Designing beyond the screen

A great article from A List Apart: Designing for Services Beyond the Screen by ANDY POLAINE June 25, 2013

You redesign the website for an airline, but who is designing the check-in machines, the CRM systems used by call center staff, the print materials, or the policies the cabin crew must adhere to? Like it or not, these channels are part of the overall user experience. Your website or mobile app might be great on its own, but customers experience services in totality, and base their judgments on how well everything works together.

Libraries are unlikely to forget that our services include more than just online service delivery.  If fact, in my opinion, we have the opposite problem:  We under-estimate the importance of our online services to our users, and don’t get them enough attention.

However, that’s just a different way to arrive at the same problem. Our websites or mobile apps are probably not great on their own, and many of our other service channels aren’t either. And we definitely don’t a good job of actually analyzing and reflecting upon our total service offerings, and trying to integrate different service channels into a coherent and user-centered whole:

If each channel is also owned and managed by a different organizational silo, it is very difficult to deliver a coherent customer experience—because the people working on the various parts of the project make decisions without understanding their implications outside their group. Or, the decision falls between departmental domains and no one makes them.

Either way, a crack in the customer experience appears.

In a large organization, especially one with a change aversive culture (like most organizations) — that’s not the sort of thing that can be dealt with by “front-liners” acting in isolation, or even trying to cooperative across departments: It requires some strategic thinking and leadership from managers and administrators, right?

The same goes for services. All the small glitches—delivering letters to the wrong address, billing errors, customers having to repeat details multiple times—damage people’s trust in a company. They make people wonder whether similar chaos is going on behind the scenes. If the airline’s web systems don’t work, how well does it maintain its aircraft? Fixing the small glitches can have a big impact on the level of trust and the overall experience.

Hmm, sound familiar?

The same methods and attention we use to advocate for users can extend into the structure of the organizations delivering those services and beyond. Think of it as UX for the entire organization.

Many organizations do know their customer experience is lousy, however. They just don’t know how to go about fixing it.

Help them get out of their old industrial mindset by using the screenwriter’s maxim.Show clients how other parts of their organization have an impact on what they are trying to do, don’t just tell them about it. This might just be the evidence they need to persuade others in their organization to change.

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