Thursday, 8 May 2014

Keep your shirt on

So I was shopping for my brother's birthday present today.  I live in the Philippines, he lives in the UK.  I decided to order him some gift vouchers from Charles Tyrwhitt.  I searched for Charles Tyrwhitt through Google and landed on their homepage

The first thing I noticed was that I couldn't see where I would find gift vouchers.  I used the site search and was taken to a page where I could choose between electronic gift vouchers and paper gift vouchers.  I thought it would be nice for my brother to receive something in the post, so I clicked on the paper option.

You can choose your voucher amount from a range of pre-selected figures.  There is no £10 option.  Even though the image on the right hand side of the page shows a £10 voucher.  There is also no option to enter your own amount.

OK, I'll go for £40.  Nice one Charles Tyrwhitt, you've just upsold me by £10.

You have to pay £4.95 for delivery.  For an envelope with a card and piece of paper in it!  I know First Class stamps have gone up in price, but I'm sure they're still only 60 pence.  You may as well have the shirt off my back.

So I decided to check out the electronic vouchers.

Look how different the email gift voucher page is.  You only have 3 pre-selected options.  And you can enter your own amount.  It's much more flexible.  Why can't this be the case for the paper vouchers?

Eugh, but look at the image options for the email.  Do you think that a bloke would want to be receiving an email with pictures of other blokes?  Really?  And what if the gift is for a woman (they do womenswear too)?  I went for the blue shirt, purple tie & cufflinks picture.  Riveting.

And then for 'Your message'...

You're asked to fill 'Your name' in which is automatically populated in the 'Your message' field.  This doesn't leave you with a huge amount of creative licence e.g. if you wish to sign the email from you and your family, or use a nickname.  So now he'll have the rather clunky 'Love Becca...' followed by my full name.  Great.

The checkout process seems to be generic, regardless if you're sending an email voucher or not.  I had to enter delivery address (no option to enter an email, but I had already done this) and was told how long the delivery will take.  Not really relevant for an e-voucher!

Hopefully the vouchers will arrive in his inbox on his birthday.  And hopefully he will be able to use them in-store and online.  There's no indication if this is the case or not.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

How to communicate the power of empathy?

This post is a little bit different to the other posts on this blog.  I'd be interested in your feedback.

More and more, in the User Experience (UX) / Customer Experience (CX) field I am seeing and hearing references to empathy.  From peers, yes.  But also from product managers and people involved in customer service functions.  If you want to be able to develop great experiences, you need to be able to practise empathy.

em-pa-thy \ˈem-pə-thē\: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this

Who needs to practise empathy?  I would argue, that to be a successful UX / CX practitioner, you need to practise it.  (I'm not really talking about them in this article - I think they get it.)  But I would also argue that anyone who is creating things for end users, or who has 'customer' in their job title should also be practising it.

And in some cases, these people are practising it.  They are observing their end users.  They are spending time with them, in the user's environment.  They are having conversations with their end users; really listening to what they're saying and probing to find out more.

But in other cases, people are just practising lip service.  They talk about empathy.  But they are not practising it.


I suspect, that for people who don't have 'interact with your end users' as part of their job description, there is an element of fear.  Or maybe I'm being too kind.  It could just be a 'it's not my job' mentality.  A sort of 'aren't there other people in this organisation who are paid to understand our end users?' type attitude.

And maybe there are those types of people in the organisation.  But nothing can replace actually experiencing that empathy first hand.

So maybe they just don't really understand what empathy is.  Or just how to practise it?

This has made me think.  How can those of us, who understand and practise empathy, share this skill?

A few years ago I visited the excellent Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.  On the reverse of your entrance ticket are the words "White" or "Non-White".  I was with 2 friends.  Both of them had tickets with "White" on them, and I had a ticket with "Non-White" on it.  Depending on whether you are "White" or "Non-White" determines which museum entrance you use.  As we entered the museum and followed the pathway through the early parts of the museum, we were separated by jail-type bars.  We could see, hear and touch each other through the bars, but we couldn't cross onto the same path.  It wasn't obvious how long you would be in this situation for, because of how the path was designed.  You couldn't quite see the end.

There is no way I can claim to fully understand what it must have been like for a "Non-White" living in Apartheid South Africa.  But to feel so separate from, in this case, my friends, really made me feel isolated and inferior.  A very effective way of eliciting empathy in their museum visitors.

Another empathy tool I've come across is smearing vaseline across a pair of eye-glasses to simulate what it's like not being able to see things properly.

Have you come across other tools that can be used in training sessions or workshops to really make people understand empathy?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Where am I?

Photo of the Hong Kong MTR in-carriage map
So you're on an underground/metro/subway/other urban rail transport system.  You know where you got on (probably) and you know where you need to get off or change (hopefully).  But do you know where you are whilst en-route?  Probably not.

Hong Kong's MTR has a lot going for it.  It's efficient, the ticketing system (Octopus cards) is incredible (more on that another time perhaps), and it gets you to places in Hong Kong faster than you might otherwise be able to get there.  What I found particularly fantastic though was the in-carriage maps.

So often, especially in cities I'm not familiar with, I have absolutely no idea where I am when travelling on public transport.  And this is not because of a lack of cognitive mapping skills.  Like on many other train systems, Hong Kong's MTR provides a route map within the carriage.  This route map goes one step further though.  It is not a static, sticker on the wall.  It has lights to indicate which stops you have passed, and which stop is coming up next.  It goes one step further still.  It lets you know whether you need to get out on the left side or the right side.  Genius.

No more standing in the middle of a crowd of people, deciding on your exit strategy, wandering which people you will have to elbow out the way to get off the train.  You can gently start making your way towards the correct door in plenty of time.  And no more having to enquire, sometimes in a foreign language, "Which stop is next?".  The map highlights it for you.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Deceptive download

I was just sent a large file - ironically by a usability supplier.  I recieved the email saying "you have been sent a large file - click here to download it".  With services like YouSendIt or WeTransfer, what follow is a pretty simple experience.  But with Sendspace, I was faced with one of the most deceptive interfaces I've seen: 

 Take a look at the interface above and guess which link needs to be clicked to download the large file I've been sent...

Nope, it's not the black "Download" button...


Nope, it's not the yellow "Download" button...

Nope, it's not even the link that says, "Click here to start download".

It's the little blue link low on the page stating "Chlick here to start download from Sendspace"


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The ultimate bad experience

So far, this has been the ultimate bad experience.  My purse was stolen on Saturday.  I only have (well, had) one purse, and in it was everything credit-card sized.  This included 4 bank cards, driving licence and numerous loyalty cards.  There was also some money, but as I am notoriously badly organised when it comes to carrying cash around (fortuitously in this case) I only lost about £15.

As soon as I realised it had been swiped, I got hold of all the numbers I needed to ring to cancel my cards.  First call, Nationwide (the building society, not the insurance company).  It was all going well until the man on the other end of the phone asked me whether I wanted to receive marketing materials from them.  Are you kidding me?  You're asking me whether I want to receive marketing materials from you when all I can really think about right now is the fact that I have no money, no access to money and someone has run off with quite a personal possession of mine.  He then went on to say 'Have a nice day'.  Have a nice day?!  Really?  Are you a monkey or a human?  I might expect something like this from a website, but from an actual living and breathing human?  No, I expect a little empathy.

Next call was to the Royal Bank of Scotland.  They were highly efficient, putting me through to their credit card cancellation department in the same call.  I was feeling a bit less worse now.  The lady I spoke to about cancelling my credit card was a real live human.  She did empathise with me.  Which made me feel a little better.  And she immediately checked my account to reassure me that no transactions had been carried out.  Yay, you've made some effort to understand your customers.

And then the pendulum swung the other way again.  This time I was trying to get hold of someone at MBNA (after mistakenly calling American Express, as that is what I recall seeing on my credit card, not MBNA).  They have a voice recognition phone system.  Problem number 1 - I'm in a public space, there is a lot of background noise, and I don't particularly want to shout my personal details to an automatic voice at the other end of the phone.  Problem 2 - after telling the automated voice that I've had my card stolen, it asks me to read out the long number on the front of the card.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't know the long number along the front of my card.  And then, because I couldn't read out the number they asked me to enter it using my keypad.  Just let me speak to someone already please.

Why is it so difficult to think about your customer when designing a service?  Who's using the service?  Yes, that's right, it's your customers.  Who pays your wages?  Yes, that's right, it's your customers.  Now, please think about how they would like to be treated and start your service design from there.