In-Store Discovery: Creating ownership for Product Teams
What if you could see the product the way your users do? What if you could feel their pain, their needs and wants when you prioritise new functionalities? When was the last time you or your team members interacted with a user of your product?
To answer all these questions, I would like to start by asking you: How often are you on the field?
I guess the concept of understanding your user is not new for you, but the truth is that the only way for us to truly know what we are building, is by experiencing firsthand what kind of challenges, feelings, emotions the humans that we create products for, experience every day.
The question is not anymore if understanding people is important, nowadays that should be a given (in most cases at least), but how much priority are we giving inside our organisations to allow our employees to interact with the people they create products for. To be user-centered your organisation must provide a budget for research activities, develop a plan on how, when, and who to meet with on a regular basis. And involving the team should not only be about allowing an expert to gather information and provide it to them, but also allowing them to be the ones gathering the key findings: getting their hands dirty by watching, listening and doing what our users do.
I am Maria, the UX Researcher of a product team called My Customer. My role in this team is to make sure that we are learning constantly from our users, when we build something new, and what is their experience with what we offer today. I was lucky I joined a team with motivated colleagues who have the best interest of our users at the METRO/MAKRO stores at heart. Let me share with you a case study of how we have conducted Store visits and what we learned from them.
The My Customer team builds a product that allows employees in most of the METRO/MAKRO stores to register new clients. Apart from customer registrations the product also allows countries with Callcenters to keep track of new online registrations and finalise them accordingly. Other functionalities include general management of Customer Master Data like helping a restaurant owner to add a new employee with permission to buy in the stores in her behalf, updating a business’s contact data or printing new cards.
Using the My Customer product is only one of the multiple tools that store employees use during a working day. Our METRO/MAKRO stores have a volatile environment, which can provide variety of situations depending on the time of the year, the time of the day and the type of customers that visit the specific store. For employees, every day brings its unique challenges.
The My Customer product team currently tracks all relevant behaviours from the users of the product, but many times the reason behind a certain result in the data is lacking, this is why they started conducting Store visits. The in-store discovery consists of a Contextual inquiry, in which the colleagues could observe the employees during a normal working day. The observer stands behind the front desk and observes the employee do his work, making sure to ask clarification questions.
The in-store discoveries are conducted by pairs of colleagues from the team, trying to explore different countries to make sure all perspectives are taken into consideration. Some of the countries the team has been able to visit are France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Romania and Hungary.
The team is fortunate to count with very active country colleagues that facilitate the store visits for the team. In many cases due to language barriers, they must step in and facilitate the translation. This brings a challenge for communication: It is harder to fully comprehend an issue an employee is facing through a third party’s interpretation of their words. One solution the team has tested is the involvement of User Research Agencies who can provide proper translation and an easier collection of findings to allow the colleagues to concentrate on their interactions with the employees: e.g. taking pictures of visible bugs in the screens of the employees, further asking questions after they resolved issues for customers or even showing employees what new features are coming soon and what is their perception of them.
The three main learnings from the team are:
1. The in-store discovery have increased the level of ownership for our team members. Having experienced what our colleagues in the stores experience, developers, product manager and domain experts feel a bigger commitment to make a change as fast as possible. This leads us to our next learning:
2. Facilitating pragmatism: refining prioritisation. Once pain points have been identified the team has an easier time prioritising tasks or fixing bugs that are causing trouble for the employees. Decision making becomes easier when the purpose to provide a better working flow to the Store employees is clear in the minds of every single member of the team.
3. Inspiring the team members: In-store discovery not only provides the team members with a better overview of a day to day for their users, but also humanizes the people behind the screens, they get to understand how hard life can be when working at the entrance of a store, where climate changes drastically, where noise levels are quite high at some moments of the day, a place where no matter how many customers or how upset they are, employees always answer with their best smile and promptly support customers in the best way. The team gets inspired to make sure these key people for our business have the best possible working experience.
With the current strategy at METRO we aim to interconnect all companies even more, that our efforts feel like a united front under the slogan: “ONE METRO ”. This provides a huge benefit to teams who want to get closer to the people that operate their products and allows them to observe the impact their day-to-day work has on the lives of many users across our stores and digital platforms.
Contextual inquiries are not the only way of acquiring valuable insights, but we have realised the impact it has had in our team, the level of commitment, and the speed at which tasks have been prioritised in the benefit of a better product, speak for our success. An important measure to share with your organisation is the cost that it would take for a product team to create a software that requires several iterations once it is already live.
What if you could see the product the way your users do? What if you could feel their pain, their needs and wants when you prioritise new functionalities? Make sure to interact with your users first hand, experience what they experience, sit with them at their workplaces and have a better understanding of what they do and why they do it.
Making sure that what you are building is supporting users' needs, is key to efficiently deliver impact for the business.