In my previous article on Product Evangelism and UX, I reflected on my own experiences with National Rent-a-Car to discuss how even flawed products can capture the hearts of customers, so long as they somehow manage to strike the core of their most prominent needs.
Truly understanding needs -- recognized or unrecognized -- is the key to converting lifelong users.
This is where UX research comes into play; however, finding the most important thing to a group of users may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack.
A number of user experience research (UXR) methodologies, some of which I’m about to explain, can be used to observe users in their natural environment, where you can identify and reveal unknown needs. (Pain points, also known as: opportunities for your product).
By combining qualitative and quantitative UXR methods, you can identify a customer’s voice as well as their elusive behavior and thought process. This puts you in the driver’s seat to optimize use cases, eradicate pain points, and provide delightful experiences at every turn.
Imagine that you are the owner of a rental car company before the invention of the Emerald Aisle that we discussed in the previous article. Ask yourself, “how might we improve our user experience?”
To improve your customer experience, you might rely on surveys or questionnaires, easy tools to quickly learn more about your users and their preferences.
You might ask simple questions like, “what types of cars do you like to rent?” and “what parts of the rental process do you find frustrating?”
This might lead you to discover that waiting in line to get a car is bothersome, which might cause you to work on getting wait time down.
You could pour immense resources (AKA time and money) into operations to bring that time down a few seconds or minutes per user, which would improve the user experience, but only by a little bit.
In this scenario, you’re innovating inside the universe that already exists rather than challenging the way things are done to open new white space for creation.
Now imagine you own that same rental car company, but instead of narrowly focusing on improving the existing experience, you set your sights on meeting needs users don’t know they have.
To accomplish this goal, you observe business travelers in an airport. You notice that they do things like optimize their luggage to expedite security and that they exclusively use carry-on bags to travel.
In the moment, if you were to ask them why they do that, you can learn that they do it for three reasons: 1) to minimize cost of checked luggage, 2) to eliminate risk of the airline losing their bag, and, most importantly, 3) to remove wasted (and worse, unpredictable) time after they land waiting at baggage claim.
In fact, if you truly observe and talk to them, you’ll discover that they already feel frustrated that they spend so much time in airports that anything you can do to eliminate uncertainty and maximize efficiency will help them.
This would lead you to conclude that eliminating the line altogether is the best way to revolutionize the user experience of renting a car.
This is the power of experience research in getting to the root of a problem.
Product “greatness” doesn’t always need that spark of genius; rather, it’s available to everyone by following a process. You just have to know where -- and how -- to look.
You’re probably wondering “yeah, but what about the part where no one in the industry has done anything like that before? How am I just supposed to know it will work?”
In Part III of my series on Product Evangelism and UX, I’ll explore how identifying and choosing to challenge industry orthodoxies or ways of doing business can help you to identify vast white space for innovation.