on confirmation Web pages for purchases and applications
  • Teach front line employees to keep from using negative words
  • Develop clear signage to help route customers to the right place
  • Eliminate jargon that customers won’t understand — from everything

The bottom line: Sometimes little things can make a really big difference

Infuse Emotion Into Experience Design

The Web is becoming an increasingly important channel for companies, yet online experiences leave a lot to be desired. Our research shows that most sites have poor usability and they don’t reinforce key brand attributes. That’s why I worked with Ron Rogowski (the primary author) on a research report that created a concept called Emotional Experience Design, which we define as:

Creating interactions that engage users by catering to their emotional needs.

Emotional Experience Design is quite different from today’s functional design:

Forrester Research graphic about Emotional Experience Design

To apply Emotional Experience Design, firms must:

  1. Address customers’ real goals. People may come to a Web site to get service or buy a product, but that’s typically not the beginning or culmination of their journey. The mother of a newborn with stomach problems isn’t going to a site for information about medication; she’s looking for a way to bring comfort to her baby — and maybe get a little relief for herself. If firms want to engage customers, their sites must cater to these deeper customer needs..
  2. Develop a coherent personality. Web sites can feel sterile — devoid of a brand’s human characteristics, which are often apparent in other channels. But firms need their online experiences to do even more than just reinforce their brands; the experiences should enrich them. How? By developing a coherent, consistent personality that customers can easily recognize throughout all interactions.
  3. Engage a mix of senses. Over reliance on text and imagery makes many sites indistinguishable from competitors. Interestingly, most people can’t remember the content of Intel’s commercials, but they can easily imitate the Intel sound.While Web experiences don’t allow users to taste or smell objects, they can and absolutely should engage users’ senses of sight, hearing, and even touch.

The bottom line: It’s time to make emotional connections online.

PNC Bank Breaks Through Gen Y Blindspot

Last year I proclaimed that Banks Have A Gen Y Blind Spot. Well, that’s no longer true for all banks. It turns out that PNC enlisted IDEO to help engage Gen Y and created a new offering: VirtualWallet. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, PNC has signed up more than 20,000 customers (70% from Gen Y) and is on track to break even in two years.

Here’s how VirtualWallet is described on the IDEO Website:

[It is] a family of banking products that provide customers with seamless access to their finances and intuitive, tangible, and direct control of their money. Centered on electronic transactional banking, it is designed to both promote and optimize banking activities with features and visualizations that support the mental models and lifestyles of its Gen Y customers

My take: I really like VirtualWallet. It shows what you can do when you explicitly focus on Gen Y. The long-term success will require ongoing nurturing by PNC, but the initial approach makes a lot of sense because:

  • It applies a strategy called online infusion. While it’s a financial offering, online features like a money slide bar to graphically indicate available funds, a “Savings Engine” that helps customers establish rules around spending, and a playful instant transfer feature named “Punch the Pig” are core to the value proposition.
  • The online experience implements many components of the four strategies we’ve defined for engaging Gen Y: 1) Immediacy, 2) Gen Y literacy, 3) Individualism, and 4) Social Interactivity.
  • There’s a mobile component. While this wouldn’t make sense for many banking applications based on overall mobile usage, it’s almost a requirement if you want to target Gen Y; many of whom view their cell phone as their primary digital device.
  • The approach starts with customer needs. While this is not novel for projects that involve IDEO, many companies aren’t diligent enough in starting with a solid process for uncovering the true needs of specific customer segments. By understanding Gen Y behaviors, the bank can actually charge fees for anything more than 3 checks per month.

The bottom line: Gen Y will be getting a lot more attention from banks.

Good Design Saves Lives In The UK

I was intrigued by a story (forwarded by Jonathan Browne) about designers working with doctors in the UK to redesign resuscitation “crash” trolleys. These carts contain all of the equipment and drugs for handling a cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But there was a problem: The confusing layout of existing crash trolleys was increasing the risk to patients.

The article discusses three components of the newly designed crash trolley (that has already won two Medical Futures Innovation Awards):

  • Put all items out in the open, so that the emergency teams can quickly find what they need; instead of having things buried in drawers.
  • Organize kits based on the three major medical situations: clearing an airway, gaining intravenous access to give fluids, and restarting the heart with drugs and defibrillation equipment.
  • Make the cart intutitve, so that it’s easy to use in a high-stress situation.

crashtrolleys_small2

According Dr James Kinross from St Mary’s Hospital who was on the project::

It is laid out in a more intuitive way so that you have everything you need first at the top and subsequent things lower down

My take:This is another great example of how Design Solutions Can Improve Society. The combination of designers working with doctors delivered the key elements of a design solution:

  • A focus on the true (end user) requirements
  • Innovative approaches that break existing paradigms
  • Efficient solutions that deal with real-world constraints

The bottom line: Healthcare is ripe with opportunities for design solutions that can save lives and cut costs

Design Solutions Can Improve Society

I just read an interesting article in Fast Company about a non-profit firm that’s using design to improve people’s lives. The article discusses how Participle created an environment for seniors called the Peckham Circle that combines technology like Webcams with a new social enviornment that engages seniors in a network of relationships. According to Hilary Cottam, founding director of Participle, “The secret of a happy old age is getting on top of the everyday and being networked. The circles can help.”

What’s interesting about Participle is that it’s not a group of social workers. It’s an interdisciplinary design team with anthropologists, economists, entrepreneurs, psychologists, social scientists, and a military-logistics expert. Here’s Cottam’s mission for the firm, which she calls a social business: “To crack the intractable social issues of our time.”

My take: I applaud Cottam. It’s great to see design being used to solve social issues. I looked for a definition of “design solutions” that captured this approach, but I couldn’t find any that I liked. Rather than continuing to hunt for a codified definition for “design solutions,” I created this one:

An approach for creating environments — including interactions, products, processes, communications, and aesthetics — that are tailored to meet the expressed and unexpressed needs of people who experience them.

Many of today’s institutions were designed based on assumptions that have become outdated or were never designed with end users in mind. So there are many opportunties for design solutions to dramatically improve areas like healthcare, education, elder care, banking, and public safety.

What can design solutions provide?

  • A focus on the true (end user) requirements
  • Innovative approaches that break existing paradigms
  • Efficient solutions that deal with real-world constraints

The bottom line: The world would be better off with more design solutions.

Wells Fargo Improves Communications With Ethnography

Robin Beers (VP of Customer Insights) and Helene Alunni-Botteri (Vice President, Strategic Planning) at Wells Fargo briefed me about a research project in which the bank used ethnographic techniques to examine its written communications. It was a pretty novel approach, so I published a research report about the effort. Here are some of the highlights of their project.

The objectives.Wells Fargo (like all large banks) sends a wide variety of communications, both online and offline, to their customers. Wells Fargo wanted to make sure that the collection of these communications were “customer friendly.” In particular, the bank wanted to see how customers responded to its “Writing With C-A-R-E” (Consistent, Approachable, Resepectful, and Empathetic) guidelines.

The study.The bank recruited 20 customers who matched their three target personas to comment on all of the communications (e.g., account service notification, marketing solicitations) they received from Wells Fargo and other organizations over a 30-day period. These customers called a toll-free number to share their immediate reaction about the documents and they also kept a scrapbook in which they wrote comments about each communication. The bank brought the most engaged customers together to debrief them in-person about their scrapbooks.

Lessons learned. Here are some of the insights that Wells Fargo took away from the research:

  • The bank’s communications were meeting the basic needs of customers, but were falling short on the humanistic dimensions of “approachable” and “empathetic.”
  • Customers wanted the bank to communicate like it knew them, similar to other communications they received from organizations like AARP.
  • Marketing messages, especially those with presumptive language like “Congratulations!” or “Good News,” were viewed quite negatively; customers used words like “ploy” and “scheme” to describe them.
  • The bank could mitigate negative reactions to bad news like a notice of insufficient funds if the communications provided relevant advice.
  • Many consumers view the bank’s Website as the primary visual reference point; noticing differences with layout, color, and other design elements in the communications.
  • To ensure that the results were actionable, key stakeholders were engaged throughout the process. The findings were “socialized” with 700+ content writers across Wells Fargo during 30+ workshops.

Thanks. Thank you Robin and Helene for sharing this information.

The bottom line: There’s no substitute for the customers’ point of view.

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