Customer Search & Job Scheduling Experience
Summer 2018 - Fall 2019
Improving the “Answer a Call and Schedule Work” experience for HVAC dispatchers and customer service reps. inside the Pointman Web App.
- Front End Engineering, User Research, UX Design, UI Design
- Steve Raines, Kurt Stangl, Mike Spencer, Michael Drewitt, Denise Nadal, David Cloyd.
Every app or product or service has a workflow that is critical to its success. For Field Management Software there are two; one each for its 2 primary user groups. For CSR’s the most important task is to be able to efficiently answer a phone call and schedule work. For the technicians in the field, it’s efficiently working through the tasks necessary to complete a job.
Our mobile app did a good job of leading technicians through all the steps needed to work a job. Our desktop app, for the CSR’s and dispatchers, didn’t work so well.
It was a big problem to solve and it was at the heart of our application, and fixing it could possibly require rebuilding the app from the ground up. We made several attempts at addressing this issue, some successful, and other not; in the “Process” section I provide an overview of what we tried.
Atypical Navigation & UI conventions.
The “Answer a Call and Schedule Work” task had major usability issues when we started examining it. For new users, it was difficult to understand how to navigate the screens to find the information you needed and complete the steps in the task. Oftentimes, the visual cues were confusing, and you weren’t sure you completed the action you thought you did. Even for experienced users, buttons often didn’t do what you expected.
We also conducted a usability test, tracking how long it took users to complete the task of looking up a customer and scheduling work at their home. We were shocked to find that it took an average 17 clicks, and up to 30 clicks in some cases - the fastest it could be done was in 11 clicks.
It was clear that we needed to make this process simpler and faster; if we’re expecting users to complete this task dozens of times a day, it needs to be a great experience.
Call Taking Feature
(June 2018 - April 2019)
Our first attempt at solving this problem was building a “Call Taking” feature. The idea was to create a search tool that would look up homeowners by either the owner, or the home. After finding the person or house, you would pull up information about them, and then be able to schedule a job at their house.
It was a struggle for many reasons. The project began with a list of user requests we were to treat as requirements. We didn’t do enough research to understand what problem we were trying to solve and how users would actually use our solution. We struggled to figure out how to collaborate effectively. When trying to leverage existing components to speed up development, it created more problems than it solved. We were all unhappy with what we built.
We managed to build the feature that was requested - but we didn’t meet what the users really needed.
Solution 2 (Part 1)
(Feb 2019 -?)
Our previous release made it easier to look up a person or their home, and schedule work, but it didn’t make it much easier to look at information about them. I began exploring options whenever I had a spare moment, beginning to do user research by interviewing our target audience, writing stories and scenarios to test designs, and organizing the information architecture on the page.
Through this process, I managed to condense ten screens of information into one. I tested it internal users and received positive feedback. However, it was several months before it was prioritized for implementation.
Quick Add Jobs Feature
While we trying to get the previous solution (“Summary” view feature) going, we ran an experiment to test a different strategy. We created a simple modal to contain the existing search tool, and a basic form for creating jobs. It made it simple and quick to schedule a job.
David Cloyd and I brainstormed this idea in a moment of creative ideation, by focusing on the problem, and not a feature.
Because this project was framed as an “experiment” or code-based prototype, we set specific metrics that we wanted to measure to be able to call the feature a success. First, we wanted to reduce the number of clicks required to schedule a job to less than 10, and we got it down to 7. We also wanted at 65% of our users to try it within a week. We had around 70% try it at least once.
Solution 2 (Part 2)
callTaking + summaries,
Several months after I had created the “summary view” feature, our organization was ready to focus on improving the user experience in our app. We began to explore ways to integrate the new “summary view” into the “call taking” feature.
Again, we encountered serious technical difficulties during implementation, and this time, we couldn’t finish the project within the given timeframe.
(Nov, Dec 2019)
After several failed attempts to inject user-focused experiences into the existing codebase, we as a team came to the conclusion that it would take just as long, or perhaps less time, to just try again from scratch. We decided to “do it right” this time, and start by challenging our assumptions and researching our users, their tasks, needs and wants.
We never implemented this redesign as we ran out of runway.
You can read the full case study.
We tried four different solutions, two of them we successfully implemented and two that we not. We did make things easier for users, but we never finished creating a user focused app, and because we out app never overcame the usability issues, it never became successful.
We wasted so much time on trying “small fixes” and “working with what we have” that we didn’t have enough time left to do the most important work.
In hindsight, we learned how much harder it is to add a “good experience” retroactively rather than building right from the start, or even just rebuilding from scratch.
I learned how important it is to take the time to do thorough research, even on a subject you think you already know.
I also learned how vital it is to continuously be advocating for UX design and refocusing a team’s efforts to making lives better for users.