Monday, October 3, 2016
Friday, January 1, 2016
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.
|Simple, inviting packaging|
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.
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|
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!|
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
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
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 this 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
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.....
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.
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.
(posting in 2 parts since Blogger seems to be having formatting issues)
Monday, September 2, 2013
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
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 Loop11.com and usertesting.com.
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, usertesting.com 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. Usertesting.com 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 testing.com 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 Loop11.com. 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.
Usertesting.com 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. Loop11.com 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.
Usertesting.com 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
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
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.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Monday, January 2, 2012
- really portable: six or 7 inches like the e-readers
- under $300 (trying to be realistic)
- easy to read and download books and magazines including library loans
- easy to check e-mail and use the Internet (Wi-Fi only is just fine)
- great access to apps-ideally working with my iPhone, but that means paying Apple premiums
- access to TV/movies
Sunday, March 20, 2011
My book group just finished reading A General Theory of Love. We seem to be a bunch of psychology nerds and fascinated by the human condition. The general theory is about how important human connection is and how intrinsic it is to our core being. The author's compose lengthy prose on the limbic system which allows mammals (unlike reptiles) to have complex interactions with their offspring. Oversimplified, we seek attachment and based on what we experienced as children, we may have healthy or unhealthy love attachments as we age. We seek connection.
Towards the end of the book, the author's discuss the loss of connection in healthcare from a 1990 New York Times article:
I wouldn't demand a lot of my doctor's time, I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once. I would like to think of him as going through my character, as he goes through my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way...I'd like my doctor to scan me, to grope for my spirit as well as my prostate. Without such recognition, I am nothing but my illness.I have personally done multitudes of interviews with patients and this is one of the best quotes I've run across. What patients want, in addition to and perhaps beyond healing, is to be seen. It is important that they feel cared for and connected, not just like another in a long list of issues for the day. The book goes on to quote a 1994 article in the Lancet which advocates that even if doctors don't care, they should "act" as though they do. Many patients who desire compassion are now turning to alternative therapies.
So, why bring this up on this blog about user experience? It hearkens back to the user experience, but a piece that we often neglect. We talk about technology and how well it works for people, we talk about product design and whether or not it is intuitive and we test web sites to be sure people can easily navigate their way through. But, we often forget to "design" or review the human component, the most variable, least understood component of any system. Whether you are a physician, customer service rep, retail clerk or barista, remember that at the end of the day it is you who makes or breaks the customer experience. Be patient, think about how you might feel in the other person's shoes. Take a deep breath and grope for their spirit, I can guarantee you will both be happier in the end.