Jim Young sits down with Amanda Stockwell, User Experience (UX) expert and President of Stockwell Strategy.
User Experience touches each part of your organization, and believe it or not, you are responsible for a piece of it too. Hear more from Stockwell as she talks through the functions of UX at your bank and how you can be sure you're providing the best UX possible.
Jim Young: Hi, and welcome to The Purposeful Banker, a podcast brought to you by PrecisionLender where we discuss the big topics on the minds of today's best bankers. I'm your host, Jim Young, Director of Communications at PrecisionLender, and with me in the studio today is Amanda Stockwell, a user experience expert and the president of Stockwell Strategy. Thanks for joining us, Amanda.
Stockwell: Thanks for having me.
Jim Young: Amanda's been doing user experience research and design since 2008. Having worked with Fortune 100 startups and everywhere in between, she's seen a lot of companies try to understand their clients and utilize that information to align business goals. You may have noticed the title of today's podcast is UX (User Experience) Is Not My Job. Your bank, particularly the retail side, may have a technology department with UX designers and UX researchers, but what we wanted to hear from Amanda today is why every person in your bank should realize that UX is part of their job whether it's in their title or not. So Amanda, let's start off easy here. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Stockwell: As you mentioned I've been in UX since about 2008. I got into the field somewhat accidentally. I was trying to be an engineer but I liked to talk to people, so I found that intersection of understanding people and talking to people and had a bit of a technical background. I started as a designer and then shifted into research and now do strategy, and also as you mentioned I've worked in very large companies, small startups. I worked in an agency. Now I run my own consulting firm.
Jim Young: So you have seen UX across the board, the good, bad, and the ugly.
Stockwell: Lots of ugly.
Jim Young: Lots of ugly.
Stockwell: Lots of ugly, yeah.
Jim Young: All right, well first off let's talk about the phrase. User experience, it's kind of a buzzy word these days in the tech industry and it's started to bleed over into other industries as customer experience or CX, so can you define UX and/or CX? What is it? Then also, tell us why we should care.
Stockwell: Unfortunately UX, to your point, is a buzzword and it's one of those things that if you ask probably 10 people in tech they might have 10 different answers, but the way that I define user experience is the interaction that a person, any kind of person, has with any interaction with a brand. From the first time you hear a jingle on the radio to the time that you sign up for a service to actually interfacing with that, whether that's a software interface or some other kind of interface that could be a phone call or something, all the way through. So basically every interaction that you have with a company is what I think of when I say user experience.
Customer experience comes from, it's a lot of the same techniques and focus but the focus is from more traditional industries where there are paying customers and the service industry, so things like hotels. To be totally truthful, CX is also one of those terms that everybody has a slightly different definition of. I don't find them too terribly different except for that the distinction of saying someone is a customer means that they are by definition paying and a user by definition doesn't necessarily mean the one that they are purchasing or signing up. You could have a user of a piece of software or a user of a product that their boss purchased or something like that. That's how I see the difference, but I also tend to be really inclusive in my terminology and I'm not a purist and I'm not very dogmatic. I know that there are probably many people who disagree with me.
Jim Young: I think you're safe with a lot of our listeners here.
Jim Young: A lot of our listeners are bankers, but I think what you mentioned though is interesting because I know for our software, the people are using it on the front lines are relationship managers who are not the people who are paying for it. However, for a commercial banker the person that they're dealing with is that customer who is going to be paying for whatever is with them, so I guess that's ... Make sure I understand it. A lot of times for a relationship manager at a bank, they're actually meeting with a person. So their user interface then is essentially the conversation they're having basically?
Stockwell: Yeah. In that case, and this is one of the other confusing pieces of user experience, it's traditionally applied to software interfaces but my definition is broader than that. In my definition an interface could be a conversation. An interface could be the check and screen at an airport. There's lots of different ways, and especially now with AI and VR and changing technology and connected everything, interface is becoming kind of an obsolete term to some degrees because there's also been a bit of a trend in the tech space to say the best interface is no interface, which I don't always agree with but there's changing definitions of what interfacing means. I like to call it "interacting."
Jim Young: Yes, and you said it's everybody's job to do it. If I'm a relationship manager at a bank, how would you say that that's my job for user experience? What is my role I guess in that?
Stockwell: By my definition of user experience, the person that you're having a conversation with is interacting with the bank via you, so the conversation that you have with them and whatever information you're able to give them, the deal that you're able to get with them, the experience that they have sitting in your office or wherever you are, that's their experience with the bank so you are essentially a representative of the bank that you work for. If somebody walks in and gets a deal that they think is really good for them but that is also really good for you, that's excellent experience all the way around.
They will then have a positive association with your bank, but if somebody walks into that room and either it takes a really long time to figure out that actually maybe you can't really give them the deal that they want, or they have really specific criteria that you can't meet, they're not going to think of the interface of this bank is bad, but they're not going to have great feelings about interacting with the bank. They're not going to go tell their friends, "Hey, I just had this great experience." Granted maybe that's not a good marker. Maybe people don't talk about good experiences, but they sure do talk about bad ones. Everybody has heard somebody complain about a really horrible experience that they've had with somebody.
Jim Young: Right. One thing you talked about when you're trying to think about it as a company about user experience is your user and their goal, but I know from our perspective, there are a lot of different users and a lot of different goals, and how do you if you're thinking about this as a company, I got to imagine some of those goals might come into conflict within the same company.
Stockwell: The one thing I'll say is you first have to define all the layers or delineations of users. Again by my definition, a user isn't necessarily someone who's paying for something, so you might have the people who bought it and that's one set of users, and you might focus your efforts on them on marketing or on sales. You have the next layer of users who are actually interacting with software. Then you have an end user who's the recipient of the other end of the conversation, so the first thing to do is define all those different types of relationships and what their goals are, but then also to define what the company's goals are.
How do you make money? How do you sustain yourself as a business? And the truth is that sometimes you have to prioritize which user base you serve best based on what makes sense for a sustainable business model. You have to match up the core values of your company with the core business model, and there's always ways to figure out how to make money. I have never seen that fail.
That's not to say that you always have to pick what makes the most money over what you feel like is the right thing, but it's in aligning your vision and strategy for what kind of company you want to be and how you want to make money. But the absolute truth is that sometimes there are goals that don't match. It might be better for one set of users to do one thing and it's worse for another set of users, so you really have to have a internal priority about your user sets. Of course you never tell them that, but you can't make everybody happy, and in fact one of the frequent conversations that user experience strategists and researchers have with their groups is in how to prioritize a target persona or a set of personas. Like we are going to focus our business efforts on this kind of person, because it will help you make priority decisions as you're building and designing.
Even things as small as interface decisions, what color buttons are, where stuff is laid out, but also much bigger decisions about what features do we decide to build? Having a clear priority about your target user, sometimes it's tough to do but it helps everything else move along because it's really hard to serve everybody well.
Jim Young: No kidding. Something interesting that you said was there's nothing better than getting that firsthand view into watching a user use your product basically. Can you think of off the top of your head maybe a situation in which ... When you create that product and you work with it everyday you end up with your own assumptions about how it's going to be used, because you know how it's supposed to be used, but that changes when it gets in front of the actual user. Do you have a story, without naming names maybe, of a situation in which you went, "Whoa, that's not at all how we thought this UX was going to go?"
Stockwell: Yeah. Let me think about how to tell a story that doesn't become entirely clear who I'm talking about. I'll maybe rephrase the story. It wasn't so much a surprise in terms of how somebody used something, but it was a surprise about the impact of a feature that we didn't really think was that important. We weren't really sure. We were working on a composition tool to create a piece of marketing material for a small business owner and we did not have auto-save and we didn't think it was a big deal. That's not a sexy thing. No one's like, "Whoo, I made auto-save!" That's not the feather that anybody puts in their cap.
However, we were watching people interact with our software and we had asked them to do a task and we realized that in the context of the small business that this woman was working in, she got a phone call in the midst of composing and because she's a small business the computer she was composing the email on was also the computer that she needed to look something up for a customer on, and she lost all of her work.
Jim Young: Ah.
Stockwell: Exactly. She made exactly that noise, and she also started to cry. Not a lot, but we were taping the session and we captured a single tear that rolled down her cheek. There's nothing quite like being in front of a grown businessperson, and you don't think composing marketing materials is that serious. You don't expect anyone to cry, but the emotional impact of being the ones who caused that was really strong. Not just for those of us on the research team but for the rest of our company. So we took a screenshot of that woman's tear and we used that to shift our focus.
That's an example of ... It wasn't that she was using it in a different way than we thought really but we were very surprised at the impact of something that we didn't think was a very big deal. It had a huge impact on the customer, and so it's a little bit different than the question you asked but it's I think an important point that sometimes we think, "Okay, we can just build whatever. We can just skip that thing." Sometimes we have a bigger impact on people than we think, especially when it comes to money stuff.
Jim Young: Right. I think you bring up a really important point because again when it comes to UX and again our area is commercial banking, it's numbers, right? We don't tend to think of emotional impact when it comes to that sort of thing, but what you just illustrated shows that every interaction is a human interaction, right?
Stockwell: Absolutely. There's always people on the other end of those numbers. There's always someone who is or is not getting to finance their next business venture, and business is an emotional thing. It always seems like it's not, but it always is.
Jim Young: We talked about some of these steps. If a company hasn't really sat down and thought about UX and been really intentional about it, how would you quickly take them, here are the steps, basically?
Stockwell: Unfortunate the answer to that question is the answer to a lot of questions in UX which is, it depends. It really depends how big your company is, how mature it is, how many sorts of different user types you have, if you're a software company versus not a software company, and at the risk of sounding self promotional actually one of the best things I can say to do is hire someone who knows UX really well to come in and help assess where you're at to help you figure out what you should do first, what you should do next, because there is no cookie cutter, step by step process.
There's lots of things that I can suggest that people think about or practices individual teams try, but if you're at the point where you've never even thought about UX before, none of those things are really helpful at the time. You need to start at a bigger picture, but I would really recommend either that or finding someone inside your company that is already passionate about serving the customers. Maybe they're on the customer support team. Maybe they're in sales. Maybe they're in marketing, but get them some training about what to think about in UX.
The other thing I can say is that user experience and thinking through the experience of who's interacting with you works best when it's a whole culture, not just when it's one person advocating. I've been that one person and it's tough.
Jim Young: How do you get to that point?
Stockwell: That culture?
Jim Young: Yeah, get to that culture.
Stockwell: Part of it is that it has to be something that people truly believe in, because it's not easy. It has to be something that you have to get across the board, leadership and high level buy in and engagement in, and it also takes some time to get started. There's small things that people can do everyday, little practices, and it takes a ton of collaboration so nobody individually is responsible for the whole thing. Everybody is responsible for a little different piece that adds up to the overall experience that somebody has. You can start with setting an overall vision and then helping people understand how their piece of work fits into that big vision. When you answer the phone differently, how does that impact somebody's experience? When you can build this backend infrastructure to work a little bit faster, how does that impact people? Helping people see all of that big stuff and letting everybody know that it's important to the company.
Jim Young: It's important and generally speaking things are important, that means you have a way of measuring them. How do you measure UX?
Stockwell: That totally depends on what you provide. If you're a service provider versus if you have an interface versus if you provide a mobile app or something, there's really different ways that you can measure that.
Jim Young: Some examples maybe.
Stockwell: The simplest is if you have say a website. You can do things like usability testing or you can do ongoing surveys. It's really popular now those little popups on every other website that you visit that says, "Would you like to fill out a survey?" And now usually I say yes because I know the person on the other end of it is someone like me.
Jim Young: We should talk about the UX of those UX surveys though.
Stockwell: Oh, I know. They're usually terrible. I know. If you have an interface or some really simple things to do, as I recommended earlier, just watching people interact with your interface. Not just learning what they do and how they use it, but it's really easy to tell if you're sitting in a room or watching a video of somebody interacting with your website or software product. If they're happy they'll probably look kind of neutral. If they're unhappy it'll be very obvious. That's a qualitative answer, right? That's not really quantitative, hard statistics which I think a lot of people in finance like.
You can do longitudinal studies to gauge experience over time. You can do what we call baseline usability understanding, so you test the same interfaces or the same products over time to see how things compare. There are tons and tons of ways to measure that. There's those traditional, they call them the CSAT, customer satisfaction like, how likely would you be to recommend this product? Which as I mentioned, I don't think I love that as a measurement because I don't often tell people when I've had an awesome experience, but I always tell people when I have a bad experience. There's lots of different ways to measure it. It partially depends what kind of things or what metrics are most important to your organization, and that changes a little bit everywhere.
Jim Young: I guess I was wondering, for example again in our area of commercial pricing and lending, maybe it's not necessarily directly a metric from the customer but one that you can pretty fairly safely assume would affect the customer like for example time from conversation to close of deal, that sort of thing?
Stockwell: Oh, sure. One of the main things that I would say is that yeah, the length of time. You can measure how long it takes. You can measure if someone comes back to get another loan, and retention rate. One of the often reasons that people have referral programs is not because necessarily they want more business. It's because they want to measure how successful they were because one metric is often, did you go ahead and tell people? Did you send them here? Did you have a good experience? From the perspective of a lender's view, did the rate of person who was able to find a loan that works for them and for the bank increase? You can look at some of the hard statistics too, but yeah, for banking I would say it's how long it took, how much their success rate went up or down, how much more money they were able to make their own institution, whether people come back to get more engagement, more interactions with the bank. There's tons.
Jim Young: A lot of times we talk about that money is a commodity. Everyone's money is as green as the other person's. It seems to me that a lot of times what's going to differentiate one bank from the next is its UX basically.
Stockwell: Yeah. One of the really interesting things about banking in particular is that there's a huge amount of trust involved with interacting with a financial institution. A lot of these people who are going to look for loans, this really impacts their life, their business. It determines whether or not they can move forward with something if they're not able to get a loan, so there's a lot of emotional stuff that comes along with that.
When it comes to a bank, the interaction probably isn't that much ... The type of loan you can get may or may not be that different, but the interaction that you have might be really different. Since banking is one of those really sensitive, emotional things, how secure you feel and how valued you feel as a customer when you walk out of there makes a big difference, makes it much more likely that you go back there if you ever need something again. It means that if things get a little tight you're more likely to feel like you got to pay them back.
There's a big emotional component and because of that the experience that you provide to them, otherwise most people outside of banking don't know that much about the difference between banks and don't really care where they get their loan from as long as they get the money that they need.
Jim Young: Right, and they have a good experience while they're doing it.
Jim Young: To bring it back full circle. That'll do it for us today. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to learn more, visit our resource page at Explore.PrecisionLender.com. If you like what you've been hearing make sure to subscribe to the feed in iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, or Stitcher. We love to get ratings and feedback. Feedback, there we go.
Stockwell: Yeah, there you go.
Jim Young: On any of those platforms. Thank you for listening. Until next time this has been Jim Young with Amanda Stockwell and you've been listening to The Purposeful Banker.
About the Author
As a Content Manager here at PrecisionLender, Maria develops the messaging, stories and content pieces for prospects and current clients – showing them the value in PrecisionLender. Her passion for serving others is evident as she leads the volunteer program here at PrecisionLender. Maria’s ability to be organized and constructive, along with her ability to be practical makes her an exceptional addition to our team.More Content by Maria Abbe