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User Experience (UX)—not just a company buzzword, but a mindset you can use to navigate daily life

By Claire Tonore

It’s almost America’s COVID-versary. I’m not saying this lightly, I am pointing out we have been in a pandemic for almost a year. Think about all the things that can happen in 365 days. People fall in love, get married, have kids. People switch jobs and settle into new careers. People sell houses, buy property, even build new homes from scratch. A LOT can happen in a year. I’d even argue that a lot can happen in a day, but we’ll save that thought for later. 

Recently a friend of mine got perturbed by a customer service encounter where she was told “sorry for [insert service failure] we are dealing with COVID.” My friend was livid. This was not March 2020; this was February 2021. This friend, like many others, adapted to pandemic life months ago. We have lived with a worldwide pandemic for almost a year so why was this business still using COVID-19—arguably our ‘normal’ now, not even our ‘new normal’—as an excuse?

Well, here’s the thing, in a situation like this we are presented with two options. The first, and most natural tendency for many, is to react like my friend. 

The second option is to take a step back and apply a user experience (UX) lens:

Q: What do you know about the business? 

A: It’s been around for a few years but is relatively small.

Q: How have they been handling the pandemic to date? 

A: Well, they have been open for the most part. Things seemed fine. 

Q: Why after almost 12 months is this business still struggling? 

A: Let’s say it’s because of personnel issues. 

Q: So let’s ask why again. Why is there a staffing problem? 

A: Well, many employees were let go when business dried up, but now customers are streaming back.

Q: So let’s ask once more, why is there still a staffing issue? Clearly letting everyone go at once was a bad idea, why not staff back up?

A: Let’s say that was supposed to happen this week, but due to a serious incident outside the employer’s control, they can’t start rehiring again until next month. 

Now start to internalize this information. How do you feel if you are my friend or the business owner?  As the customer, do you still feel enraged. I don’t think so. Do you maybe even feel a little bit sorry now that this business is struggling? Do you understand that even though it’s almost been a year, we are experiencing a crisis like no other? Do you ever wish someone used the UX lens on you? How different would my friend’s experience have been if the business had given more thought to the likely reactions of their customers by seeking to understand them better and see the situation from their viewpoint? For example, would my friend still have been livid if she was offered a monetary award for her inconvenience? Doubtful. Perhaps the business would have learned that a variety of simple solutions such as offering more transparency on the matter would have done the trick to retain satisfied customers and avoided this situation.

You see, the user experience lens works both ways and it starts with empathy.

A few examples stand out for me:

We know employees are facing burnout, yet they are still being asked to attend meetings after working hours. FYI burnout is on the rise! Based on national research by Eagle Hill Consulting, 58% of US employees say they are burnt out, up from 45% in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic!

We know customers want digital access, yet some businesses still require you to come in person.

We also know our partner needs personal space, yet we invade their alone time because that’s when we need social time.

The list can be exhaustive. We need to put on a UX headset now or risk…

  • Employees quitting (we live in a global economy—there are opportunities out there!)
  • Loyal customers finding a new home
  • Arguments at home

Now, more than ever, is the time for anyone (boss, business unit, employee, and even YOU) to take on the lens of someone else—whether your customer, the end user of your product, or a team member—to really understand their lived experience. Why take the time to do this? Well…

  • Would you like to have happy customers? Of course, more $$
  • Do you want to thrill your product and service users?  Sure, more business
  • Do you want the employees on your team to be fulfilled? Absolutely, they’ll be more productive
  • Do you want to enhance you own sense of well-being? Yes please  

So let me quickly recap the techniques to use to gather user data so you can optimize not only their experience, but yours as well.

Ask yourself:

01

Who is this person?

02

How may they react?

03

Why would they react this way? (note: ask yourself this multiple times until you have thought of every outcome)

04

Is this how you want them to experience the situation? If so, proceed. If not, what can you do to improve their experience? Keep putting yourself inside the user’s bubble, and keep in mind their emotions and how they will be feeling.

Now, this is even better, and actually the optimal route, when you can actually speak with the user and ask them the direct questions to get to know them, their reactions, and what their ideal experience looks like. However, sometimes you need to do some pre-work before getting to the user to form a hypothesis. The above steps will help in either situations.

Try this out in a safe zone—I’m talking spouse, partner, best friend, your kid etc. Or pilot with a small part of your business. Let me know how it goes (or if you want some help!)