How to involve company developers in customer experience research

This summer, the VTB Online team conducted a lot of research to study the existing customer experience and optimize the service. Typically, these processes involve the product owner, CJE, and business analysts. But then the product owner was directly approached by the developer of the Mobile Bank team with a request to involve him in the research and design of client scenarios.

Gradually, more and more developers, testers and system analysts were interested not only in the results of research, but also in the process itself. Thus, a new format of work began to take shape, which required attention and organization. My name is Vera Neshchadina, I am the lead researcher of the VTB Online platform. In the article I will tell you how we tried out a new type of teamwork for ourselves and helped our colleagues understand research at the system level.

Why participation in research has become interesting for developers and analysts

Since July 2022, 13 developers, testers and system analysts of the VTB Online platform have taken part in customer experience studies of various formats. The platform consists of several streams responsible for the bank’s digital channels, including a mobile application and an online bank. Before that, there was no experience of involving developers, testers and system analysts in such processes: specialists are loaded with their own tasks that do not overlap with research.

What are the benefits of participating in research for developers? We asked this question to colleagues, in general, we got five arguments:

  1. Some developers want to go beyond their profession, broaden their horizons.

  2. Developers, testers and analysts are focused on technical tasks and are almost not involved in product work. But sometimes they want to participate in the design of the product: research and building client scenarios provide such an opportunity.

  1. The development team sometimes wants to hear the user without intermediaries. This allows you to look at the improvements through the eyes of the user, to understand what exactly will work well and what will not.

  2. Being a user and creating a product for millions of other users are not the same thing. Moreover, the audience is not homogeneous, it consists of different segments, and its preferences change and depend on many factors, including the user experience of new generations. Staying on top of things all the time means staying flexible and efficient.

  3. Participation in research is an additional activity that a specialist can connect to only if he is interested. But the goals may be different.

How best to start research

To organize the process from the point of view of the researcher is not easy. The standard scheme for transferring research data and converting to specific results looks like this: product owner researcher product owner analysts developers and testers client. In this chain, all participants a priori understand their roles, no one needs to explain the basics.

However, compared to business analysts and product owners, technical specialists are usually not involved in research, at least in a regulated and inscribed professional framework. Therefore, the organizers should create the most comfortable conditions in order to form a productive view of the research among new participants. In our case, the scheme was as follows:

  1. We selected a team of volunteers who wanted to participate in the research and coordinated this activity with the PO.

  2. Actually participation in research was included in the tasks of the sprint – a two-week period when the set work tasks are completed and new ones are formed.

  3. We held a meetup for developers and system analysts who volunteered to participate in the study. They told in detail about autoethnography, an interesting and relatively simple task that was proposed to be taken into work at the first stage.

How we organized the study using the method of autoethnography

Autoethnography is a method in which the researcher puts himself in the place of a third-party user, studies his own experience, reflects, suggests where gaps in experience can occur, and what, on the contrary, works well.

During the process, several tasks were set for colleagues:

  • analyze the scenario of interest in VTB Online and the same scenario for competitors;

  • to identify what problems users may encounter when going through scenarios and which of them seem to be especially critical;

  • understand what is implemented as conveniently as possible, what best practices we should take into account;

  • offer ideas or hypotheses for changing the user scenario for implementation in a prototype and subsequent testing.

The researchers, for their part, explained to colleagues in detail in advance what to look for, how to record observations, how to formulate a hypothesis, and provided examples and a template.

During the assignment, the specialists encountered some problems and questions. For example, sometimes it was difficult to abandon the expert position and put yourself in the place of an ordinary user. Another unusual task required more concentration and time. When completing the task, questions arose, it was not immediately possible to clearly articulate the problems, it took time to find the most accurate description.

What we got from a small experiment

The increase in the number of people involved in the task made it possible to quickly analyze all the necessary ways of VTB and competitors. One bank was assigned to each participant, and the task was solved in just a day and a half – it would have taken the researcher more time.

Also, as part of the analysis, the developers noted for themselves several points that can be fixed / improved without additional discussions and research. They have become more obvious. At the same time, it was possible to identify possible problems and best practices that allowed us to generate at least three solutions for each stage of the user journey. Based on the results, two prototypes of a new solution were formed – an intermediate and a target one – based on suggestions for improvement. We tested both options and determined the path we would follow.

It is important that researchers accompany new participants in the experiment at each stage and take on all organizational tasks, share knowledge and control actions and conclusions.

What’s next? Transition to user interview preparation

Now you can move on to research, which involves polling and studying the customer experience of other users. Our colleagues among the developers and system analysts of Mobile Bank will be able to participate in an online conversation with respondents. The best solution would be to invite new employees to the survey – those who have recently become a user of banking digital channels, namely the Internet bank and the application. When communicating, you will get to know the impressions of the services and get recommendations on how they can be improved.

Colleagues who will be interviewing for the first time as researchers will be able to observe the process, take notes, or ask follow-up questions.

The results of such work will show how ready technical specialists are for more complex studies.

The next steps could be:

  1. Invite more colleagues from development as observers and note takers to interviews with users.

  2. Give colleagues the opportunity to ask users additional questions.

  3. Conduct discussions after the interview: discuss new knowledge, observations and suggestions.

  4. Give the opportunity to conduct an interview on your own according to the following structure:

Conclusion

During the work, the most important features of the process were identified. They need to be taken into account in order to organize work with research for specialists from other fields:

  • it is necessary to focus on the individual experience and capabilities of specialists, taking into account research processes that are unusual for them;

  • start with simple tasks so that interest in research grows naturally (and does not demotivate);

  • explain everything with simple and understandable examples;

  • provide ongoing advice and support to participants.

New specialists involved in research should feel the value of such work for themselves and understand how significant their participation is for the result.

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