The panel we assembled:
- Leigh Allen- Aredondo, Head of UX @ Spruce Up, Podcast Host of UX Cake
- David Kendall, Principal of UX Design @ AT&T
- Casey Goddard, Head of Product Management @ Yotta Digital Ventures
- Michael Woo, Director of UX @ UpTop
- Moderator – Craig Nishizaki, Sr. Director of Business Development @ UpTop
We asked four User Experience (UX) experts these five big questions:
- How do we identify the problems causing friction?
- Once we identify problem causing friction, how do we prioritize what to fix?
- What should we do to: Improve conversion, increase engagement, improve usability? Reduce support escalations? Work within technical constraints, technical debt, platform issues?
- How do I do all of this with little budget, little time, and lack of understanding from leadership?
- How to get internal alignment and stakeholder buy-in
Watch the Replay
Craig Nishizaki: Well, thanks everyone for coming to our panel discussion on the topic of erasing friction to increase revenue and improve your customer experience. We’re really excited about the panelists that are here. I’m Craig Nishizaki, I’ll be the moderator, trying to keep the fighting down. The clawing. The friction, the friction between the panelists down.
Craig Nishizaki: We wanted to go ahead and introduce each of the panelists to you, and then, provide a little bit of their background, and then also wanted to go through the high-level themes or from the questions that you all posed on the registration page.
Craig Nishizaki: So, with that, I want to introduce Leigh Allen-Arredondo, she’s the head of UX for Spruce Up, and podcast host for UX Cake. Leigh, why don’t you give a little bit of your background, and tell us a little bit about what you’re working on?
Leigh Arredondo: Sure. So, I am at a startup right now, but in my over 20 years, 20- over 25 years of experience, I’ve been at agencies, I’ve been at medium sized companies like Getty Images, large companies like Amazon, and this is my third startup, actually, so, um. Kind of has, run the gamut for me, with experience in UX, so that’s design and research.
Craig Nishizaki: Great. And, what’s Spruce Up? Just so people know.
Leigh Arredondo: Oh, so Spruce Up is a digital stylist for all things home and interior. We match you with a stylist, and it’s run through by A.I. to- to match you with, you know, just the- the perfect things for your home, and that match your lifestyle.
Craig Nishizaki: Great, awesome. Thanks for coming. Thanks for being on our panel.
Leigh Arredondo: Thank you!
Craig Nishizaki: Next we have David Kendall. He is principal of UX and Design at AT&T. David, why don’t you give us a little bit of your background and …
David Kendall: Sure, sure. Yes, I’m at a little company called AT&T, which I hope all of you are familiar with and have in your pockets. I’ve been there for about eight years. It’s been a really interesting transition for me, because previously to that, I had my own design agency that was focused on retail brands and packaging, kind of a traditional design agency, and I ran that for a number of years, and really saw the change happening and moving into technology, and mobile, and interaction, and so I got an opportunity to jump over to AT&T, knowing very little of that area. So it was a nice challenge to go in there and work at an Enterprise level, and a place where there’s lots of friction, and to try and address those challenges.
David Kendall: So the focus of my work there, currently, is on Design Systems and Design Standards, and doing a lot of work with promoting, best practices in tools, and causing just general mischief, uh, while I’m there.
Craig Nishizaki: Great, thank you. All right, and next we have Casey Goddard. And Casey’s the head of product for Yotta Digital Ventures. Casey, why don’t you tell us a little of your background, and, what you’re working on?
Casey Goddard: Sure. Hi, I’m Casey Goddard. I have spent most of my career in big companies. Early on, at Sears, for about eight years, where I was fortunate enough to work through many different departments in e-commerce. I got to build a lot of different products. We very much believed in building everything ourself, so we replaced a lot of third party partners from the ground up.
Casey Goddard: Then I moved onto Express, where I ran UX and Product Management, for a couple years. We built mobile apps from the ground up, and and built a lot of capabilities there, as well. Then I decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, because I really, really missed the West Coast, and I was getting really tired of being in Ohio.
Casey Goddard: Um, so (laughs) we- my family loves it a lot better, here. I spent a couple years at Premera. I decided that maybe I would try a change from retail and go into healthcare for a while. Needless to say I’m back in retail. Um, (laughs) it was a … it was, um, we always thought retail was really slow and behind, and, and hard to push. Healthcare is, is, is right there behind us in retail. So it was definitely very challenging but, eye-opening and, and, I got to learn a lot there.
Casey Goddard: But now I’m at a startup, so, very different environment. It’s great, I love it. I love moving fast. I love not having to spend an entire year trying to convince the security team to allow us to use Slack. It’s, it’s amazing, it’s a e-commerce startup, we’ve been around for about a year. It is called Yotta Digital Ventures. We are in the middle of trying to rebrand, because that doesn’t seem to roll off everybody’s tongue as, as a great brand.
Casey Goddard: We have a couple clients that we’re re-platforming right now, and our main focus is really building out our services so that we can help mid-size and enterprise companies re-platform, faster, cheaper, than all of the kind of behemoth platforms that are out there today.
Craig Nishizaki: Great. And we have, Michael Woo, who’s the director of UX at UpTop. So Mike why don’t you give us a little of your background and tell us about what you’re working on?
Michael Woo: Cool. Um, hi, everybody. I started off my career at Real Networks, back in the day. I did a lot of B-to-B and B-to-C Digital Marketing there, as a designer. Then followed that up with Product Design at Big Fish Games. Um, you know, supporting their digital distribution. So not actually game design.
Michael Woo: After that, I actually came into my own here at UpTop. Uh, really where business, design, and technology came together. So, it’s just been really exciting here at UpTop, the past five years. Working on a lot of great things, right now. I’m working on a transactional experience, redesigning that for a non-profit, charity gift card company. As well as redesigning the, external and internal website for Los Alamos National Laboratory. That’s really exciting. The science in me, has- has come back out. You know, since I was a kid?
Michael Woo: And then I’m also working on a redesign- or, providing strategy and guidance on the redesign of OYO Rooms. Which is a leading hospitality company in India. We are redoing their UK and US websites. So that’s really exciting as well.
Michael Woo: And last but not least, I am nurturing the Product Development of a mindfulness kids app, called the L.A.U.G.H. Time App. We have a pilot, in its second season, at Madrona Elementary School. And we are trying to get that integrated right now in Seattle Children’s Hospital. Across many departments within that organization, so, we’re really excited about that.
Craig Nishizaki: So, hopefully, tonight’s going to be one of those discussions where you’re thinking like, “Wow! How did you get all those people in the room at the same time? Wow!” And… I’m definitely not the smartest one on this Panel, for sure.
Craig Nishizaki: But, the topic itself, it’s relevant. Reducing friction, increasing revenue, improving CX. Friction could be digitally, but also, I think, some of the questions you all posed, talk about the friction internally, within an organization, with stakeholders, so we’re going to talk about that as well.
Craig Nishizaki: And, high level themes from the questions that we gathered. We’re going to touch on those, and those are going to guide our conversation tonight. So, the- the highest level theme was, “How do you identify the problems that are actually causing the friction?” Um, “Once you identify the problem, causing the fiction- friction, what do you do to prioritize the fix for it?” Um, “What should we do to improve conversion, increase, engagement, improve usability, reduce support escalations? Work within technical constraints, technical debt, platform issues?”
Craig Nishizaki: Um, and then the biggest, I think, underlying question of all that was, “How do I do all this with little budget, little time, and lack of understanding from my leadership?” That seemed to be something that popped up a lot, from the audience. Um, and so that kind of leads into the last two, which are “How to get internal alignment with stake- and stakeholder buy-in?” Uh, and “How do we prove the value of UX and, and show ROI?”
Craig Nishizaki: And so I think the breadth and depth of your experience, the panelists, your industry experience, you know, again, breadth and depth of that is going to really lead to this conversation, so I’m really excited about starting the conversation off.
Craig Nishizaki: So why don’t we start with, the first topic of, uh, “How do we identify the problems causing friction?” And, um, some people already said they wanted to pass on this, because it’s kind of like, down here. But, I’m going to just have either, David, I don’t know if you want to start with this one, but, what are some things that you’ve run into, uh, out there? Um, where you’ve had to say, “okay, how do we start identifying the problems that are causing friction?”
Craig Nishizaki: And then we’ll kinda go, you know, just toss it around, uh, amongst the panelists, to talk about that.
David Kendall: Yeah, that’s a great start. Um, and thinking about this topic, earlier on, friction, I was thinking, “well, that’s kinda everywhere, in many ways.” It’s really something that is always going to be part of the work that we do, and it’s just inherent, and a by-product of whenever you get people who are inherently irrational and unpredictable, interacting with technology, which is constantly changing.
David Kendall: So, I kept on thinking, well, you know, the idea is to eliminate friction, but in reality, you’re never going to totally eliminate it. And fric- like I said, friction is always going to be, you know, around us. But identifying it is the key, right? Because you want to make sure that you make things as seamless and effortless as possible.
David Kendall: Um, and I’ve always found that there’s two ways of really engaging, or addressing friction, is, either through, uh, research. Really understanding the user, and the insights that you gain from, from users. And then the second part is really understanding their journey as they go through, engaging and interacting with your, with your product or your site, or whatever the technology is.
David Kendall: And I think those are always the two fundamental things I always come back to as, the initial starting place. And then from on- from then, there’s all sorts of strategies, whether it’s application of a technology, or engaging third party, or creating internal teams to address it. Uh, but, fundamentally it starts with user research and the customer journey.
Craig Nishizaki: So, what are some, maybe scrappy methods, or different ways that you all have employed, or maybe even challenges that you’ve faced, when saying, “hey, we need to do some research?” Um, I don’t know who wants to take that one first, but, maybe Casey? I don’t know if you want to start with that.
Casey Goddard: Um, sure. Um, when I was … at Express, we, we didn’t have a research team, we didn’t have a lot of money. I tried to hire somebody and was told n- I was told “no, that’s not really important.” Um, so, what we ended up doing, um … is really, I ended up hiring designers who were kind of full stack, who could do everything, and we taught them, how to do all of their own user testing.
Casey Goddard: So we had UserTesting.com In place, and I made … they were able to run- run tests, validate their designs within hours, and, and continue moving on, you know, getting really scrappy is just walking around, talking to other people, trying to just, you know, get people to interact with your comps and your prototypes and give you a little feedback.
Casey Goddard: Um, which I think, probably, you know, is, is pretty common, when you don’t have budgets to work with. Um … trying to think, scrappy, huh? Um … you know, I- I was blessed, when I was at Sears and Premera, we had pretty pretty robust uh, research teams, so we didn’t have to get too scrappy at those places, but …
Craig Nishizaki: All right. How about you, Mike?
Michael Woo: Yeah, um, you know I mentioned that transactional charity gift card project that I’m working on. I mean, you know, talk about scrappy. We- we enlisted a lot of folks here, working at WeWork, um, to be our participants. Um, in terms of doing some usability testing, and we’re actually gonna reach out to them again, in a couple weeks.
Michael Woo: But, I mean, I think the scrappiest is just pick- you know, picking somebody in our, in our own office who, you know, somewhat fits that demographic, right? If you really can’t find somebody or you need to get it done, you know ASAP, you know. But tho- those are some simple ways, I mean, I, I have even used my wife, right? To- to be a participant as well. Um, you know, just to get some- some immediate feedback.
Michael Woo: In fact I asked her something last night. So that- that’s always helpful. For sure.
Craig Nishizaki: Right. So Leigh, what about you? How about any ways that you’ve, maybe methods you’ve used to identify friction? Things you may be doing now. Things you may have done at Amazon. Um, diff- different perspectives from different sized companies?
Leigh Arredondo: Yeah, sure. I mean, often it can be helpful to take a look at the Google Analytics, and you work with your customer service people. And you work with your product management and business folks, to help you, to help guide you. So, when you- we all have limited resources.
Leigh Arredondo: So you at least know where to, to start looking. Um, (coughs). But, yeah, when I- when I, kinda, heard the list of, of questions of, “how do you find friction?” And then, my first thought was, “that’s the easy part.” (laughs) I feel like … finding the friction is, is kind of the si- simplest part, or identifying what the friction is, it’s user research, and user journey mapping.
Leigh Arredondo: Those are super effective. Uh, with every size company I’ve been at, that’s been … , it’s not always a hundred percent, but, it’s pretty effective.
Craig Nishizaki: Great. And, on the journey mapping part, because each of you kind of mentioned that. Maybe not directly but indirectly, is that a method that you’ve used to get stakeholder buy-in? To show value within your organization as well as learn about the user? Um, are those- is that a tool that you might use for that?
Leigh Arredondo: Absolutely.
David Kendall: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, it’s- it’s a great tool because it does a number of things. It can really help identify the happy path, and visualize a happy path to success. It can also create a roadmap of what you need to address in terms of improvements to the experience or, or, elimination of any friction. It just really helps clarify the whole- the entire steps of the journey, um, and aligns it to either design or technology or product marketing needs.
Craig Nishizaki: Great.
Casey Goddard: So, in- in some of the journey mapping that we’ve done, that we did at Premera, we actually, had a lot of people there who didn’t come from healthcare, so we didn’t really understand the customer journey, or what they- they were going through. And we had multiple, different audiences that we had to serve. So, our Employers, and Producers, and Providers, and, and, the Members, as well. So, we were in the middle of rebuilding our Employer experience, and none of us really knew what that was, so, we had the opportunity to go sit at our Employer’s offices, and sit at Provider’s offices, and sit at Producer’s offices, and watch them all day long as they work and ask them questions.
Casey Goddard: The quotes, the quotes that we got from them, that we took back, even if we, we could say, “oh, this is a problem! We need to work on it.” Um, it still didn’t break through until we’re like, “well, so-and-so said that they really hate working with us because of this.” And, and having those specific quotes to bring back from real people, that’s the kind of stuff that sunk in with people.
Casey Goddard: And as we implemented customer feedback, and that started coming in, which was just implemented when I s- sorry. (laughs) When I, um, started there. Uh, being able to take those quotes and share ’em around the company, that- that’s the stuff that started moving people and getting people on-board.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great.
Michael Woo: So I agree with everybody here about journey mapping, but, you know, to be honest, from my perspective, um, we don’t always get to do that, right? Um. It’s a little bit more effort. Sometimes, it’s really about identifying the, the- the top KPIs that you’re trying to achieve, right? Or- or- are measuring. And just identifying the- the user tasks, right? And what you would take to achieve those KPIs, and you’re just looking for those gaps, right?
Michael Woo: Using methods like- like what you asked, Craig, you know, poring through the analytics, finding where, there are friction points, right? A combination of usability testing, things like that. To, to identify those opportunities, and, and make fixes, and, it might be design. It might be messaging. It might be te- technical related.
Michael Woo: Those are all obvious UX friction points, but, you know, the one thing we haven’t talked about? In terms of friction, and I was talking to, I think uh, David and Leigh earlier, is that, people are often times friction points.
Michael Woo: And what I mean by that is, internally, right? So, if there’s not alignment within your organization, often times, you know, the by-product of what you see, is what’s happening within your organization, right?
Michael Woo: Um, it could be a conflict of goals. inconsistencies, all that stuff, right? And that bubbles up. And, and, gets exposed externally. So, I mean, that’s something that I don’t think we’ve really touched on yet, but I’m sure we will.
David Kendall: Yeah, that’s a good point, Michael. It’s definitely, uh, internal friction is a big issue. Beyond just the product. But I still like the holistic approach of, of, customer journeys and, and how they can rally a team, because you can get a bunch of- of the disciplines together to really take a look at the issues, from a customer perspective and the customer journey.
David Kendall: And it does help rally the team, in many ways, and the- these can be extremely built-out, or they can be really informal, depending on your- your budgets, your needs, your timing. So I love the flexibility of the customer journey approach.
David Kendall: And the other thing, it’s- it’s also a great way of just kicking off an attempt to reduce friction. It’s a great, like, have a friction workshop based around, you know, running a customer journey, is a great way of starting to get the ball running, identifying some quick hits or quick wins, or put together a roadmap to address larger issues. So it’s a great tool overall.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. So just a quick audience poll, kinda old school, raise your hand. Uh, in your role, or at your company, are you employing customer journey mapping? Yes? Yeah? About 60 percent, 70 percent. So, um, maybe something to check out, in terms of helping you move the- move the needle, with identifying those friction points.
Craig Nishizaki: Um. So I guess, since finding the friction might be easier, or obvious, or identifiable, at different points of the journey, what do you do once you find- once you find the problem? Or what are some methods or some things that you’ve done to kind of fix the issue or- nah, I shouldn’t say fix it, prioritize the fixes.
Craig Nishizaki: Because I think prioritizing is always the challenge. (laughs) Everything seems important, right?
Leigh Arredondo: Yeah, I was going to say, earlier that, it- that is really the challenge that I’ve always seen. Um … everyone can agree on the friction points, but everybody has a different opinion about which aspects are the- the worst. Which need to be the highest priority. Everyone has their own pet peeves. (laughs) Everyone has, a wife or a mother or, a brother who has had this one particular problem, and so, you know, that is definitely the one we should fix first.
Leigh Arredondo: Um, especially if it’s a SVP, or, you know, a Board Member. Um. … so, I think the prioritization is really important. And it’s really important to do it, across team functions. Make sure that your primary stakeholders are in the room. You know, you’ve got product and, and, design. and development. Um, and, you do a prioritization list based on your top three KPIs. Basically everyone needs to be aligned on- hopefully everyone’s already aligned on the KPIs. Sometimes that’s a problem, too, but that’s a different panel.
Leigh Arredondo: So, you know, you, uh, I have found it really simple and effective to give each of these line items a score. Um, one, two or three. Like, how effective it would be towards each KPI. And then, at the end, we add up those scores, and- and, it’s kind of like a road map just made itself. It was- it’s- I like that approach.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. How about anyone else? In terms of how you’ve prioritized, or helped prioritize?
David Kendall: Yeah, it’s similar to Leigh as well. Except, I’m a pretty simple man, so I don’t use complex KPIs. I, I follow this model of PIE? Have you heard of PIE? Where I take a look at the issues that have been identified, probably from a customer journey. And then, based upon the characteristics of Potential, Importance, and Ease, kind of map them to those, and grade them, you know, on a scale of one to 10.
David Kendall: So, you know, in- in terms of Potential, you know, how much will this project really impact potential growth or revenue, or whatever you need to address? Um, uh, Importance, what’s the value of that project, in addressing that. And then Ease, how easy, or complex, is it going to be to- to implement it.
David Kendall: So, kind of, help- helps to give a little bit of quantified assessment. Uh, to be able to rank projects from one to 10, divide them by three, you start getting a listing. Then you, like Leigh said, you got a road map to address, the- the ones that are really important. It also gives you somewhat quantifiable data to show and share with others, and why you’re taking this, project on, in- in the order that you’re doing it.
David Kendall: So that’s kind of, another simple way of doing that, kind of extending that model.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. Any other ideas? Suggestions?
Casey Goddard: So, when I was at Express I was tasked with coming up with a unified road map across, Merchandising, Marketing, Analytics, Engineering, Operations, and Design. Which was no easy task, because they all wanted different things, and everything they wanted was extremely important, um, for them.
Casey Goddard: So, what we did is, we- we went through a couple exercises together. And the first one is getting all the leadership together, and- and aligning on those- those goals. So we all knew what our revenue forecast was. We knew what we had to achieve, but we all aligned on a set of goals of what we believed was gonna help us get there.
Casey Goddard: Then, the next step was, we all got into a room, we brought our lists of everything we thought we needed to do, from a development perspective, and deliver on the experience, and um. What we asked them to do is, not to come in with, “go build me this,” or “go build me that,” but tell me what problem you’re solving.
Casey Goddard: Which was really difficult, and if they couldn’t tell me what problem they were solving, it automatically got taken off the list. But … we ended up walking out of there, in agreement, on a set of stuff that was actually achievable for the year.
Casey Goddard: I did, I did have to keep reminding people, “think bonus.” Not what you really want, but think, you know, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to get our bonus here. Unfortunately, that’s what- what motivated a lot of them, to- to stay focused.
Casey Goddard: But … um … by staying focused on our goals, focusing on the problem of what we needed to solve, I was able to get the Merchandising team, who was notoriously- notorious for asking for everything, to walk out of that room, and agree that that year, that they were going to get absolutely nothing.
Casey Goddard: But they, they were happy, because they knew at the end of the day, because we’d gone through that whole exercise, we all understood our goals, we all aligned on them, that what we were doing was going to help us achieve that. And they had a say in it, they had a voice. They got to turn down stuff that they didn’t believe was going to help us get there, and they got to be part of that, um, uh, process of- of deciding what it was we were gonna do.
Casey Goddard: It was hard. It took me over a year of being there to figure out how to, how to get all these people together, but, they all walked out happy with, with what we were going to do for the year.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great.
Michael Woo: Yeah, and I, I would say, you know, just like everybody else up here, we do the same thing, we just call it Impact Versus Effort. We run our clients through that exercise and, and just make sure we have a representation of … or from, from Design, Development, as well as Product, and making sure everybody has their say. But, again, make it quantifiable to sew back- sew back up, in terms of what to- you know, what everybody should be working on.
Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, it’s- it’s interesting, I was thinking about this. When you’re trying to, to get alignment like that. Is it beneficial to be the new person? Or to be the person that’s been there a while, or to be an outsider? Um, does it depend on the company, or, or, what’s been your experience?
David Kendall: I think, at a- AT&T being a long-term established employee is not a good thing, because it’s really hard to change, and you get kind of sucked into the, the mentality of the way things are, “business as usual.”
David Kendall: So, when I first started at AT&T it was great, everything was new and fresh and I felt like I had excuses to make mistakes, and a lot of leeway, and it was a much better position than I am now, which is eight years later, I feel like, “oh my god, I’m starting to believe, and do business as usual.” And it’s hard for me to break free, so, I definitely think the new face is better.
Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, thanks for your honesty on that.
Michael Woo: I think it was a, as a Consultant, it’s easier for us, because they bring us in specifically for that, right? It’s like we have super powers or something. And they expect us to- to be able to, have the- have the voice of the C-suite, right? So, we’re- we’re just lucky like that.
Leigh Arredondo: I would have to agree with that. (laughs) Like in all the various types of positions I’ve had, being a Consultant, like, gives you a voice that, um, that even as Head of UX, I might not have, you know? So, um.
Leigh Arredondo: I’ve, I’ve also worked with teams who have brought me in specifically because of that. Because, they knew that we would be in alignment. They knew the right thing to do, but they knew that it needed to come from someone, somewhere else. So.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. That right there was nuggets. (laughs) I mean, in terms of real knowledge of being in a big company for a long period of time or, being in a role, um, I thought that was really helpful, so thanks for sharing that.
Craig Nishizaki: So, we’ve kind of talked about how to identify the problems, then how to prioritize the problems. And, what I’m hearing, under it all is, a lot of it is the leadership to really get people to buy-in. Is that- it’s not just, being in your role as design, or product, or on the business side, but, it’s how do I get all these folks moving in the same direction? Would you agree?
Craig Nishizaki: So, um, I think that we should jump to that topic, and then, as we kind of wrap that up, and talk about how to- how to convince people, if you will, then I want to open it up to Q and A to the audience. Um, because I think there’ll be some big questions there.
Craig Nishizaki: But, so, what are some of the things that you’ve done well or maybe not done well, in your roles, to try to get alignment, buy-in? Um, or, heck, you may not even be able to! Right? The reality may be that you can’t. And I think it’d be nice to share some of that, those uh, real life stories with the audience. So, whoever wants to go first, go first.
Michael Woo: Can I start?
Craig Nishizaki: You- you’re welcome to start.
Michael Woo: And then, and then, and then I’m sure Cas- Casey will follow. You know, typically when we- when we start engagements, you know we- we like to host workshops with- with our clients. And, you know, when Casey was with Premera, it was probably the largest workshop we ever hosted. It was 20 to 30 people, and typic- typically we only want six to eight folks, right?
Michael Woo: Um, you know, key stakeholders. Keep it intimate, you know, and- and- and really problem solve. And so when, you said you were gonna bring over all those folks, we were just like … you know, shocked?
Casey Goddard: I know.
Michael Woo: To say the least.
Casey Goddard: He begged and pleaded me.
Michael Woo: To say the least, right?
Casey Goddard: (laughs) “Please leave them beh- leave them.”
Michael Woo: Um, but in terms of alignment, right, it was … you know, and you can tell me how it went afterwards, but, it was great to see all the folks there, you know, be somewhat on the same page, at least when we were in the same room. To hear the same goals. To get familiar with the design process.
Michael Woo: That was all valuable stuff that as, you know, an outsider, being able to see, I just think it’s critical, right? To the start of any engagement. Because if you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what you do, um, it- you know, it’ll start falling apart at the seams, towards the end, right?
Michael Woo: But again, I’m going to hand it over to you, because I’m curious what happened when, the workshops were over.
Casey Goddard: Um, I- I think, for the most part, we- we stayed aligned. Yeah. (laughs) For the most part. Um … uh, inside Premera, when I started there, I- I inherited a team of probably, it was about 24 people, mostly product managers who’s roles were pretty much order takers, so, while I came in expecting them to lead strategy, and the vision for their products, and really drive it, they were like, “no, the business just always tells us what to do, and we just have to do it, and that’s just the way it is.”
Casey Goddard: So, I … I know that that company, taking the approach of going in very forceful, going, demanding that- that you guys, that these are my product managers, and you have to listen to them, and we’re responsible for the website, wasn’t gonna work there.
Casey Goddard: So, what I did is I spent a lot of time with my team, really trying to empower them and get them to think differently, and I told them, “it’s really- it’s, it’s all up to you guys. Like, I can’t go and change things here on my own. You guys need to- to step up, you guys need to build trust, and build relationships. And, you need to go out there with a strategy, you need to understand your data, you need to understand your product, and have a vision for that, and you need to go pitch that.”
Casey Goddard: Um … which was something totally unlike what they’ve ever done. Somebody would say, “go add a check box here,” and they’re like, “okay, we’ll go add a check box there on the website.” And … I- I don’t know if you guys use the website, you probably will see where all those little check boxes have been added, and you’re like, “why?” You know, there could be a better experience there, but that’s because it was all being driven by the business. And there wasn’t thought about a more holistic approach about how we could make that better. So, my product managers really started digging in, and- and- and getting data. They sat on phone calls for hours and hours and hours, listening to customers, so that they could go in and really understand what the big changes that they needed to make were and how they were going to improve the experience. And, and, you know, we had this vision, we were gonna make healthcare work better.
Casey Goddard: So what does that mean to them? And they would take these ideas and they would go into the businesses and get that support. So, I had a product manager responsible for claims, and he, he made friends with every single person who touched claims. Like, they all knew him by first name, they, you know, waved at him when he went by. They, they all respected him, and at a certain point, looked to him to, to drive that strategy.
Casey Goddard: Where, before I’d come in, it was just, they would tell him what to do, so, um … long story short, what- what I found is, relationships take you a long way. Sometimes more so than data. Um … but the data gets it over- over the finish line, and- and really understanding your product, and- and being able to speak to it.
David Kendall: Yeah, Casey, that’s exactly right, with- with- my experience at AT&T was, my success or- or sometimes lack of success was built upon relationships, and that … being able to establish trust, and demonstrate that you can get the work done, and establish relationships so that you can understand motivations of everybody, uh, it really helps in achieving that buy-in. It’s- it’s a lot of work, but, it definitely pays off in the end.
Leigh Arredondo: Yeah, my story, actually, was very much the same. So I- um, I’ll tell it very briefly. Um … uh, but it c- comes down to relationships, I think. Um, uh, when I was at Amazon, I worked in Kindle Content, and there were … I- I led experiences for authors.
Leigh Arredondo: And, authors who worked with Amazon had 35 different, completely different experiences, that they had to go through, that were all Amazon. Like, literally different websites, that were all Amazon.
Leigh Arredondo: Um, and it was terrible, we got, um-
Leigh Arredondo: Yeah, so we got- we got really bad, information, you know, feedback from authors, all the time, about that. That was a huge friction point, and the friction there was, uh, simply having questions, all the time, and not knowing where to go to get answers and because that was seen as a friction, it wasn’t easily tied to a KPI.
Leigh Arredondo: And certainly not, uh, each one of these product teams had their own KPIs. So, who’s going to drive that? What I did was I used a little bit of, um, uh … there, I did have something on my side, which was that SVP had sent out an email saying, “this is crazy, this shouldn’t be so hard.”
Leigh Arredondo: And so I put together a little presentation, about how “there’s 35, you know, different experiences, dada dada.” And, I shopped it around to all the different product teams. And I took a little twist on it, you know, based on how it would improve their customer experience. Um, because Amazon is customer obsessed.
Leigh Arredondo: And so, with each- you know, I just took it around to all these different teams, and got alignment on creating a new experience that, uh, would be like a unified vision, actually is, I also gave it a name. “Unified Author Experience.”
Leigh Arredondo: And so, those things like, actually got a product that was made called Amazon for Authors. Yeah.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great.
David Kendall: [inaudible] Yeah, one other thing that I found very helpful is just, constant communication, uh, throughout the whole process. At AT&T, big organization, just being able to constantly publish and disseminate activities and actions and metrics, I think, was really helpful so that there was an understanding of the progress made, the tasks that had been achieved. And it was something that could be kind of paraded around a company, and, and, and demonstrate that things are getting done, despite the fact that it may not look like things are getting done.
Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, I think that’s great, and, from a leadership perspective, that’s really insightful. And, kind of going back down to being an individual contributor, because some folks here are leaders, some people are individual contributors. Some people are everything, right? They’re an army of one.
Craig Nishizaki: As an individual contributor, um … without, maybe, the um, the title, or the … perhaps. Are there some tips that you have, for them, in terms of getting alignment? It’s- I, it seems like speaking the language of who you’re talking to, giving them some visuals and some stats and data, but, uh, anything that you can share with the audience there, and then we’ll go into Q and A after that.
David Kendall: I- I’ll just quickly mention, just, endless curiosity goes a long way. Um, just showing interest in other areas, whether it’s SEO, or, you know, IT, or product marketing. Um, and- and, it doesn’t have to be in-depth, you know, deep curiosity, but just showing a willingness to try and understand others, uh, helps a lot, and it starts that conversation.
Michael Woo: Um, (coughs) I think, if you’re trying to pitch to leadership, or convince them, of something. You have to speak their language, I think it’s obvious. But then, I think oftentimes, it gets lost, right? Like you were trying to sell a design, or whatnot. It’s not about the colors, it’s not about that, although they may get fixated on those kind of things. You just really have to speak, uh, their language, which is business, right?
Michael Woo: And so, um … just- just really selling those- those aspects, and, you know, even framing the- the slides, if you will, around those, right? Like, conversion rates, and- and all that stuff. Nice charts and stuff like that, that they understand. Yeah.
Casey Goddard: That- that’s another thing, too, with my product team, that I- I said, “you- you- you may think that you have your own goals, but you have to go to the business, and you have to understand their goals, and you have to adopt their goals.” So, we may think that the experience needs to go this way, and we’ve gotta build this new feature, but if it doesn’t support the business growth that they need to achieve, then, it’s probably not the right thing to do, even though we know, you know, that it could improve the customer experience.
Casey Goddard: I mean, coming from where I was, there’s a lot of things that could improve it. That we have to prioritize, but, um … I told each one of them, you know, every different business has got a different set of goals, and it’s your job to go in there and sit at the table with them and, and adopt those goals. And, and, and make them your own.
Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. So, I’d love to do a Q and A, if anyone has questions, I’m going to walk around with the microphone. And I think- feel free to ask any question, in terms of even the questions that you posed on the registration page because I know we didn’t touch all of them, we just hit the high level themes.
Craig Nishizaki: So, I’m gonna walk around, whoever has questions, um, feel free to chime in. Anyone.
David Kendall: Casey has agreed to answer the hard ones, right?
Craig Nishizaki: Yeah.
Casey Goddard: Oh am I really?
David Kendall: You’re gonna do the hard ones? No?
Casey Goddard: You were gonna rap. (laughs)
Craig Nishizaki: Yeah. Yeah, if no one asks questions, David is going to rap. So, anyone have any questions specific to, uh, the topic tonight, or even, asking questions of the, uh, individuals?
Audience 1: Hi. So, I’m not sure if I buy into the concept that you can eradicate friction, uh, on a website. But let’s say you have a website that’s humming. And aside from, new business requirements, or significant changes in business requirements, you’ve got a website that’s humming. Do you take the approach of, if it’s not broke you don’t fix it? And you just wait until your statistics tell you you need to refresh your site?
Audience 1: Or, are you more proactive, and if you are more proactive, what is it that tells you it’s time?
Michael Woo: Uh, I’ll try to answer some- some of that. I mean, we have a client that falls under that- that similar description that you just gave. And I think, if you did that, um, put it on cruise control, you would potentially become complacent and get into trouble.
Michael Woo: Um, I think, you know, with- with the web, things are just changing so fast, and so often, that you should always be proactive, like you said. Um, you know, doing UX evaluations. If you can, I don’t know if you have that in-house. But, it’s always good to do that, because you just- you just don’t know, right?
Michael Woo: Um, you know, you always should be assessing the competition, making- making sure you stay one step ahead, because, again, you just don’t want to get complacent, for sure.
David Kendall: Yeah, I think the constant assessment is a requirement, because people change, you know, behaviors change, uh, learnings happen. Technology changes dramatically. So there’s always things that need to be optimized, and it’s never … I don’t think there’s anything that’s, a completely effortless, seamless site, it’s always gonna be needing to be optimized to respond to those changes and the people and technology.
Leigh Arredondo: But another interesting point to her question was, um, how do you determine where? Like, any of you have ideas?
Michael Woo: Uh, well, Dav- I mean David, you said uh, technology changes often. I think uh, if you’re a good product manager, you should always be trying to add value to your customers. So, if there’s new technologies out there, seeing where there might be some sort of match, uh, there. I mean that’s a good place to start.
Michael Woo: Um, especially if nothing’s really broken, uh. But, again, just trying to add value. Right? Um … improve engagement, right?
David Kendall: Yeah, I think there’s new ways of interacting, too. Uh, through new technology, uh, gesture, 3D, how can you adopt AI, machine learning, predictive modeling, all that stuff, is worthwhile exploring to optimize experience.
Audience 1: But there’s an element of risk.
David Kendall: Definitely.
Audience 1: [inaudible] that.
David Kendall: A risk, and- pay it off by value, right?
Audience 1: Right, and so you’ve got to … look at that risk, you have to do a really good, you know, scrape of the landscape and say, machine learning for example. Does your comp- is your company capable of implementing or adopting any machine learning levels with any success? I mean, there’s- it’s very complicated, in terms of, what new technologies, and when you should adopt them.
David Kendall: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Casey Goddard: Right.
David Kendall: Yeah, there’s- there’s benefits of being a late adopter, too, to wait till those technologies come down and- and become more approachable.
Leigh Arredondo: Another potential way of looking at it is, which conver- which part of the funnel has the most opportunity for growth? Is it the top of the funnel? Middle funnel? End of the funnel? And maybe focus on whichever one seems like has the most room to grow.
Craig Nishizaki: To add to your question, in terms of, tooling, uh, things that you may use to, analyze, to- to review, to- to watch, do you have any tool sets that you would suggest? Recommend? Things that you’ve used? Um, for the audience.
Leigh Arredondo: You mean like … sentiment evaluation, or …
Craig Nishizaki: It could be any of that.
Leigh Arredondo: Something like that.
Craig Nishizaki: It could be, user behavior monitoring tools. Could be, audience polling. Things like that.
Leigh Arredondo: Sentiment, um, so there’s- when I was working, um, on a … it was in the app, mobile app, we used sentiment monitors. There’s- I don’t know off the top of my head, the names of them, there’s a whole lot of them. So you can use sentiment evaluation, and sentiment monitors to go through and read yours and your competitors reviews. And then they score them, by, um … you know, a whole lot of different ways that they score them.
Leigh Arredondo: Um, and it’s a really good way to identify where either you, or your competitor, is not meeting expectations, and where the friction is happening.
David Kendall: I’m a big fan of, uh, understanding the customers and, and behaviors, and so one- one tool that I’ve found to be really successful, is we have a customer forum. And, this was established a long time ago, it’s just an informal group of AT&T fans, who are avid users or familiar, and it’s a simple way of tossing them projects to take a look at, or experiences, and get some quick feedback.
David Kendall: So it’s- and it’s very cheap, because all we do is toss ’em a few goodies every now and then, and they- they like to, uh, talk about, uh, the experience, the products, and again, it’s very cheap to set up, and- and actively maintain.
Michael Woo: It’s funny you said that, because at Big Fish, they had, at the time, Big Fish forums, and some of the- the top customers were called whales. And they had … they had, specific section in the forums in which we would always go out to them. They had product ideas, they- they tested our products, and we, you know, flew them in from around the world, to, you know, come to the office, and just treated them like VIPs. Just because they added so much value to the overall ecosystem, right?
Michael Woo: Um, in fact, they- they almost drove design, um, to be honest. Because, um, you know, at the time, we- we led the redesign of the entire thing, right? But because they were so adamant about not changing things, we purposely did not roll it out, because they said, “no, we like it how it is.” And it was just- it was a little frustrating.
Michael Woo: But, again, you know they, again, spent the most money with us, so … they had our ear.
Craig Nishizaki: All right. Any other questions? We’d love to … ask. All right.
Audience 2: Thank you. Um, so, when you’re um, when you’re looking at your analytics, or uh, your user journeys, uh, what- what are your best ideas for being able to … um, avoid cutting out what could be meaningful differentiation in a- in a crowded field, when, um, basically the- the competition, and the rest of the industry is trending towards certain conformity?
Leigh Arredondo: Can you give us an example by any chance?
Audience 2: Um. Like, say for example, the landscape’s changing in a certain direction, where everyone’s following specific design, um, trends. And you notice, uh, like, an outlier in your- your data, or you know, your user journey, that … how- how do you make sure you don’t lose that? When you’re saying, “okay, we need to change in this way, to mirror the rest of the field or industry.” Um, like, I- identify opportunity versus conformance. Does that help?
Leigh Arredondo: Is there an opportunity to get user input on those differentiators? Whether they actually are differentiators or not, in the user’s mind?
Audience 2: I would say more, like, I- I guess my question’s more about, like, the- the phase before you realize that you have to do your- your customer interviews, and that sort of thing. Like, how do you realize that there’s that kind of opportunity?
Michael Woo: We’ve been stumped.
Leigh Arredondo: (laughs)
Audience 2: Sorry.
Leigh Arredondo: Well, I’m sure we can figure this out. Hang on. Um, so … before you realize that you need to do research, you’re looking at- at analytics. Oh, Craig, can you give him the … ?
Audience 2: [inaudible] just perceive that something’s different and, uh, and how do you know the difference between like, okay, it’s just kind of like a bump that we need to smooth over, to like, conform to like, the changing landscape? Versus, “wait a second, I think I’ve got something here.”
Audience 2: Like do you have any good, good examples of when that’s happened in your company?
David Kendall: So, it sounds like you’re talking about … a trend, versus a meaningful …
Audience 2: Uh, more of a fork in the road.
David Kendall: Dif- fork in the- yeah.
Audience 2: Like, like you have the opportunity to either say, “hey, we’re behind standards,” or like, “we’re not doing what everyone else is doing,” or something to that extent. Um, but, I figure every now and again it happens where you’re like, “there’s an opportunity here, we have meaningful differentiation.”
Audience 2: And that’s where you go into like, you know, obviously like, your customer interviews. But I was just wondering if you guys had any- any good examples of where that’s- that kind of experience has come up for you, and where you’ve been able to, uh, to- to capitalize off of emergent differentiation, when market trends are going in a more conforming way.
Leigh Arredondo: I might have something. (laughs) If I’m getting this right. I might have, um … this was a long time ago, but um, I think it’s a really good example of sometimes bucking what the norm might be, for reducing friction. When I was at Getty Images, we were working very hard to improve the customer service, … and to improve the … to reduce customer service by improving the user experience.
Leigh Arredondo: So that they wouldn’t need to call customer service. And what we found, was that when they- and we found this by talking to a lot of people internally. When they called customer service, it was an opportunity to upsell them on more expensive imagery.
Leigh Arredondo: So, there was … there was certain amount of friction that we needed to, uh, reduce. Um, and that would- that would be the, you know, what would result in customer delight. Customer satisfaction.
Leigh Arredondo: But there was a certain about of friction that we didn’t really have to fix. There would be questions, we didn’t have to answer every question, perhaps. Or, you know, um … it was a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly some of the things that- that, that would lead people to call, but uh. But that was an interesting differentiator, because, Getty Images had really wonderful customer service.
Leigh Arredondo: And, so I don’t know if that exactly answers, or is, is what you’re asking about.
Audience 2: Yeah. No, that’s in the same ballpark. Yeah, it’s a pretty arcane question.
David Kendall: Well it sounds like you’re talking about zigging versus zagging, right? Where, in terms of brand positioning, and Marty Neumeier wrote a book many years ago, called “Zig Zag,” and it outlines that entire thing about how, your- it’s more about friction in the marketplace, not necessarily friction in the experience.
David Kendall: Where, you definitely want to establish friction, to stand out, to differentiate, to create a meaningful, uh, separator from your competition. So in that sense, um, you know that’s a- it’s a different strategy related- unrelated to the experience, but more related to the brand.
Craig Nishizaki: All right, so, we have time for one last question. And then, um, we’re going to wrap up the discussion. So, does anyone have a question that you’d like to ask? Hold on.
Audience 3: (coughs) This is … actually off- off a point that you were just making, Michael, and- and Casey, as well. You were talking about your experience at Big Fish, and running changes inside the organization, and looking at your largest customers. And sometimes your largest customers are actually lagging indicators of where your business is going, it’s where your business has been.
Audience 3: And I’m part of a software company, at the moment, that’s about 15 years old. And we’re going through a transition from on-premise solutions to cloud solutions. And our largest customers, who are currently our largest customers, and currently, what we consider our most important but, probably not our best customers, long-term, are bucking that trend.
Audience 3: We’re seeing a lot of market direction towards- yes, I mean, it’s kind of obvious, we have to go there. But there’s a lot of internal friction where the business understands that that’s the right thing to do. But there’s also fear of, well, what do we do about the current ARR that we have?
Audience 3: Do you have any sort of guidance on driving that internal transformation? The reason I ask is because like, I’m the PM responsible for doing this. (laughs)
Casey Goddard: Good luck. (laughs)
Audience 3: That’s what I feel like every day.
Casey Goddard: That’s a- that’s a tough one. (laughs)
Michael Woo: The one thing I can think about, from a strategy perspective, is… involving those folks. So, if you know where you want to go, fold them into your process. Right? Make them feel like they are part of, that positive change. And- and really sell them on it, right? Because the worst thing that you could do, is to make that change, and spring it on them.
Michael Woo: And they’re just like, you know, they get all pissed off and stuff like that. And- and you’re going to hear it, and stuff like that, right? So, again, really embrace them. And figure out a way to have them be involved. Maybe be a part of, the the design reviews. The- the usability testing, et cetera, et cetera. And so that they aren’t, um, surprised.
Michael Woo: That’s all I can think of.
Casey Goddard: I would even take it one step further is, make it their idea. Figure out how to, how to do that, um. Give them everything that they need to- to go sell it, and- and- and talk about what a brilliant idea it is, and then they’re the star, and you get done what you want, and- and, we all win.
Craig Nishizaki: All right. Well, this has been fun. I mean, the conversation was great. The questions were great. We have 15 minutes until last call. So I want to wrap up the panel discussion so you all can hang out and socialize, and I’m sure you have a lot of questions that you want to ask individually. Um, or you didn’t want to do it through a microphone.
Craig Nishizaki: So you’re welcome to do that. Uh, we want to thank you all for attending and participating, and we’re going to post a replay of this, if there’s any elements that you wanted to re-listen to or watch and we’ll let you all know when that happens. And, we’ll send out a um post-event survey as well, just to get your feedback, and also get some ideas for, um, future topics. Things like that that you’d like to see.
Craig Nishizaki: So, with that I want to thank all the panelists, for being here. And thank you all for participating, and enjoy your evening. Thanks a lot.