The company had a number of enterprise initiatives underway to broaden and improve how the company manages store sales. Current in-store systems lacked the information needed to adequately support selling and were difficult to learn. They found, for example, that the majority of their training time and budget was spent teaching employees how to use the software tools rather than teaching them the skills needed to become better salespeople.
This large international retail store wanted to ensure that the employees were paying attention to the customer and not focused on the sales applications on the computer. Toward that end, they realized that successful change would first require understanding how employees currently approach their jobs. It particularly meant answering some key questions:
- Do our systems empower or hinder employees in providing great service to our customers?
- What would it take to put the customer at the center of the world, not the product or order?
- How do we orient our employees to think about the customer’s whole project, enabling us to capture more sales by being their partner throughout instead of just another place to buy commodities?
- Can we improve customer loyalty with better responsiveness?
This company partnered with InContext to form a hybrid team comprised of both InContext designers and subject matter experts from the company’s stores. The company participants were given Contextual Design training and then the team went into the field to interview employees in stores as they worked. The team performed contextual inquiries with 31 employees, observing how the selling tools helped or hindered their ability to serve their customers.
Working directly from the user data, the team created a vision of a more coherent system that supported the work practice observed during the interviews. To test the design, the team returned to the company’s stores armed with paper and interactive prototypes. The testing approach was to ask employees to do their work while using the prototype, revealing whether the new design supported their work.
After three rounds of testing and iterating the design, the team had a new framework for in-store selling. The resulting design:
- Provided a flexible system framework that would bring all internal tools together seamlessly for a cohesive user experience
- Made it easier for all the employees involved in a customer’s job to coordinate with one another
- Provided a single comprehensive view of the customer and their history with this company
- Supported sales managers as they manage the sales floor
“We are stepping up to a more professional way of doing things.”
Contextual Design provided the team with a rapid path to determine requirements. Furthermore, the availability of field data from real users has allowed implementation of the new design to move forward more quickly because of the confidence the company has that they are doing the right thing. “We are getting changes done in 6 months that used to take us 3 years,” says the Program Manager for the project. “We have the data hanging on the walls and we return to it frequently to be sure we don’t stray from what our customers need.”