Saturday, August 19, 2017

Focus group participants at Gallery 114
For much of my life, I've been designing things for other people. As a kid, I drew ladies in gowns, designed board games and even designed and sold soft sculpture pins. My first career choice was designing costumes and from there I designed apparel for people with special needs. It wasn't until this new century, around 2000, that I realized there was a formalized process to understand if people would want those designs, but all along I was gathering feedback to know what to make more of or how to alter my designs.
For the last 12 years or so, my sewing machine was in mostly hibernation, but its siren call got loud enough this summer to bring me back. I started to design a line of coats and accessories out of polar fleece, the Northwest's favorite fabric. I'm a one woman shop, but I sewed up four sample coats and a range of accessories in short order, excited to get them manufactured and hopefully sold at craft markets and on Etsy. Before manufacturing a short run, I wanted to see - do people even like the designs? Do the coats fit? Are the scarf designs appealing?
It took about a week to put together a focus group. Because I have a wonderful Portland network, people showed up for the promise of a fun evening and some appetizers, and two lucky winners got to take home samples. An amazing colleague loaned me her beautiful gallery space, and we were off.
The evening was planned as a formal focus group (although I did break my own cardinal rule of researching your own designs) complete with a get to know you exercise, surveys and a frank conversation as a wrap up. It was rewarding to see others touch, use and try on the items, but it was their candid feedback, seeing the fit first-hand and discussing the emotions around apparel that was so valuable. Like all of you, I sit in my office, coming up with designs and ideas (if I like them, surely someone else will). But, this group proved, once again, that not everyone is like me in fit, taste or lifestyle.  
Although there were many take-aways, the biggest learning was that it is not time to manufacture! There is a fit issue that needs to be addressed. Even for this little company, that saved me thousands of dollars in materials and apparel that would have been wasted on items that don't fit right.
So, I encourage you, whether you are in a large company or small, to find the time and budget to gather consumer insights. Research spans from surveys to a small local focus group to multiple in home visits across the globe. Whatever size you have time and budget for, its value should not be ignored. As Mark Twain succinctly said, “supposing is good, finding out is better.”

Monday, July 31, 2017

Being Inspired

I missed my week #3 check in since we were out of town Friday and Monday. So on to a new week!

  • 3 hours volunteering at Dress for Success
  • 3 jobs applied for
  • 2 networking meetings
  • 1 proposal presented
  • 1 interview scored!
  • 1 coat finished
  • Many flowers cut
  • 4 scarves finished
  • 100 labels ordered
  • Finished Project Runway season 12
The Job Hunt
Again, this week, I want to talk about how important networking is. All three jobs I applied for were at organizations where I had at least one connection. Two people offered to forward my resume again, which was awesome. That way, I can be sure that I get at least 10 seconds in front of the eyes of the hiring manager. 

I spent many, many hours on a proposal for a project that I'm still hoping will come through. It's an organization I can help based on my years in healthcare. Fingers crossed on that one. (Much of it was written while waiting for a friend having a colonoscopy. Nothing helps you focus like sitting in a medical waiting room with nothing else to distract.)

Two of the people I talked to last week were inspiring. Chris at Evolve Collaborative is inspiring because he and two colleagues left a large agency to start a smaller one several years ago. From the looks of things, it's going quite well. Being in their space also reminded me how important a workspace is. they have an open space full of light, snarky sayings, lots of tea and an impressive coffee maker! It has the vibe of a positive, creative space. Of all of the places I've seen, this one really stuck with me.

Donna Davis, professor at U of O, and I also had a very inspiring conversation. She's taken the path of looking at technology, specifically VR/AR and showing how it is being used by seniors and people with disabilities. Her main focus is Second Life and how it's brought incredible value to these populations. Donna herself is inspiring, having earned her PhD at 50. I thought that getting my Master's at 35 was late, hah! There are many more dragons to slay. She's one of the many proving life is for learning and pushing yourself at any stage. Check out these other late bloomers

Thursday, an email came through inviting me for an interview for a job I'm really excited about. It's an industry pivot and could be very cool. Stay tuned. 

The Stitch Is Back
We came home from a long weekend to my Sizzix at the doorstep! What is a Sizzix you may ask? Well, they are nifty, desktop die-cutting machines used for paper and fabric. You simply sandwich the fabric and a die between two plexi-glass plates and roll them into the machine manually. Out pops multiple cuts of the design on the die. 

My intent is that with this, I can make the coat embellishments more uniform and they will be faster to cut. It's pretty darn cool. I put the finishing touches on a sample coat and am headed to take photos today. Fingers crossed this photoshoot works. 

Have a great week, all! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Getting Creative

Here we are already at week #2! It turned out to be a whirlwind week. I focused a lot on getting my newly minted business up and running and of course networking and applying for jobs. I worked a number of 12 hour days this week, so much for my relaxing time of unemployment.

The Stats

  • 17+ hours of patternmaking and sewing
  • 4 networking meetings
  • 3 jobs applied for
  • 1 job talk

The Stitch Is Back
It's official! I've grabbed the name on Instagram and Facebook, so it must be true. I'll be making and selling a line of fashionable polar fleece apparel. I love fleece but don't want to always look like I'm going for a hike! Thus, this clothing line. Check out the Facebook page or follow on Instagram @thestitchisbackpdx for all of the details.

Mock up from new pattern

Scarf designs
This week ended up in what felt like boot camp for fashion designers. I signed up for a class to create a pattern in 4 nights for 3 hours a night. It was a crazy week, but wow, I did it! I now have the pattern I've wanted for years.

I also managed to sew up a few scarves and get some advice from an amazing woman who is a partner in Layneau Lingerie. Her work is insanely beautiful. She was so open about sharing process, explaining tear sheets and laydowns and how to go about next steps. Did I mention she made my wedding ring? A truly talented soul.

I also was connected to a woman who seems to be my brain double. Molly Fuller works in health care and is creating a line of compression clothing to help autistic kids. Check out her work. Molly is a finalist in the InnovateHER challenge. Good luck Molly! 

The Job Hunt
The business is intended as a side project, so I continue to search for a great fit for my next gig. I started the week at the unemployment office which was an experience in and of itself. It had the expected dull gray furniture and cubicles, but also the unexpected experience of an agent who actually knows about user experience and specialized in hi-tech workers. I had NO idea. He even has a great webpage listing jobs in hi-tech.

I met with a trend analyst (hoping we can do one big primary and secondary research project together), presented my research work to a potential employer and had coffee with another potential contract opportunity.

I keep threatening to start a coffee shop rating service, as that's my office du jour right now. (Grand Central on Fremont = great coffee, great service. Village Coffee in Multnomah = cute and quiet. Seven Virtues on Sandy = Delicious GF bagels and serves the new shi-shi Cortada coffee).

Proving that social media works, I also re-connected with a colleague from many years ago who is looking for consulting support. Have I mentioned that I love my network?

That's it! Until next week...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Week #1 - Cultivating Relationships

In the next few weeks, I'll be documenting my search for my next adventure(s). In business, we often have weekly updates due. Since I'm on my own right now, this blog will be a proxy for emailing management with highlights from the week. You, my readers, are now my managers!

Weekly tally:

  • 3 face to face meetings with new potential partners
  • Newsletter sent to 212 people (sign up to the right)
  • 1 networking call
  • 1 volunteer event - Dress For Success
  • Accelerate Biotech and Digital Health Meet up
  • Resume updated
  • Presentation draft for potential sub-contract work
  • Filed for unemployment (blah, but necessary)
  • Zero sewing (next week for sure)
Being unemployed isn't easy, but it can be an opportunity. A time to connect with colleagues from the past and a reason to reach out and meet new people and learn about new projects. I'm not so much "unemployed" as I am a free agent, able to pursue multiple opportunities. 

Last July, I received a call from a recruiter for a likely temp to perm position with the wearables team at Intel. Whoo! My thesis work 10+ years ago was in wearables and finally I'd be able to work in this field. It's a slowly growing space and I live in what is still a relatively small town. Although they found me via LinkedIn, it was a team I knew well and had been talking to the manager on and off for a year or so about the group (yes, cultivating relationships has been my thing all along). It was worth the risk to try something new. All of our work was on new devices and my focus was on the New Balance Run IQ watch and augmented reality glasses for enterprise (think of hands free screens for warehouse workers). It was a new space for me and I soaked up information enjoying a multi-phased research approach from contextual interviews to human factors work. 

Fast forward to November and layoffs, the FTE researchers were all let go, but we contractors were spared. I did another few months of work, but slowly the project was grinding to a halt. Alas, the project was cancelled, and with it my contract. 

However... I'm excited to have the time to relax (it is summer after all) and think about my next steps. I'm having some amazing conversations and talking to interesting people, so I am going to capture some notes here to share, for whomever finds this interesting, helpful or just something to pass the time during your commute. It's so interesting to be open, to be in a place where I don't have a vision of what I must do, but rather following the path of what feels like a good collaboration and interesting work. My vision for the future is a few months of project work and then landing an inspiring FTE position. 

So, week #1 started out great with a 4 day weekend relaxing with my husband and exploring all the fun Portland provides in the summer (Blues Fest was fantastic). Wednesday, it was back to work. 

Since I knew this was coming, I had some meetings set up for informational interviews and possible projects. I met with a partner from a local agency, Uncorked Studios, who is doing what seems to be very grounded, interesting and human centered work creating products at the intersection of physical and digital. By the way, for those of you on your own networking path, I had no real connections to him, but was really interested in their work. I reached out, and he reached back. Easy peasy. 

I'm quite enamoured of their work and hope I get to work with them at some point. We talked a bit about networking groups, and the man I met with told me about this very cool concept of creating a party where you invite 5 people, they invite 5 people and you can go on as large as you'd like the gathering to be. Imagine how cool a room full of 5 very interesting people and their very interesting friends would be! Someone I know should do this (and invite me). 

Later this week, I had the chance to talk with a local health care company and discuss a potential project. Time to wrack the old memory for information about the work I did at Cambia with personas, journey maps, and learning what people want from their health care provider. Could be another great partnership. 

Both meetings will likely lead to other meetings with additional team members to continue exploring how we might work together. 

As my employment has waned, my ability to volunteer has increased. I've just gotten involved with Dress For Success, an organization that "empower(s) women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life." It's humbling and inspiring to be there at this moment. I've seen women who didn't necessarily have the resources I was given but who have worked to overcome hardships and make a living and a life. One woman even talked about her day job and her side work creating an apparel business. We are clearly more alike than different. 

Speaking of which, I've also been spending more time sewing and putting together a small business of my own designing scarves and coats out of polar fleece. I LOVE that I can make something in an afternoon. Eventually, I will be selling product. I may even have a business name...but that will be revealed as I'm ready. Right now, I just enjoy sitting at my machine and creating. 

And I love my network. I put together a newsletter this week, something I've found to be successful in the past, as a way to both stay connected and share a curated list of things happening in research and design. I've gotten wonderful responses, potential opportunities, and people who, even with the glut of emails these days, appreciated the information in their inbox. I'm filled with gratitude for my colleagues, many of whom I am lucky enough to be able to call "friend." 

So whether your are gainfully and happily employed or seeking a new adventure, I encourage you to reach out to just one new person next week. What can you learn? What can you share? Cultivate those relationships. They feed our body, our soul and sometimes even our wallets! 

Until next week---

Monday, June 12, 2017

21st Century Liberation – Virtual Reality

My Avatar. I always wanted to come back in my next life as a strong, black woman. 

A caveat to this article, I’ve been working in augmented reality, certainly tried some virtual reality, but haven’t personally taken the plunge into purchasing a VR headset, so much my information is hearsay albeit from reliable sources.

Last week, I had the great opportunity to attend 2 events discussing AR/VR and what some are calling XR (any kind of altered reality). In some ways, XR has been around for a long time (although not the first example, anyone who has used a ViewMaster can attest to this), yet for a mainstream technology, it’s just in its infancy. I will be using XR to refer to all AR/VR/MR in this article.

The topics varied widely from how and when users are engaging with XR, to how XR allows people to be something other than the physical self we are trapped in every day. We discussed the technology and projects people are experimenting with to find the most compelling use cases.

For me, the topics that resonated were about people – how does this change how we learn, how we empathize, how we interact and how we think about self and other? Today I want to talk about the last example, self and other. Many virtual realities, and some augmented realities, allow you to create an avatar, a version of yourself that exists only in this online world. I have never personally given thought to these “personas” and who and what they represent.

The overarching sentiment was that virtual reality lets you be anything or anyone you want. For many people, this is an absolutely liberating experience. The exception to this rule – that I’m aware of – is  Facebook spaces which apparently doesn’t allow for creating a personal avatar who is overweight, despite the multitude of other options for customization.

Back to the liberating experiences; Portland artist Stephanie Mendoza talked about the ability to create a creature who can do and be whatever you want in Anyland. She told the story of a transgender individual who had been bullied. Stephanie showed this (reluctant) individual how to create an avatar on Anyland. After creating an anonymous avatar that represented her true self, the individual felt empowered, emboldened and her new way of being in this virtual world carried over to a new way of being in the real world. There, she also felt empowered and emboldened.

Donna Z. Davis, Director of the Strategic Communication program at the U of O, talked about her decade plus of research in Second Life. (yes, it still exists) working with people who are often house, room or bed bound. She spoke of a 90 year old woman with Parkinson’s who gets to be her younger, vibrant self while in Second Life. Although it’s difficult to leave her home, she meets many people through this virtual portal, reducing the feelings of isolation. In this virtual world, communication is leveled for deaf people who can easily have conversations via text since typing is a common communication tool. With additional examples of a blind person who created a custom virtual, sound-driven environment and a dwarf who created a cute, approachable alligator that people loved which was different than her experience being teased as a little person in the big world. It became clear that VR allows people to not just have a Second Life, but an entirely secondary persona.

It’s really powerful to be able to create an avatar, a representation of that which represents the best in us, or the hidden part of us, or maybe a characteristic we didn’t even know we had until the virtual anonymity allowed us to be what and who ever we wanted. People should be able to create their online presence to fully represent themselves if desired, as fat, skinny, tall or short and, they should be able to create a representation that is their best “self” be it younger, skinnier, furry or feathered, human or other-worldly. In this way, some people are empowered by the fact that they are in the skin that feels right to them.

There is, of course, a flip-side; a very dark flip-side where anonymity allows for bullying, harassment and discrimination. I will leave that for the next article. For now, we will focus on the positive, the ways in which this new technology can give us wings (literal and figurative), help us find our voice, our community and be empowered to be our best selves.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Lucky 13! Steps to get you to the next phase in your career

A friend was recently let go from a company he's been at for 24 years. Wow. Within those big companies you do change jobs and flex with the times, but deciding on the next steps way outside of the comfort of a big organization is a huge deal. Having recently left a job I was at for just 5 years, I'm finding even that shift is a little more challenging than I expected. Change is good, but it can be hard. 

In that vein, I thought I'd write up some of the advice I've given him, based on my own life - switching careers several times, going from entrepreneur/consultant to contractor to full-time employee and back again. 

1) Not sure what you want your next step to be? Volunteer or take a class. It's a great way to get to know an organization, a field of study or an area of interest. See if it's something you want to pour your heart into before making a big commitment. It's also a great way in. I was able to switch from volunteering at a children's museum to a full-time job even though it was a new field for me, because I was a known quantity after a year. 

2) Conduct informational interviews. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and their work. Most people will make time for you because people are generally just nice! Reach out to people you know and the people they know. 

3) Pick a niche and define your personal brand - what do you want to be known for, what makes you different from everyone else? 

4) Shore up all of your social media to promote and support that brand (I'm xx, expert at xxx, here's my logo, what I'm great at and you should hire me to do X) You can always branch out but people you need other people to sell for you and you need a succinct sales pitch/explanation. For others to be your best advertising, you need a simple clear message and focus. 

5) Put up a website, simple is ok, but some place to point folks who want to know more ( is great, but you may like something more complex)

6) Decide what you want your life to look like. Do you want to work alone, with or for others? Full-time, consultant, contractor or just what comes your way? 

7) Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Want a 30 hour a week gig? Want to work 4-10's and have Friday's to work on your art? Ask! The workplace gets more flexible every day. 

8) Deal with the business of business. Hire or contract with people who can do the things you can't or don't want to like accounting and legal. 

9) Get liability insurance if you are giving companies advice so they can't come back and sue you if someone gets hurt based on your advice.If you are setting up consulting, figure out the legal stuff (llc, scorp, etc.), taxes (which will help you know how much to charge) - Personally I recommend an LLC.

10) I think people still use pesky paper business cards - again, support your brand ( and many other sites make it easy to design a simple card)

11) Network near and far with people you've known forever and new people. Tell them the 3 best leads/clients/jobs they can find for you. Do the work for them. 

12) Go to other people's LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter etc and see if they know people that you want to know/meet/interview/work with or for. 

13) Try it! Jump in, have fun and be fluid, learning from the process. You may not end up where you planned, but I know you'll find some great opportunities. 

Here are a few websites with more great information, details on starting a business, things to think about, etc. 

Great resources from soup to nuts: 

Oversimplified, but a good starting point:

My coach: (her advice on changing my LinkedIn profile landed me my current gig)

NOLO great info and often free forms:

Those are my thoughts on the subject...let me know your experience and if you'd add any ideas or resources. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Unboxing Boxed Meals

It's January 1. I've had about a week of vacation and my brain is ready to think, do or create!

Starting the new year off with a post on a healthy food option called hungryroot, for those of you looking for quick and healthy meals. What I love about our current economy and the state of our country is that there is a niche food market for just about any need at all. For those of us with food allergies, pre-made meals can be a bit of a drag, always including 3 things you like and 2 you can't eat. Enter hungryroot. Their plant based meals are tasty, under 500 calories and easy to prepare. Unfortunately, to keep food fresh, they are over packaged. Since they are new with a laser focus, the food choices also get monotonous.
image of hungry root sweet potato noodles package
Simple, inviting packaging

Healthy ingredients

The meals consist of a plant type "noodle," a sauce, a small add-in and an optional protein like chicken or falafel. There are also a few plant based sides and dessert items.

The details
In early December, I received one order as a gift (I suggested) and one order as one I placed myself. I didn't realize that the gift order was a specific set of pre-packaged dinners and ended up giving away two of them with things I don't/can't eat. Failure on my part to read the fine print, but maybe a failure on their part for not being more explicit in the teaser email. Other than that, the online ordering process doesn't stand out, which means it was fairly painless.

The orders arrived as expected and were conveniently left on my porch in a cardboard box with several pounds of ice in reusable cloth pouches. The ice packs were great for the first order or two, but will lead to overkill and landfill in subsequent orders. I love mail order items of all kind, but am constantly upset about the waste created. Add fixing that issue to the long list of things I would change about mail order.

One box (with a chicken protein side) sat on the porch for a day since we were out of town. I don't eat chicken, (gift order fail) so I pitched the chicken, but I wouldn't have eaten it anyway after being on the porch overnight. I figured the sweet potato noodles would survive if not optimally frozen, so the whole meal didn't go to waste.

For two weeks I enjoyed a variety of meals that took about 5 minutes to prepare and were both healthy and tasty.

Fresh food ready to heat and eat
The food comes in one tray with separate packs holding each ingredient. The package design is clean and inviting. The food can be microwaved or made on the stove. Since convenience was a factor in my purchase, I mostly microwaved mine and they tasted great! The sauces were unique and flavorful. The falafel made it feel more like a meal. The crunchy chick pea "add ins" gave it added texture.

So, great food, easy to prepare and tasty. The downsides included not feeling full, the cost, and lack of variety. On feeling full -- I often felt hungry not long after eating. I appreciate the limited portion, but needed more filling food. Each meal is about $12 not including delivery (a $40 order gets free delivery). It's not expensive, but it's not a lot cheaper than eating out at my local Thai restaurant.

The company offers variety in mixing sauces and vegetables, but at the end of the day, its a lot of veggies with sauce, something I want 1-2 times a week not every day. The coconut carrot cake bites, however, should be a regular staple in my cupboard. Delicious overload.

Looks good enough to eat!
This brings me to the expiration dates. The food needs to be refrigerated and lasts about a week. Again, given the minimums for free shipping you end up with about 4 meals to eat in 7 days and that's a few more zucchini noodles than I'm up for, personally.

So, would I order again? Yes. Will it be a regular staple? Probably not. But it was fun to try and great to know it's there when I get in a food rut.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Customer Experience 101

Getting back to the work-a-day world on this blog. The last 6 months have been enlightening:  getting situated in a new position and feeling the difficulty of changing a work culture from the inside out. To follow are some of the things I've learned in this shift.

My organization is a 100 year old, conservative workplace. Customers have always been somewhat important, but the huge shift in the health insurance landscape from  plans mostly offered through a job to a free for all marketplace where average citizens have to decide between networks, deductibles and a dizzying array of benefits, is changing the game.

In 2014, I moved from being a Sr. Usability Researcher on a web team to a Customer Experience Manager working with the entire organization. In many organizations, I'd be a Design Research Manager or just a Research Manager, but Customer Experience is our buzz word of the day.

To assist that change, people like myself who are trained to integrate what we call the voice of the customer, more readily have a voice in the process. We help balance what the customer wants, what technology can do and what the business needs.

But, change is hard; really hard when you still have a culture and a bottom line that lean strongly towards doing what we've always done. The only issue is, and the realization comes from the top, that bottom line isn't likely to change if we do what we've always done. So, we try this new approach, but again, change is hard.

In my ongoing efforts to work with groups in the company to help them understand what the customer is thinking, feeling and doing at any given time in the process, I've learned a few things. So here they are, in no particular order.

1. Assume you are speaking a foreign language. Speak carefully and define your words.
This goes both ways. I use words like "personas," "journey maps," "usability testing," "recruit" - most of which have little context or familiarity to my colleagues. Much like "actuarial," "claims integration," and "stop loss," are foreign to me.

Sometimes it feels like we are literally speaking different languages. Take the time, upfront, to define your working words and those of your team mates. User acceptance testing (UAT) and usability testing are really not the same thing. (for those not in the industry, trust me this is a point of contention and too detailed to explain here) Discuss. Educate. Learn.

2. Enthusiasm and persistence go a long way.
If you come in to a meeting believing so strongly in what you do, others will start to follow. Eventually. You may even squeeze the necessary budget out of them. But first, you need commitment. You must unequivocally believe in the strategy you are setting out for the project. And you will probably have to believe it, explain it and sell it to at least 5 stakeholders. But do it.

3. Align yourself with a change leader.
I couldn't do my work without my amazing manager. What I excel at is making sure we put our customers first, that we focus on empathy and understanding our end user is not necessarily a person who sits in a cubicle all day thinking about health insurance (what a surprise). What she excels at is politics and moving money and resources around plus not taking no for an answer. She is firm and elegant in her "sales pitches" and has done more for this type of work in the organization in the last year than I think has ever been done.

4. Then find your every day champions. 
Once my manager has helped teams understand the need to put the customer first, I start working with those teams. Those teams usually have at least 1-2 people who have either done this type of work in another setting or are just general advocates because they are forward thinking and see the value. Align with those folks as the project gets started. When the project is wrapping up, let them be advocates for this type of work with internal case studies and have them tell their colleagues the value (hopefully) of your work.

5. Share your successes and use failures as lessons learned. 
To the point above, be loud and proud about progress made with your customers and in the organization. Use data and anecdotes to share the impact of thinking about how a project will work for people outside of your four walls before launching a product or service that everyone inside your four walls is convinced is simply awesome.

For those of you also initiating this change, does this resonate for you? If you are in another industry, are there lessons learned here? Let me know your thoughts and good luck changing the landscape. Listening to customers should make us better organizations and even increase the bottom line.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Best and Worst, Part II

This evening, I've been struggling with Chase's bill pay center which is still pretty klugy. 
I decided to send them an email suggesting the simple possibility of being able to sort by Payee because most of us want to know the details of who we paid not, "oh, who did I pay that $74.36 check to?"

Shortly after submitting the email, I got a return email. Wow, that's service! Not so much. I logged BACK into my Chase account (for the umpteenth time tonight) where I found an awkwardly written form letter. Not only that, but there's no way in that 60 seconds you actually got my feedback and "documented" it in that amount of time.

I don't expect that they will personally respond to every query, but I'd love a friendly, readable, relatable email in return, not a choppy form letter. Perhaps tomorrow I'll hear from a human rather than a bot, although th
is letter was "signed." When I check a box that says "contact me" I don't mean send me a form letter. 

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to 
contact us. I certainly understand your concern as you 
would like to be able to sort your payment by payee name 
as well as have a year end summary of your transactions. 
Allow me to submit your suggestions. 

First, I appreciate the time you have taken in expressing 
your concerns. At Chase, we hold our customer feedback 
very seriously. I have documented your suggestions and I 
will forward them to the Customer Feedback Center. Because
of comments such as yours, we gain more insight as to what
our customers want. This center is in place so that we can
share your experience. We use this feedback to determine 
ways that we can implement changes in order to improve the
customer experience.

Please let us know if there is any other way we can assist
you as we always strive to provide excellent customer 

Do you have a kudo or a criticism about communication from a company? Do tell.....

Best and worst of Customer Experience

Within the last 24 hours, I have had a great and a not so great digital customer experience. The great was a helpful email from AT&T. My iPhone4 met it's demise on a tile bathroom floor Thursday evening and Friday morning found me with a shiny new iPhone 5S.

A few days later (could have been sooner), I got a helpful email. It started with this "hey, we know you and thanks for your business" type of message which I appreciate.

Thanks for choosing us again. Let us help you discover what your phone can do.
The email continued with some helpful suggestions on where to go for more information. The only frustrating part was that I didn't remember my password and they use those absurd questions such as "your childhood best friend" - which I failed. I KNOW my childhood best friend but did I use her first name or first and last? It is case sensitive? Whatever the answer, I never did get it right and had to do a full password reset. Sigh.  

My contacts were transferred and my voicemail is set, but I appreciate that they wanted to get me started. Again, my only issue is that this was a almost 4 days after I bought the phone.

We hope you're enjoying your new phone. To make sure
you've got the basics covered—from setting up your
phone to managing your account—we've provided some
helpful tips below. If you have any questions, just visit
us online
First things first
If you haven't already, here's how to:
• Transfer contacts
• Set up voicemail
Get to know your phone
Explore your phone's features at the
Device How-To Center with:
• Video, interactive and step-by-step tutorials
• Troubleshooting tips

Get the How-To's

 (posting in 2 parts since Blogger seems to be having formatting issues)


Monday, September 2, 2013

Customer Experience - It's not 1950 Anymore

My work and focus is shifting recently. Although it's always centered around the needs of the "user," I've started thinking more about the customer in general. What is their total experience over the lifetime of a product, digital experience, or service?

This has, in turn, made me an even more discriminating and impatient consumer.

Case in point. I heard about an amazing place in southwest Washington where you can rent an old trailer from the 50s and stay there for the night, weekend or week - similar to a B&B, only cooler! Sign me up! But wait, it's not that easy.

The website has great images and a cute look and feel to it. Being very used to booking reservations for everything from Airbnb to a Hilton Hotel online, it seemed only natural that I could do that here. After searching the entire site, I gave up and called. Ok, so they are old school. Old trailers, no online reservations.

One of the nice things about a phone conversation vs. online reservations, is that you find out things you never thought to ask. I found out the trailer I wanted sleeps 6 (unnecessary for us), but they all have kitchens and bathrooms. I put a reservation on a trailer and felt good about it. I did put it on hold it followed up by a few rounds of phone calls (one surreptitious one since I was standing with the person I was trying to surprise with the gift of a weekend) before finally giving them my credit card. At the time of that conversation, I also decided to change to a slightly less expensive, smaller trailer that fit our needs.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that I never asked if the new trailer I reserved was available any time other than early October, which seemed far away. I called back (catching someone directly this time), who told me my reservation was still for the larger trailer. After much back and forth we found a date open with a smaller trailer (2 MORE weeks out than I wanted it).

Attempting to be a savvy customer, I asked for a reservation number. "We don't do that." I was told. Really?? Ok, then can you email me a receipt? "We don't do that either." Incredulous I ask how they can run a business like that in this day and age. The woman assures me that my "card" -whatever that is, is now on the date for that trailer. At this time, I picture a huge wall with plastic laminate pockets for every day of the month and every trailer they have. Hopefully, they have a big office.

It's true that everyone adopts and adapts at their own pace, but at some point and time, businesses need to grow and change and keep up with the times. Even without an online reservation system, there should be a simple, easy way to at least guarantee a reservation with a confirmation code. It's just good business. It's not 1950 in the rest of the world.

Lucky for them, they have a bit of a lock on the market as they are the only place I know of like this, so cancelling the reservation was not really an option. Now, I sit back and wait, though you can be sure I'll be calling them every few weeks to be sure we have the Spartan Mansion waiting for us on October 18!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Testing out Online Testing

I recently had the opportunity to test out some of the remote, unmoderated tools now being offered for user testing. Although I am an avid spokesperson for in person interviews, I also realized that setting up and running 1:1 interviews is time-consuming and expensive. We don't always test things we should because it takes too much time and money. That's where the beauty of the unmoderated, remote sessions come in.

For this experiment, I was actually able to schedule testing using two different tools concurrently with one-on-one interviews. This made sure that the team didn't lose any time or information during the process, and also allowed the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each process.

I spent several weeks looking at a number of online tools. The ones I landed on are and


Loop11 allows a quantitative stab at user testing. You set up a series of questions and tasks. After each task you can ask survey type questions of the users. You can invite up to 1000 participants to view your website and subsequent tasks. You can choose demographic criteria, but the more criteria you choose, the more expensive the test is and too many criteria makes it impossible to recruit. Setting it up is a little tricky. Loop11 could take a lesson from Survey Gizmo and allow you to more easily move your questions and tasks around. my 200 person tasked with a relatively broad demographic cost around $800. Each project is $350 if you do them without a yearly package but then you add on the recruiting costs.

Conversely, encourages lower numbers, I tested only six individuals, but successfully recruited six Human Resources representatives which I wasn't sure would be possible. That particular demographic was not available on Loop11. charges around $35 per recruit and  the test cost no more than a few hundred dollars.

It's important to remember that you have a lot less control of the distribution of demographics when using the online tools, but the flipside is that you don't have to spend a week writing a screener and paying for that in both time and money.

If you think about a typical recruit for 1:1 moderated sessions, 5-10 individuals at $150-$200 apiece plus remuneration, a typical study usually runs at least $3000-$4000. Selling the online tools as a cost-saving measure is an easy win. But what about the results?

Both tests were relatively easy to set up. Loop11 allows you to work directly in their interface prior to collecting payment. This was definitely a trickier experience since I had to put in starting URL, success URL and any questions I wanted to ask on each landing. I found it difficult to keep track of and the numbering system doesn't differentiate between tasks and questions so your whole study runs together. (Ideally, each task would have a letter, and then associated tasks/questions might have a number like A1)

User was frustrating because I couldn't set up anything in their online tool until I paid and it took weeks to get through our organization's red tape to be able to set up payment. So I had to set it the test protocolup in Microsoft Word and then cut and paste when we were ready.

The results are where you need to pay the most attention because the output is significantly different. Loop11 delivers much more quantifiable information. You survey/test hundreds of individuals and get large amounts of feedback on your site. We asked questions like whether people thought the site was easy to use or cluttered. In return, Loop11 graphs the responses that were delivered for each question. Loop11 also has heat maps which are great for the team to see a gave us great insight into where participants are focusing. Not only do you see the successes, but you also begin to see the other places on the page where participants clicked. Loop11 also provides click streams, but our beta was not set up in a way that this was valuable. In the future, I would push for better test URLs to be able to track the click streams. Without a live site and discrete URL's for each page - that is difficult. If you want to jump through a few more hoops, you can get audio and video from a collaboration between Open Hallway and I ran out of time and energy and decided I didn't need video from 200 people. You also get a limited amount of information about each participant. I did find myself wanting a better way to export the graphs of feedback data in some way other than through a screen capture. There may be a way, but I didn't find it. delivers raw video along with demographic information, browser information and other key statistics for understanding your participants. The videos I got back were no longer than about 12 min. and I was able to watch them all and take notes within about 90 min. After you take notes in the area provided on the website, you can click a button to export and immediately get a spreadsheet outlining all the demographic data, the answers to the 4 written, open-ended qualitative questions at the end of this test as well as all of the notes you took as a researcher. It's a pretty sweet way to see everything all at once and the dream compared all of the cutting and pasting many of us do after a series of interviews. Because this is a much smaller set of participants, the data is clearly not quantifiable, but in some ways it is a bit richer.

Both of these tools have significant merit for use at the right time in development. seems like a preferred tool for when you have very focused questions and want to understand some limited and specific behaviors on your site and make sure people are finding what they need. is probably closer to a real world, 1:1 moderated session. You are provided with conversational feedback that is valuable a little further forward in the process when you're still making decisions and trying to see how people think when using your site.

The best thing I found in doing this is that the feedback was corroborated across platforms. The team was afraid of that we would get one set of feedback online and one set of feedback in person. I'm happy to report that both the online users (not typical users of our service) and the 1:1 participants (known users of our service) all had feedback that lined up and pointed in the same direction.

For our organization, I hope to be able to use these tools in the future to be able to include the voice of the customer more consistently and for a lower cost; not at the expense of talking with individuals 1:1, but in addition to that as touch points during the development process that keep us agile.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Invisibility Cloak

Superpower Day. If you had a superpower – what would it be? How would you use it?

I love today's question. Although I'm not sure how it relates to healthcare, it is a fun topic to think about.

When someone grants you a wish you should probably wish for world peace or world hunger. In that vein, my initial response, given the topic, would be to have the superpower to simply lay hands on a person and have them feel healthy again. I would have the power to take away disease, disability and illness with the touch of a hand.

However, ignoring altruism, I personally think it would be fantastic to be invisible. This definitely stems from my desire to really know and understand people. If I were invisible, I would have the opportunity to be anywhere undetected and be able to see and hear what people really do and not rely on self-report or less than realistic lab studies.

You could also say I'm nosy. It would be fascinating to have the opportunity to "spy" on people. Not to get them in trouble but just to see what they're really like when nobody's around. It would definitely make me an in demand researcher/ethnographer! There is a great movie called Kitchen Stories where a researcher sits in a very high chair in a man's house to observe him. His placement is less than unobtrusive. Invisibility would grant access and allow me to view the most natural behaviors.

When I'm in a store or in a crowded place, I sometimes wish that I could be invisible. I would love to be able to shop without the hassle of talking to salespeople and engaging in meaningless conversation. I just want to look at the merchandise. Assuming my invisibility was formless, I could bob and weave through a large crowd without having to feel smooshed and suffocated by the tall and large bodies around me. (At 5 feet tall I have been to Oktoberfest and felt totally overwhelmed by the crowd and the large people in it.)

So hopefully I get to stabs at a superpower, one where I have the opportunity to heal and the second where I have the opportunity to observe and from those observations really begin to understand humanity.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In sickness and in health

Today's task:Quotation Inspiration. Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.- Mark Twain

America's Health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.- Walter Cronkite

Health is not valued till sickness comes.- Thomas Fuller

The quote by Mark Twain simply made me laugh out loud and I had to include it. Although he did not live long enough to see the Internet (1835-1910), I imagine the quote is truer today than ever. We have a wealth of health information at our fingertips, but it can just as easily be misinformation.

Walter Cronkite's quote is a tough pill to swallow (pun intended) but I believe he is accurate in the description. Healthcare is seen as nameless and faceless. Big corporations, private organizations all of whom are trying to capitalize on the almighty dollar. It may seem that way from the outside, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are many caring people trying to do the right thing on the inside.

But I really want to spend a moment or two on the last quote, "health is not valued until sickness comes." There are a few reasons why this quote is important. For one, it underlines how critical it is to participate in preventive care. It is only when we break a leg that we realize how easily we walk, drive or kick a ball every day. It is only when diagnosed with diabetes that we realize what an easy time we had eating whatever food was available at whatever time was convenient assuming our body will do the job of regulating our blood sugar.

The opposite is true as well. Sick people or people in pain forget what it is to be healthy. This weekend I actually had some respite from pain I've been in for about 18 months now. I had forgotten how many things I just chose not to do or participate in because it hurts all the time. I had been putting off the simple act of repotting some plants because getting the bag of dirt out was simply too difficult and too heavy. What a joy it is to not worry about pain or injury with every twist and turn of the day.

So the message from this quote is to celebrate each day, particularly if you are healthy. Be smart about staying healthy. Eat that apple a day, be smart about the food you put in your body and be smart about getting exercise. Get those preventive screenings, wear sunscreen and wash your hands. Breathe deeply and be thankful.