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Prioritizing Opportunities Across the Customer’s Experience

by Jared M. Spool

Originally published on medium.com on September 29, 2015.

Imagine an airline now has a way to board using a QR-code-like thing on your phone. (Ok, you don’t have to work too hard to imagine it, because practically every airline has a mobile app now.)

Making that QR-code-like thing work for boarding took a lot of work. The airline had to potentially update its scanners, because the barcodes on paper boarding passes (which they’ve had for years) are a different format. They had to create the software on various models of phones to display the QR-code-like thing. They needed to integrate all of this into their massive reservation system that tracks all passengers traveling on all flights.

For the most part, it works. Hold out your phone under the scanner and, boop-boop, you’re checked in and ready to get on the plane.

Now, imagine sometimes a flight gets cancelled while you’re at the gate. (Ok, you don’t have to work too hard to imagine that either, because: airlines.)

The gate agent now needs to re-book you onto a new flight using the re-booking module of the massive reservation system. First that gate agent needs to find your reservation. You know what would make that easy? Just scan the QR-code-like thing in and bring up the record. You know, make the boop-boop noise.

Yet the re-booking module doesn’t read mobile boarding passes. It’s been planned, but hasn’t been important enough to work on.

Identifying Cross-Experience Priorities

Breaking large efforts into small teams makes sense. However, it also creates silos of effort. The outcome is a disjointed user experience, such as what the gate agent experienced when trying to re-book your flight.

Employing a service design approach helps feed information into the project prioritization process, to ensure a better experience. It gets the teams into the field to see how the experience fits together.

A team watching the gate activity would quickly see that the mobile boarding passes create friction in the customer’s experience for activities beyond just checking in. The re-booking team could re-prioritize their efforts integrating reservation lookup with the mobile passes. The mobile team could make sure the text accompanying the QR-code-like thing has a nice fallback to find records easily.

Service design helps teams get on the same page about the context of their work. Its practices expand the user experience professional’s toolkit to bring new insights to the team and give them tools for prioritizing a better overall user experience.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is the founder of User Interface Engineering. He spends his time working with the research teams at the company and helps clients understand how to solve their design problems. You can follow Jared on Twitter at @jmspool.