August 28, 2013
Getting More Out of Your UX Team
Over the past few years, as user experience or customer experience have become commonly understood terms with agreed upon importance, we’ve noticed that many organizations have begun bringing UX practitioners in-house and building out fully fledged UX teams. The new team is hired, dropped in place, and set out with a mandate to improve the experience of the organization’s customers.
This is an empowering and important moment for most organizations, but what comes next is sometimes discouraging. The team might gather great info, but can’t seem to get enough traction to implement new ideas. Customers might provide lots of feedback, but it winds up being divergent or distracting. These are normal growing pains for any budding UX practice, and luckily there are steps you can take to improve the output of your UX team. Here are four:
UX teams rarely thrive in isolation, yet many companies implement UX teams as independent departments like Accounting. However, without close alignment with Marketing, a UX team often can’t get enough access to customers to fully understand a problem, or enough input on product vision to impact the direction. Without close alignment with Product, a UX team often can’t impact the roadmap or give direct input on implementation decisions. Many successful organizations opt to embed UX designers within the Product or Marketing teams rather than keeping the discipline isolated, and while this isn’t a requirement, your UX designers will need access to the people and influence required to get things done. Ask yourself, is my design team aligned and embedded with the right other departments?
Even organizations that hire top talent may see those people struggle. To implement UX successfully requires more than just UX people – it requires a solid understanding of how those people should operate and what the desired outcome of their work should be. “Better customer satisfaction” is a wonderful goal but an intangible outcome. An experienced UX lead can help an organization define a tactical plan for changing the organization, processes to implement the plan, and standards to measure its effectiveness. Though the UX industry is still young and largely lacking these standards as a whole, experienced practitioners can still define a structure that’s right for the organization.
UX designers embedded in the right teams and working under the right definition may find themselves implementing the wrong solutions if the team lacks the proper level of exposure to customers. Well-aligned and experienced leads should be calling for customer time as often as possible, but it’s rare to find a UX team that is over-exposed to the customer. As designers, a UX practitioner’s nature often leads them to find excitement in solving problems rather than identifying them, and the team may gravitate too much or too quickly toward building solutions. If the team is lacking effectiveness, examine the amount of time they’re spending with customers and put measurable guidelines around activities like observing customer onboarding, the help desk, or the sales team.
All of this is predicated on a need to measure the impact of a UX team. Like other forms of design, UX can seem ethereal and hard to pin down. Consider starting with measuring the other factors described in this post: alignment between UX and the rest of the organization (How often do product, UX, and marketing meet? What’s the agenda? What’s the outcome?); adherence to process (Is a process in place? How often is it followed? How often are exceptions made? How many measurable things does it provide for?); and exposure (How many of each type of customer interaction does the team observe each month?).
All of this data can be correlated with customer satisfaction and product revenue. Depending on your organization and your business model you may find different factors that lead to increases in one or both, but chances are good that several measurable UX-driven product factors do exist.
UX is still a relatively young discipline and definition around the proper in-house processes and standards continue to be developed. But if your in-house team is following the above guidelines, chances are good that they’re already making a big difference in your organization and for your customers.