Beware of the UX Silo

There are two conversations that I've had with separate people that have stuck out to me in the past few weeks. The first gentleman, whom I will refer to as Ted said, "User experience is not customer experience." Now, to be fair, his point was that user experience is a set of processes devised to solve a digital problem. And to also be fair, though rigid, his processes were sound. To also also be fair, I was unable to shake that first sentence from my mind. Why must we, as designers, silo ourselves from the bigger picture? Why should we not consider the holistic customer journey?

The other gentleman, whom I will refer to as Marshall, approached the same concept far differently. He said, "My fascination with user experience all started for me when I was working at Trader Joe's as a cashier." Okay, I'm intrigued now. Talk to me, Marshall. He went on to describe how the store created a funnel for its customers: get them in the door, get them spending money - usually more than anticipated, have them leave happy from their in-store experience and looking forward to their next visit through the quality of the products they consumed.

I loved this story. To Marshall, user experience was the culmination of the quality product, the marketing funnel, the sales tactics, and ultimately, the happy customer. As designers, we focus on solving problems - particularly that of the users that buy/subscribe to our digital products. But, our skillset offers us the opportunity to make an impact at an organizational level. If done correctly, UX improvements should make the sales, marketing, and care teams' jobs easier - not just satisfy our own metrics. Understanding each coworking teams' pain points, in addition to the user, allows us to make more informed decisions when we pick up our pencils to sketch out a new idea or improvement. At the end of the day, this cross-departmental unity will translate to a more cohesive product. 

While I understand where Ted was coming from, I tend toward Marshall's interpretation as I believe this is what can make a real difference for an organization as a whole. The concept of user experience cannot end at design, test, & iterate a feature, but rather should represent how an organization speaks about their product and their mission statement both online and off. To me, Marshall was a leader. I would have faith in him to empower a design team and evangelize UX across an organization.

To further press this idea that design thinking applies to all points in a customer journey, I'd like to examine a few meal delivery services. After testing 4 or so offerings, I can safely say that they are not all equal. Sure, they have excellent branding, a super easy signup process, pretty good food, efficient shipping, and a great intro offer but strangely, that is where it ends.

The missing ingredient? *ba-dum crash* The at-home experience. Not a single service had excellent recipe writers. That's the product, right? If you take into consideration the care that we, as UX designers, put into onboarding a user digitally, you can easily see how preparing a meal from a recipe is, in some way, an onboard experience. Running from the cutting board to the fridge to the cabinet to the oven and back to the cutting board is not a good experience. Asking a user to comfortably do the right thing at the right time is the key to onboarding... and the key to not being stressed while cooking. And while I was able to hack my way through these recipes, it was truly a battle. (Side note: Mark Bittman is an excellent recipe writer - one of these brands need to hire him)

I'll wager that these meal service brands have yet to figure out how user experience can extend into the kitchen. The simplicity that I experienced online did not translate to the product itself. It lacked cohesion that seemingly stemmed from a siloed design team. They need a Marshall to come in and connect the dots.

At the end of the day, I didn't sign up for a single one of these services. The expectation that was set up online did not carry through to the kitchen. User experience needs to be full funnel. It's our responsibility as UX designers to consider all customer touchpoints whether digital or physical, sales team or product. Otherwise, we will end up with disjointed products. User experience isn't just the easiest way from point A to point B but rather, the cohesion of the customer experience overall. 

Xavier Provencher