Many software companies make the mistake of designing and developing too much of their product without soliciting feedback from their target customers. Customer-centric design is all about continuously adapting and learning from your user's experience to grow your product reach and build loyalty.
At my business, we cater to service providers such as massage therapists, chiropractors, counselors and hair stylists, but their clients are also members of our marketplace. With such a diverse group, we faced a significant challenge understanding user experience. In the early stages, we realized we needed to have a simple way to collect this premature UX data and create systems to organize it, analyze it, determine the proper changes and upgrades needed, and then execute on them in the most efficient way possible.
Observing your customer through multiple channels is key to uncovering opportunities for optimization, and is also a great way to quickly catch problems and keep development costs low. A faster feedback loop means tighter testing, more efficient development and production, and ultimately, increased user satisfaction and growth.
This data collection and analysis process can be categorized into five main stages: discover, capture, analyze, plan, and execute. Find software tools for each of these five main stages and ensure that each tool can be integrated into the same analysis stream. Here are the tools we use in these five stages:
- We use Slack: Every team needs to communicate regularly, and inter-office email can be cumbersome. Slack's alternative to email allows you to keep project conversations fresh and in real time. Its chat feature integrates with other software services (like Intercom) for instant notifications and assignments requiring technical support or sales calls.
This is the stage of collecting user data from as many observation points as possible. Moving beyond the vanity metrics of traffic, clicks and referrals, in this stage it's important to pull data that highlights every part of user interaction.
- Google Analytics: Go one step further than looking at the basic data created in the default account. Create dashboards relevant to each department and keep close tabs on your trends.
- Intercom: The ability to give instant support to your customers (and instant access to interested leads) is important as a service tool. But as far as data collection is concerned, this service also provides front row access to frequently asked questions, points of frustration and design opportunities. Collect customer interaction data using customized feedback surveys.
- FullStory: Watch how your users are interacting with the software to see exactly where they are dropping off, getting confused or needing additional support. Using this tool, you can recreate the complete user experience so you can see user flow and points of frustration, as well as how new customers browse and interact with your sales content.
- We use Mixpanel: Mixpanel integrates with your data and presents it in customized dashboards that help compile answers to your main design questions. It also highlights opportunities for growth and areas of weakness. We think of it as "analytics on steroids" when it comes to making informed decisions.
- We use Asana: Finding a project management system that can grow with your team, is user-friendly and is manageable from every level can be challenging. Asana stood out to us because it allowed us to implement our OKR (Object Key Results) processes and scale up with project, department and individual task management and productivity. With each department's calendar visible to everyone in the company, we can easily maintain higher levels of productivity and focus on key objectives.
Automate actions based on analytics. In this final stage, you need to use everything you've learned and execute as quickly and efficiently as possible. The less manual your process is, the more you can leverage your insight and expand on your potential. Setting forth these changes and doing the work, however, mostly depends on your team.
- Mixpanel Webhooks: This is the automation extension of Mixpanel that allows you to trigger actions based on data. Webhooks can be tied to other apps.
- Intercom: Again, we use Intercom to address the gaps of automated messages. These are based on predefined conditions, like if a customer doesn't have a set booking schedule or if their subscription is about to expire.
Lastly, there no better way to learn how your product is received than by actually using it yourself. We use our own product to link our CTAs so that customers can instantly book a demo or call with our support team. We integrate our scheduling system into Intercom and our website.
As with any software development, designing the process is often the most difficult (yet most valuable) part of your project. By shortening the feedback loop using readily available software tools, you'll be able to leverage your own growth. Numbers mean nothing until you can convert them into valuable actions.
Arash Asli is the CEO of Yocale.com, an online booking platform for service providers.