Why UX Will Make or Break Your Business

User experience might be the most underrated part of growing a successful business. Far too many companies treat it like an afterthought, rather than a primary goal. And this is to their detriment.

Sure, as a UX design and development agency, we might be a little biased here, but given the transformative results we’ve seen clients make through simple, but impactful UX improvements, we feel pretty confident in this estimation.

The truth is customers buy your product, not just for the features it offers, but for the full experience you provide.

If you aren’t happy with the conversion rates of your website, the revenue from your online store, or the number of candidates filling out online job applications, UX should be the first thing you evaluate.

Making the case to leadership for a UX overhaul, however, can be a challenging endeavor.

And that’s why we wanted to gather together experienced business leaders to share how they have leveraged user experience improvements to drive revenue, increase engagement, and reach critical business goals.

The panel we assembled:

  • Phil Terrill, Business Program Manager, Global Sales Innovation, Microsoft
  • Leigh Allen- Aredondo, Head of User Experience, Spruce Up and Host of Podcast UX Cake
  • Haden Kirkpatrick, Head of Marketing Strategy and Innovation, Esurance

Key themes that we covered:

  • How to measure the value of UX
  • How to gain alignment with Leadership on the strategic importance of UX
  • How to plug UX in to defining business objectives and strategy

Yesterday’s webinar discussion was spirited, informative, and engaging. And I highly recommend you soak up the wisdom shared by this group.

Unfortunately, Leigh faced some technical challenges, so we’ll be bringing her on for another conversation soon.

Check out the video below and share the recording with your team, your leadership, and anyone passionate about delivering a better experience for your users and customers!

Webinar Replay:


Craig Nishizaki: All right. Welcome, everybody, to our webinar this morning. We’re super excited about it. The topic is why UX will make or break your business. I’m very excited about the panel we have as well as the audience. You submitted some great questions. We have a few themes for today’s conversation.

Craig Nishizaki: What’s actually interesting is I’d love to hear where people are from. We had registrations from all over the world. But in the chat bar on the right, you can just let us know where you’re attending from, and we’d love to say good morning, good afternoon, or good evening to you. We’ll be recording this session and making it available for replay.

Craig Nishizaki: The reason I’m super excited about this is it’s a very relevant topic. It’s a question that comes up all the time when we’re talking with our clients, as well as for each of the panelists, is they’re doing their work inside of companies.

Craig Nishizaki: The audience questions that you submitted, we got a whole list of them. Thank you very much for your participation in the topics we’re on. What’s the biggest UX challenge you’re wrestling with and what’s the most pressing question about UX? The themes that we took away that we’re going to talk about here are on how to measure the value of UX? How to get alignment with leadership on the strategic importance of UX? How to get buy in? How UX needs to plug into the business and be involved in defining business objectives and strategies?

Craig Nishizaki: The [inaudible 00:01:40] for the audience regarding the panelists is these three folks have a breadth of experience across startups and enterprise companies, working on innovation inside of enterprise as well as with startups. Then also B2C, B2B, and enterprise tool experience.

Craig Nishizaki: We may not cover your specific question. Feel free to add more questions in line on the bottom there. You can ask a question. If we don’t touch on it, we’ll do a follow up with you and make sure that we get your question answered, at least get you some resources that’ll be helpful to you.

Craig Nishizaki: With that, I want to go ahead and do some quick introductions. We have Leigh Allen-Arredondo with us. She’s the Head of UX for Spruce Up and the host of the UX Cake podcast. Leigh, what are you working on nowadays? Tell us a little bit about Spruce Up and what’s keeping you busy. Can you hear me? Well, let’s see if she can hear me. All right. Well, let’s do this. While Leigh is sitting there, maybe having to reconnect, how about we do Phil real quick. We’ll do an introduction of Phil Terrill.

Craig Nishizaki: Phil is a Business Program Manager at Microsoft, Inside Sales in the Sales Innovation Team. Same question, Phil. What are you working on nowadays. Tell the folks a little bit about what you’re doing and what’s keeping you busy.

Phil Terrill: Sure. Just to make sure, Craig, you can hear me all right? First, actually, thank you for having myself and the Microsoft team share our story. We’ve done a lot of work over the last couple years with UpTop. As far as what we’re doing regarding UX and design for our inside sales group, which is now actually bleeding into the rest of the Microsoft organization, which is interesting.

Phil Terrill: A lot of what I’m doing today is we’re actually going through our third revision of the design from a user experience and an interface point of view. I’m busy, we’re actually getting ready to roll that out actually within the next month or so, which is taking up a lot of my time.

Phil Terrill: The other thing that we’re doing is across all roles, right? Microsoft just finished our fiscal year. With that, there comes a lot of change. As you can imagine, turning the Microsoft ship sometimes requires a little bit of understanding of what the business will do. We just came back from Vegas to get an understanding of that in terms of recentering. Moving into the next couple of months, we’ll be redesigning or creating new content and experiences for our sellers and the new ones that we’ll have in org. That’s what’s taking up a lot of my time today, [crosstalk 00:04:23].

Craig Nishizaki: Awesome. Thanks for the introduction on that and the overview. Then we have Haden Kirkpatrick with us as well. Haden’s the Head of Marketing Strategy and Innovation at Esurance, as well as advisor to startups. Haden, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what’s keeping you busy nowadays as well? Hey, Leigh.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Thanks, Craig. I’m very excited to be here. My role at Esurance includes all market intelligence, primary, secondary consumer competitive and category intelligence. Then I’m responsible for converting those into plans to achieve our market position.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We’ve just recently gone through a repositioning exercise at Esurance. Now our team is converting our efforts into how we develop experience, product, organizational, and operational capabilities to live into our brand position. Customer experience strategy is a key component of that. That falls under my team as well. We’re currently trying to decide how we develop a next-gen leapfrogging experience for consumers to purchase, own, and then ultimately use insurance.

Haden Kirkpatrick: A lot of the things that we’re talking about today have a direct impact in our ability to fulfill our brand position to customers. I’m excited to come and talk with you all to share our insights and talk about the future of customer experience as it pertains to business.

Craig Nishizaki: Awesome. Thanks, Haden. Leigh, you’re back. I want to do a quick introduction of Leigh. Leigh Allen-Arredondo is the Head of UX for Spruce Up and host of the UX Cake podcast. Oops! It looks like you might have dropped again. But if not, we’re going to do a quick introduction. If so, we’re going to have to move forward. Leigh, are you there?

Haden Kirkpatrick: She’s having internet issues, I think.

Craig Nishizaki: [crosstalk 00:06:04]. I know. Technology’s such a challenge. All right. When Leigh gets back on, we’re going to ask her. She has a lot of insights regarding value and how to strategically position UX within organizations. But why don’t we move forward and we’ll start talking to the three of us on the first theme.

Craig Nishizaki: Again, the themes from the questions that we gathered from folks, the first one that had the most questions around it were how do you measure the value of UX? I think it’s a lot different for if you have a brand new concept that you’re trying to get a leadership to buy in on versus if you’re trying to measure a baseline and improve something that’s already existing. I’d love to hear Haden. Once you maybe chat a little bit about what you’re doing to measure the value of UX, how you guys do it. Then we’d love to have Phil provide his insights as well, because his platform is a whole different type of experience focused on internal users.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yeah, great question. The value of user experience is highly variable based on your business model. Really savvy customer experience strategists are very … Or as good business people as they are customer experience strategists, and there are skill that marrying the two together.

Haden Kirkpatrick: For an insurance business, complicated financial instrument has a fairly long and lengthy purchase process, a fairly complicated purchase process. Then you’re dealing with another customer experience that is a highly stressful moment of truth, as we say, in the customer experience category, where you’ve got to fulfill a claim. Each of those two experiences play attention with your brand and the customer experience that you’re trying to create.

Haden Kirkpatrick: At purchase, we want to get customers to see your price very quickly. Insurance is the only business that I know of where you don’t actually know how much your product costs when you sell it, because we don’t know how likely Craig is to have a claim. We know what kind of car he drives, but we don’t know … We know how he drives, but we’re not sure compared to Craig’s behavior and the rest of the actuarial pool whether we’re going to spend 65 cents of every dollar, 68 cents of every dollar, 70 cents of every dollar in paying Craig’s money out in claims.

Haden Kirkpatrick: What you’re trying to do is get somebody to the point where they see your price and you make that a compelling price offer at the outset. That implies a lot of technology-enabled what we call discovery or the augmentation of data or from public datasets. We can take a very limited set of … Let’s back up. Customers don’t like shopping for insurance.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s correct.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I don’t know if you’re familiar with this. Pretty much everybody hates shopping for insurance. Most customers want to get to the point where they see a price pretty quickly. They want as little cognitive load in getting to that price as humanly possible.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We look at ways we can augment our current dataset with publicly available datasets, even if it comes at a cost. We look at advanced technology solutions like scanning driver’s license or doing automotive prefill to help streamline that and get somebody to an actual number very quickly.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Then the customer experience really focuses on helping customers understand what they’re buying, tune it up and customize it to them. Most customers don’t know what bodily injury coverage is or what Med Pay is or what gap insurance is. These are very complicated terms, but they’re really important terms for consumers to understand so they’re financially protected. We spend a lot of our calories helping educate consumers to the process so we can speed them from the point where they get a quote to leaving with a policy in which they’re confident and they know that they’re protected.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Our priorities generally include speed to quote. Then obviously you have a price elasticity and a conversion or a purchase intention metric, as well as full site yield. Those are the things we look at at various stages in the process to understand where our customer experience is delivering and not  within our purchase experience.

Craig Nishizaki: You already know the personas that you’re targeting. You have a hypothesis around what their challenges for making the purchase, and you’re testing that constantly, I’m assuming.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yes, we have a segmentation scheme that my team developed that is behavioral and attitudinal. There’s an actuarial scheme. There’s a bunch of product managers who worry about getting Craig the exact right price. My team doesn’t get involved in that because it’s a specific science in insurance. But we do have behavioral and attitudinal segment schemes that range from your quick quote, “I want the lowest price possible. Just get me in and get me out the door and get me legal,” all the way to the, “I’m a super interested buyer. I shot 20 carriers. I do my own spreadsheets to compare coverages and prices.” There’s a variety of customers in between.

Haden Kirkpatrick: As a customer walks into our experience, we gather data on them for both actuarial fit as well as experiential fit. We try and map customers through adaptive customer experience as they response to they’re likely purchase and the kind of information that they need to make that purchase and feel confident I that purchase.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We do have a multi-variant flow that we deliver to our customers that’s a combination of both their financial well-being from an actuarial perspective as well as the [inaudible 00:11:57].

Craig Nishizaki: Awesome. That’s a B2C primarily experience. Is that correct?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Exclusively. We don’t have any B2B-

Craig Nishizaki: Exclusively.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yeah. We’re a B2C company pyramid.

Craig Nishizaki: Okay, awesome. Then, Phil, on the flip side of this. You guys are creating a disruptive sales enablement portal to help with onboarding, training, et cetera. Your audience is more narrow. It’s specific to internal employees.

Phil Terrill: Correct.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah. How do you guys measure the value of user experience? What are some of the things that you’re doing that may be different than Haden, but also maybe similar?

Phil Terrill: Yeah. Again, we’re targeting our internal user, which is a seller, at the end of the day, our sales organization. We start with that as the destination, is what is the user experience going to be for a seller, whether it is in the stage of onboarding, if they are an experienced seller, what kind of content do they need or what type of experience do we want to drive with them, or it might be the case it’s a sales leader or somebody even higher up in our organization that’s trying to understand the value, again, of this user experience at a holistic view.

Phil Terrill: We’re constantly moving in different directions and quantifying and qualitatively evaluating how the impact of the user experience within our tool called the DISH or the Digital Inside Sales Hub, what that return is for our organization. There’s some of, yes, we know the profile, and then we’re also pivoting with the sellers on a constant basis what is this experience going to be for you, what sort of features or functionality do we want to land with you or do you want us to build for you in terms of a capability set.

Phil Terrill: I mean, at the end of the day, how does this content really help you as a seller retire quota or make money, because we’re in a sales organization, so our pivot is always going to be towards making sure we’re aligned to that end goal of the seller as we build out different types of content and user experiences within the DISH.

Craig Nishizaki: Okay. Then do you use quantitative and qualitative methods to try to justify or validate what you’re doing?

Phil Terrill: Yes. We use both. On the quantitative side, we have traditional web analytics, from click-through to point-in-time clicks, or whatever it might be, in terms of the customer or the user’s journey within the DISH.

Phil Terrill: Qualitatively, we built out what we call the DISH Champ Community, which is this what I would always call this insider group of sellers that give us the nitty-gritty of the real deal around the content that we’re delivering and that they’re consuming every day. We get a lot of direct qualitative feedback on the experience, whether it’s doing the UAT testing right next to a seller or sitting on a conference call with a group of 30 sellers, and they’re just picking apart our latest design that we’ve landed or experience that we’ve landed. Then we go back and iterate against that.

Phil Terrill: The other part that we’re doing is aligning content, which is, I think, at this point, logical, is aligning content to another tool that we use internally that spits out intelligent recommendations based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. At that point in time, what we’re doing is saying you have this intelligent recommendation and now we’re going to give you this recommended content to match that recommendation.

Phil Terrill: As you pursue something that could retire quota, you also are armed with the right content for that deal at your fingertips. We’re starting to dive deeper into that space regarding content driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, makes sense. Cool. You guys are using technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning. My assumption, Haden, is you’re doing that as well, as well as upending data from various sources. Is that correct?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Correct. There are several ways in which we use data. One is discovery of information that we can use to augment the customer experience and move users, shoppers mostly, further down the insurance code experience. Let me give you a good example.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Nobody knows where to find their VIN number on their car. It’s like a 32-digit code that is specific to … It’s alphanumeric. It’s a pain in the butt to find. If you do know where it is, it’s really hard to see. Shopping for insurance online would mean you have to go out to your car and get it.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Now what we have on the other hand is a database that’s managed by the DMV in each state, that contains your licensing records, contains your [inaudible 00:16:38] records, [inaudible 00:16:40] 50 cents or whatever per ping to take Craig’s name and Craig’s address. That actually begins their dataset and then pull in things like your vehicle make, model, VIN, any driving history that you might have, the risk factors associated with some of your domicile items.

Haden Kirkpatrick: There’s a business case for streamlining the purchase process. Each incremental page you make a customer go through and each incremental field you make a customer enter is one point of friction that can prevent you from converting a sale. This is why Amazon has one-click purchase, even though adding it to the cart and going to the cart and then hitting ‘Purchase Now’ is only three clicks, they still have the one-click purchase for a reason.

Haden Kirkpatrick: In a complicated financial services experience like ours, each of those pages have a significant drop off in your ability to deliver yield. On some level, even across the customers we don’t convert, it makes economic sense to pay for the data to move customers further down the funnel, because what you get in terms of customer lifetime value more than pays back the breakage you have on discovering that data from public datasets.

Haden Kirkpatrick: As we talk about user experience versus the business and the challenges we all face in bridging that gap, it’s important to understand the marginal price that you get for each page load, the marginal drop off you get in efficiency for each page load, how your customers actually walkthrough a purchase experience, where those breaks are, where those points of friction are, and understand what your lost economic opportunity is through the funnel.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Once you’ve got that baseline, you can start to make business cases for patching holes in your experience, for developing new datasets to augment your experience, to allow a machine learning algorithm to run through your experience is something that has massive business potential. But you can’t bridge the gap between that technology solution and the ability to command resources to make a business case in your organization unless you can quantify the marginal costs for those [crosstalk 00:18:52] of experiences.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it. That’s great.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We spend most of our analytics time running through that, trying to figure out if I remove six questions from one page and cut that page in half, do I see a material uplift in our yield? These are things that our data science team torches over all the time, and my team’s responsible for business casing and figuring it out.

Craig Nishizaki: Awesome. That actually segues right into this next topic is how do you guys get alignment with leadership on the strategic importance of UX, the investment in it? Obviously, using data, a baseline, using use cases and scenarios, business cases, et cetera, are ways to do that.

Craig Nishizaki: Phil, why don’t you chat a little bit about the evolution of … You guys had a challenge or an initiative to build this thing. Then now you’re in the third iteration of it. How do you keep the users, the sellers engaged, as well as making sure that you’re aligning with what the business really wants?

Phil Terrill: Yeah. I think it’s a good call out in terms of making sure leadership is aligned, because, at least from our point of view, there’s actually been a lot of investment into this holistic experience for the sellers. Starting back, I mean, Craig, you know this, a couple of years ago, this was a challenge to the team of can you guys build out a digital workbench essentially for a seller to go consume content? As people probably listening could imagine, Microsoft, in its 40-plus years, has created content that exists all over the place in any of which format for years and years across a lot of different products.

Phil Terrill: Sellers, essentially if we could provide them an opportunity to reduce the time that it takes to search for content, reduce the time it takes to onboard a seller, things like that, there’s a different value. A good example around onboarding is two years ago, when we released DISH, it took about six weeks for us to go through onboarding, and now it takes two weeks. We’ve taken a lot of the learnings from, yes, sellers directly, but also work with our process improvement teams and other teams within the org to really understand the end-to-end experience, to find some of that value to return to a leadership person.

Phil Terrill: The other part, which is just realistic, is our team is doing so much in just talking to sellers, is that the experience is truly driven by the seller, which I think within our team in Microsoft is a unique approach to take versus it being reverse corporate mandated. We typically go against that notion of that corporate will create something and then roll it out. In our case, it’s we are creating the framework and want the sellers to fill in the boxes with [inaudible 00:21:37] the most sense, which then would return the value back to us in saying if you built it as a seller, you’ll consume it.

Phil Terrill: To that point, we rolled out DISH about two years ago. Again, a year ago actually, the users’ consumption was around 30%. 12 months later, let’s fast forward, it’s around 75%, 76%. For our team, that’s about 1800 sellers. That’s a huge shift, but a lot of that plays to the content, the experience. If you take that number to leadership, they’re like, “Oh, okay.” There’s value on the content, and there’s only value because the sellers are engaged and they’re a part of the process.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it.

Phil Terrill: That’s the value that we’ve seen with the user experience, especially with the leadership perspective, is if the sellers are building it and are part of that, they’re likely to consume and they’re [inaudible 00:22:29].

Craig Nishizaki: Right. Then my assumption is the end result is you’re showing that sellers are becoming more effective in a shorter period of time and then having more success in their sales numbers is my assumption.

Phil Terrill: Yeah, absolutely. Then the other part that goes with that in terms of seller effectiveness is while I would love to give you the full stat line, there’s some Microsoft restriction laws, the full under-the-hood data. But, realistically, the other part that we’re influencing is other toolsets that are being delivered to sellers, especially from a user experience standpoint.

Phil Terrill: Our team [inaudible 00:23:01] pivoted from being a new team within the organization to a team of experts around how to drive a user experience for our seller profile that ranges in terms of experience and how they consume content. A lot of our group is millennials. I speak for that perspective is, hey, this is how they consume content, whether it’s sitting in front of a desk or on their surface, some remote place in a coffee shop. That experience is what we’re dealing with, and so leadership wants us to create content in an experience that matches how they consume.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it. Got it. Contextual relevant where they are.

Phil Terrill: Yeah.

Craig Nishizaki: Hey, Haden. I know about 70% of your time you spend on tuning the experience that’s out there and working on getting more out of it. Then I think you said about 30% of your time you’re doing innovation. As you’re looking at conveying to leadership from the work that you’re doing to tune versus the work that you’re doing to innovate, do you have a different way of communicating with them or a different message that you communicate with them about the strategic value of that investment?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yes. Great question. Wow! We try and breakdown 70% business as usual, 20% first horizon innovations, and then 10% second horizons innovations, which is close enough to see, but too far away to touch. Each different phase comes with a different level of intensity and a different level of data that you have to pull together to make a case. If you’re in that 70% that’s business as usual, you’re speaking about falloffs from the customer experience, lost sales, things that may drive cost of acquisition.

Haden Kirkpatrick: In insurance, we account for advertising in our cost of acquisition, we account for a lot of things that roll into the amount of money we spend to acquire a customer. Each time you drop somebody in the funnel, it’s an economic inefficiency that feeds your way through the rest of the system in terms of lost sales, but also feeds the bottom line book and unit efficiencies of your business. There’s a way you can create and craft a story for either that commands resources and times the business as usual.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Once you start looking out into first horizon innovations, it gets to be a little bit stickier. It depends on your motivations as an overall business and as your executive team thinks about the business. Esurance, for example, is a low-cost operator. That means that every dollar we spend doing something is a dollar we’re taking from customers. We try and drive cost efficiencies into our business so we can hand those dollars back to customers.

Haden Kirkpatrick: When I look at the challenges in the business, I try and speak in great, big, massive terms to help set a level set on the scope of the issue that we’re dealing with, and then work back into the business case to solve for those first horizon opportunities. Let me give you an example.

Haden Kirkpatrick: 55% of the calls to our claims center are, “Where’s my claim?” That is a status check. That is a claims or a phase-gated process. You’ve got a notice of loss, an appraisal, an assessment. There’s maybe a five or six-step process. Having half of our phone calls in our car centers be about a status update is a multimillion dollar business opportunity.

Haden Kirkpatrick: By comparison, I look at FedEx or UPS, and they’ve got statusing mastered. They send you a text message, the text message has a link. You click the link and it says, “Here’s where you are in your little bar.” If there’s an exception, there’s a red X and there’s notes saying date notes with the most recent first, “Here’s what’s going on with the exception.”

Haden Kirkpatrick: Something like that for an insurance company is hugely valuable. To gather the executives and wrap their mind around that business opportunity, all I have to do is say there’s $25 million a year on the floor. Then very quickly you start having ears perk up around a need to solve that. After that, it’s just the iterative process of going and building it.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it.

Haden Kirkpatrick: For the last 10%, the real game-changing things like what can machine learning do for underwriting and fraud protection, some of these things are just so unquantifiable, but they defy belief almost. In those instances, I try and find some industry innovators or some solution companies or some insurtech or fintech startups that are entering that space.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I look at a lot of funding rounds from major DCs. If I can put a finger on a company like, say, Lemonade that is doing mostly AI-driven back-office management, they raised $180 million in two years and the last round was $120 million round from SoftBank’s venture fund. I pull that up and say, “These guys are working it and smart money is paying attention to what they’re doing. We should seriously consider that as part of our second horizon innovation approach.”

Haden Kirkpatrick: In any second horizon innovation, particularly as it pertains to customer experience, you’re guessing, you’re faking it until you make it, you’ve got to seize the opportunity, look for areas where the ecosystem overall is investing in those opportunities. Prototype what that might look like, test it with your users to see if it’s in demand.

Haden Kirkpatrick: You have to tread more carefully because you can’t future cast all potential opportunities for your business. But I find it helpful to command the interest of executives by pointing to other competitors who are coming for us down market as potential competitive threats, show the money that they’re raising, show that that is a proxy for smart money believing that there’s a business there, and use that as a wedge to try and get the company to report.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah. You’re identifying what’s important to the exec team and the board, you’re doing your research and your homework, and then you’re able to convey that message in the language that they understand, with the triggers that they have, and you’re proving it out with prototyping, doing some agile design work or some design thinking along the way, and then testing it with some end users to just prove out your hypothesis, right?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Exactly.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s awesome.

Haden Kirkpatrick: The approach that you might take varies wildly depending on whether it’s a shark closest to your body, the next thing after that or the next thing after that. But the technology and the discipline doesn’t change. The way that you address iterating it and proving the use case and testing into it is more or less the same, but to command the resources from your executive team, I think the data that you would use and pull together to justify that business case varies wildly depending upon where it is in the innovation [inaudible 00:30:16].

Craig Nishizaki: Got it. Make sense. There’s some people on the call. I know they had some questions around how do I prove out value? I think you guys gave some really great examples. I want to just throw out a couple other things. Oftentimes using industry examples, industry stats, et cetera, will help you as you’re trying to convey a message. Some great sources are the Design Value Index.

Craig Nishizaki: If somebody doesn’t understand the value of design, the DMI, Design Management Institute, put together an index where they compared 16 companies that were design-centric against the S&P 500 in over a 10-year period. They watched the performance of their stock. From 2005 to 2015, the DMI outperformed the S&P by 211%.

Craig Nishizaki: Using stats like that, I think, are helpful. We’ll put up a link for the DMI website. As well as the Design in Tech Report is a great source of information, the stats that you can use. One of the great ones from the 2016 report was design isn’t just about beauty, it’s about relevance and meaningful results.

Craig Nishizaki: As you’re talking to your leaders, it’s really conveying the meaningful result which a lot of times is this top line, bottom line, it’s engagement, it’s getting more customers, it’s getting consumption, whatever those metrics are that are important to them. I think Phil and Haden did a great job of speaking to that. Those are some tips in terms of how to start conveying value up the chain.

Craig Nishizaki: Now in terms of getting buy in, you guys both spoke about that. I think for some of the folks on the call, one of the common questions was, “How do I get more resources allocated to this endeavor?” I guess the question would be not just, “How do I get more resources?” as, “Do I use inside folks? Do I use outside folks?” or whatever. Those are part of the buying decision. Do you guys have some tips or some thoughts around how to make that type of decision, how do I get some resources allocated to this that you can share with the audience?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Sure. I have a different perspective on this than some, because I grew up in an environment at T-Mobile in Seattle, where Craig and I met. It was a little different in terms of the business methodologies as it pertained to capturing resources.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Let’s say that I discover that 55% of people that call our claim centers are calling for, “Where’s my claim?” and it’s fairly quick and easy for me to say how many of those are we fielding at any given year versus what’s the average time to resolve the hourly rate, and you build a cost model up from that.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Then I just stick a thumb in the air and say, “I bet I can defer to digitally automate 25% to 33%.” Honestly, I think if we started sending proactive text messages with an embedded link that says, “Here’s your status,” it would probably be the first 75%, but I hedge against that and I say, “Well, I’m doing it for 30.” That takes the $30 million opportunity down to $10 million.

Haden Kirkpatrick: At that point, it’s a no-brainer for me to say I need 100k to go and build an experience, test it, put some customers into a usability lab, try and quantify that, get some [SMEs 00:33:58] to look at it and get a base of customers that see that and respond to it and then give us a rough NPS or satisfaction measure. That’s how you get the testing phase and development phase.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Coming out of that, if I can show our current experience and the customer feedback quantitative, qualitatively against that, which we’ve got reams of data on, and then I can show the one I tested, and this one is directionally better than this one in a meaningful fashion, I can go back and command more resources from the business to develop the thing and test it into a few states.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Now I’ve gone from $30 million opportunity, I’m committing to the business that I will defer 10 of that. I need $100,000 to prove it out. That’s been proven. That’s $100,000 out of $10 million is 1%. I’m asking for a loan from the company of 1% of the value I intend to return. If your executives can’t wrap their head around that, you’re in the wrong company. They’re just brutally honest with you.

Haden Kirkpatrick: If you’re at Facebook, you’ve got a bunch of crack designers who are all falling over themselves to work there. Esurance is a really super innovative and next-generation insurer, but it’s [inaudible 00:35:18] for Facebook or Google. We have to use a very tight cost model to make a case. Then we have to use a disciplined business casing approach and a phase-gated approach to solving for that.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Now I might find out after I size and prototype a solution that I just don’t have the design talent necessary to do something huge and game-changing like reinvent the entire customer experience for a digitized world. If I’ve got three designers that are constantly optimizing the quote flow and the claims experience and other things, and we only have the resources to do the 70% of business as usual, I probably have to augment that with more strategic research from a more well-regarded and more talented design firm like UpTop, like some other design firms that you find in NSF or around the world that’ll help take a step back, understand the customer’s needs, create a strategic framework that you can then go in and [inaudible 00:36:17]. Then your team can come in and take that as the strategic guidance and tune as they go along.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, make sense.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We’ve seen a lot of success taking the daily business as usual stuff and having our team members do that, but to find the great designers in the world and to hire them into your organization and to have them spend their days, it’s almost always cheaper for strategic user experience design to go to a specialized house that spends most of their time thinking about design as opposed to bring in specialized designers with that kind of thinking.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, make sense. Thanks for that.

Phil Terrill: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:36:55].

Craig Nishizaki: Phil, you want to add something to that?

Phil Terrill: I think I mean just the last piece is where Microsoft, at least within inside sales, pivoted. We went the route of getting somebody who’s extremely specialized and really, really knowledgeable about the type of experience we wanted to create for our sellers versus a lot of people who are like, “Well, you’re Microsoft. You should have just got your own designers from inside somewhere.”

Phil Terrill: While that sounds great, if you think about the process it would take, for example, the fluidity and the agility that our team moves, we wouldn’t have. We’d be slower and become extremely reactionary to our seller type. We chose to have a team that could be agile with us versus go our corporate route, which wouldn’t benefit our team’s end result and desired end state. We went with UpTop, of course. That’s the relationship for context, right?

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah, make sense.

Phil Terrill: That’s what we’ve done, and it’s proven valuable, especially if you think about some of the metrics and percentages I’ve outlined already for what we do.

Craig Nishizaki: Great, great. We had a question that came-

Haden Kirkpatrick: [crosstalk 00:37:56].

Craig Nishizaki: Go ahead.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Although I think it’s a good rule of thumb. If your product is a digital technology platform or massive ecosystem, specifically with a branded consumer front end, then it probably makes sense for you to have your own team of really cracked designers. Ours is a financial contract. Our part is a financial contract. We are a financial services insurance company with a technology operating structure and belief and strategy. Facebook is a technology company with a skinny user front end that ties into their huge and ever-growing platform.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I just don’t believe that outside of pure high tech, user experience and design strategy is going to be cost-effective to insource because those are scarce resources. Most user designers are very creative. They want to work on multiple types of products. I mean good designers are going to get bored with insurance after a year and a half or two. That’s going to be what’s going to happen.

Haden Kirkpatrick: It’s one of those things where it depends on your business model and the fit that design as a strategic resource has to fit into your business model. I think most business models, it’s probably better to outsource it and find a specialized group from a third party that can come in and deliver value in real quick sprints and that have continually … Continuously working on other projects outside of your category that keeps their design thinking sharp, keeps their customer understanding sharp.

Haden Kirkpatrick: There’s just a lot of stuff you get from working with a company [inaudible 00:39:36] portfolio clients outside your industry and in other industries that you can leverage to better understand how you can improve your business.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. We had a couple of questions that came in on the sidebar here. Daniel asked to Haden is what you’re saying is about going off and testing it in the lab. “Why would you test it in a lab versus doing contextual inquiry, seeing the person using it in their own environment? Or maybe you guys do both.” Then, “Wouldn’t you rather do discovery research in a more real-life scenario that would be related to contextual inquiry or things like ethnographic study and things like that?”

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yeah, great question. When I say put them in a lab, I’m just like anything where you’re setting it up in a controlled environment. Contextual inquiry is going to be fine. It could be something you’re streaming from your laptop at home. The important thing is getting an experience that looks reasonably realistic and then putting it in front of customers with some lightweight qual and quant that you can use to compare to your current experience.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Now in regards to the testing scenario, insurance is a bit of a different category than most. It’s highly regulated. A lot of the things that you want to do in terms of … Depending on the state that you launch in, the questions that you can ask are changing.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Don’t take my feedback in terms of our process to be universally applicable to your business. We work in a highly regulated, very tight insurance category that varies for every 50 state we deal with. It’s like 50 different countries [inaudible 00:41:25] to do business in the United States. We have to be a lot more disciplined and a lot more certain about what we’re going to do before we put it into market because half the time we have to file it with a local regulator to get approval on it before we actually launch it. That bears with [inaudible 00:41:40] additional costs.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We put in-market tests as the very last gate in things that we do mostly because the regulatory frame requires it and the risk to the business is so great that you’ve got to know for sure or pretty much for sure before you go out. We, therefore, test more rigorously up-funnel.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it.

Haden Kirkpatrick: If you’re in an ecommerce company that is a proper digital backend and you can replace cages and switch things out very quickly, go for it. We do a lot of that in our rate treatment pages. We’d A, B, C, D, Z, F, L, M, N, O, P test every kind of rate page we want. But up-funnel, whether it’s a one-click scan a driver’s license thing, it has to be filed with a regulator to ensure that it’s in compliance. Whether we use education or credit or these other things, have to be checked with the regulator before we price it out. Any changes to those or any augmentations of those generally have to be run through the regulatory body before we can approve it, and that usually slows down our path to market in the real-life test environment.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it. Phil, from your perspective, I know you guys go out and visit the sellers at the sales centers. You watch what they’re doing in some ways, right, to give feedback?

Phil Terrill: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:43:03] some of the in-market or, for us, it would be inside of a sales center. There’s eight of them around the world. We actually go sit with sellers, watch their click path, their [inaudible 00:43:13], get that qualitative feedback right then when we’re sitting next to a seller or a group of sellers.

Phil Terrill: For us, in-person testing is a lot better for us than sitting here in Redmond or wherever thinking that the things that we have built are gold. I mean we leverage the sellers at all points in time of the content journey getting to production with the sellers.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. Great. Thanks for answering that. [Casey 00:43:43] asked a question. “How often do you recommend revisiting big UX improvements, or do you guys do them incrementally?” I’m assuming it’s partially the culture of your company and things like that, but tell us a little bit about that.

Phil Terrill: I mean I can speak for the Microsoft perspective.

Craig Nishizaki: Sure.

Phil Terrill: What we’ve done is … This is our third massive what I would call overhaul of our platform really in about 18 months, from my time being on the team really. I think the massive things that are really going to shift the experience for us, given that our team is moving so fast, our organization and the technology is changing so much, for us it sometimes requires that we do it every six months.

Phil Terrill: But I think it depends. Six months is maybe a lot for you, but it might not be for us. It also depends on the resourcing you have behind it. We have a dedicated team that’s all they do is make sure that this content is relevant and realistic for our seller community.

Phil Terrill: For us, it’s rather frequent. Sometimes we make tweaks to roles, so certain personas get upgraded a user experience while we’re testing out other ones intentionally to see how this community reacts to content. I mean we start to make slow incremental changes over time to bring everybody’s experience to a consistent level. But a lot of it is intentional testing. But it just depends on the resourcing and timelines you have for your organization. From our team, we’ve seen real benefit in doing it within the shorter time periods.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great.

Phil Terrill: But it might be different for Haden and Esurance.

Craig Nishizaki: Yeah. Haden, you have some thoughts on that? How often do you guys revisit big UX improvements, or do you have a recommendation on that? It might be different, obviously, like you said, if it’s an ecommerce site versus something that’s highly regulated versus an internal enterprise tool. What are your thoughts?

Haden Kirkpatrick: It depends on what you mean when you say big.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s … Yeah.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I mean I would say our original quote flow hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. At some point, when we see major game … The quote flow is now changing materially over the course of the next two to three years, but it’s a slow moving thing. Insurance is a slow moving category. A lot of it just … If we see somebody do something really great, we look at that and determine, “Here’s what we’ve got, here’s what this new company has or our competitors have, and wow! How gapped are we?” That’s a good way to ensure that we continually are being kept sharp by the market.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We are fortunate enough to be based in San Francisco. There is a new insurance tech company spooling up every bloody month here and getting money thrown at them like ….

Phil Terrill: Nobody’s business.

Haden Kirkpatrick: VCs around here sneeze money at insurtech companies. Yeah, like nobody’s business. There’s a company like Hippo that just literally their entire value proposition is changing the homeowners’ quote flow. That’s it. It’s very easy for us to say, “Oh, okay. These guys just raise money to go into two states with this product. Let’s look at that, let’s see how it interacts. We’re all digital consumers, so we can consume it just like everybody else.”

Haden Kirkpatrick: If we think we’ve got a very specific wedge where we’re getting beaten there, the benefit of being at a company the size of Esurance, insurance has broad moats, which means if we see somebody in San Francisco doing something cool, that’s elegant, that’s slick that customers love, for them to expand that out and go countrywide, it takes three years. Even if they’re well-capitalized, they’ve got to spool up licensing in each state, they’ve got to get approved. It’s a long, long row to walk. It’s an even longer one to get the capital back and to support it, to be able to actually manage the money. I mean it’s hard.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Esurance is much faster and bigger than those guys. We will downmarket to the startups to see where game-changing innovations come. Then we, frankly, let’s just say, aggressively borrow the things that we see that are the best to compete up market.

Haden Kirkpatrick: We are in a unique situation. That said, we’re always constantly revisiting the designs that we’ve developed in the 70% that’s business as usual. If we see somebody that really rocks our world on the other 30%, we take that, put it into our queue, test it and evaluate, and go through the entire flywheel process that we just described.

Craig Nishizaki: Cool. All right. I’m going to change gears just a little bit because I think we covered a lot of the themes. Just as we’re getting toward the end of our time, what’s hot technology, things that you’re keeping an eye on, whether it’s in your space or personally, things that are interesting? I’d love to hear a little bit of that from you guys’ point of view, whoever wants to kick off.

Phil Terrill: I mean I can go. If you want to go ahead. It looks like you were about to go.

Craig Nishizaki: Go ahead, Phil.

Haden Kirkpatrick: No. I mean I’m really intrigued by artificial intelligence, and specifically augmented intelligence. For financial services, it’s a real … Nobody understands how financial services works. It’s an American thing. We don’t teach finance or anything to anybody. There’s a lot of design work being invested in how you help people … How you take data, present it to customers in a way that makes it understandable, help them have confidence that they’re buying the right things. I’m really interested in some of those trends from a technology [inaudible 00:49:36] design perspective. I’m also really intrigued by blockchain-

Craig Nishizaki: Cool.

Haden Kirkpatrick: … the buzz word thing around every category. But for financial services, particularly insurance, it has massive potential. Smart contracts are very interesting to us. I mean we envision a world where when you crash your Tesla, we receive a signal that says, “He has towing and labor. Issue a tow truck. He has rental car coverage. Sending him out a Tesla to drive. He has ride share coverage. Send an Uber to pick him up and take him to the dealership.”

Haden Kirkpatrick: The Tesla knows all the damage that’s been done to it because it’s wired up with computers at every square inch of that thing. We can tell the total loss, what it is. You can immediately issue payments. This can all happen on a blockchain almost instantaneously.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Don’t really know what that’s going to do yet to the insurance category. Technologically speaking, this is a long way away, but it’s something that we’re researching and studying actively because we think it will be the future of the category, specifically as it pertains to digital-

Craig Nishizaki: That’s cool. You just blew my mind.

Phil Terrill: [inaudible 00:50:45].

Haden Kirkpatrick: I mean it’s nice to have practical uses for blockchain. They’re [inaudible 00:50:49].

Craig Nishizaki: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, that’s cool. Phil, what about you? What’s hot on your radar?

Phil Terrill: I mean it’s going to be probably a little bit interesting to give my response because a lot of it will be similar to Haden in terms of AI. We’re in that space. Obviously, we compete in that environment all day every day as a company. Just looking at how we’re using it even now within our platform and some other associated teams, so AI is huge.

Phil Terrill: The other thing that we’re starting look at, at least I’m focusing on, is it’s a line to AI, but it’s around the whole cognitive services model framework that we have, especially when you think about the seller journey. There’s that, which is we’re working on it now around speech-to-text and all these kind of things, the experience around a meeting, how content might be consumed, maybe how artificial intelligence moves the content or the experience that a seller has based on where they’re at in their tenure, so to speak.

Phil Terrill: Whatever. There’s a lot of different scenarios around AI cognitive services. We’re doing a lot with bots, which still goes back to AI. I mean bots for us, we have one. The impact it’s had on the org is tremendous, to the point that Satya is all excited about this one bot that was built by three sellers in our Dublin sales center.

Phil Terrill:The bot girl or whatever, evolution, whatever you want to call it … We have bots on top of bots here, so I’m trying to figure out where one bot could fit in, and so we have one bot, which is-

Haden Kirkpatrick:        It’s hard to tell where one bot ends and another bot begins.

Phil Terrill: I know. Offline I’m going to show you all the bots we have, but there’s like 30 I’ve seen [inaudible 00:52:31]. But, anyway, between AI cognitive services, like the machine learning part, I mean just from a Microsoft point of view, I’m interested around ubiquitous computing, like what that really is going to mean. I don’t want to go down that hole for people, but there’s a lot.

Craig Nishizaki: [crosstalk 00:52:48].

Phil Terrill: There’s a lot.

Craig Nishizaki: To the audience, I apologize that Leigh that had some technical issues and she dropped off. But, for sure, we want to get her back involved in the webinar, as well as she had some great insights around strategic research, strategic UX approaches, some practical things that I think will be great takeaways from this. Rochelle and I will grab some time with her that we can try to put that back into this audience as some additional resources. Last couple of questions for you guys. Let’s see here.

Craig Nishizaki: In terms of UX in general, because there’s customer experience, CX, and then there’s UX. There’s a confusion oftentimes with UI and UX. Is it the screen or is it the experience? What’s the most unexpected thing that you guys have learned in creating the user experience and the customer experience, whether it’s at your current company or previous? Was there any aha moment that you had that said, “Hey, we need to do more of this or we need to do less of this?” kind of like a satisfaction question for you in your daily life as you’re doing your job? What stirs your cocoa related to the users using your stuff?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Oh, wow! One of the constant surprises that I am always surprised by in insurance is that customers don’t … The level of automation is generally well-received in almost every category I’ve ever worked in. I mean just handling something for a customer and telling what’s handled is, I think, one of the pinnacles of customer experience strategy overall, not in insurance. It is not an automate-my-claim environment. Customers want to know what’s going on-

Phil Terrill: Everything.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Yeah. Well, I mean you would think yes, but the Goldilocks zone of customer experience design, where they want it done for them, they want to be high-touch one way, [inaudible 00:55:15] and constantly follow up with you. It’s this ever-shifting line between what you semi-automates, what you augment for the users so they can see and understand where they are in the process, and then what you do to bring them along in that process, what will provide them the right level of information so they don’t call your center and have you absorb their lost.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I’m constantly surprised at how that changes. We might test one thing three years ago and customers don’t want it. Then they find it on Amazon or they get used to using it on Facebook or one of the big tech companies rolls out a similar solution, and all of a sudden now customers are expecting that as the design standard going forward.

Craig Nishizaki: Got it.

Haden Kirkpatrick: The one thing that does … I am most surprised by how inconsistent it is. That’s a challenge for user design, designing overall. I mean you never know what customers are going to want. You just do your best and deliver [crosstalk 00:56:12].

Craig Nishizaki: That’s why we’ve got to talk to them.

Haden Kirkpatrick: That’s right. You’ve got to talk to them all the time.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s right. Phil, we’ve got about a minute. How about you?

Phil Terrill: For me, I think, especially within Microsoft so far, I look at our end user all the time in my profile. I mean I talk to them often. But I think we get so caught up in over-engineering stuff here a lot of the times. I think it’s just because our broad set of solutions and then there’s enterprise and then there’s the consumer side. Then sometimes we don’t know which one’s which.

Phil Terrill: One thing I’ve realized, and I think it’s the biggest thing for our team, has been simplifying. Just simplicity, especially when it comes to a lot of what we’re doing around enabling a seller to go to market at the end of the day is what we’re focused on. The more we’ve been able to simplify the content, simplify the ability to get to what a seller really wants to get to has really helped us drive the numbers in terms of what we want, which is consumption, but also help them retire quota, which is the only reason why they care to be a Microsoft seller. I think that’s the biggest things is simplicity.

Phil Terrill: The other part that I’ve started to notice as important for us is a lot of what we’re creating in terms of functionality or experiences actually mirrors the consumer environment. A lot of our sellers use Instagram, so that’s video. We are focused on how does video, which it does and we have it in the data that says video plays a huge role in what we do. Why aren’t we including video into more of our designs versus giving people a whole bunch of stuff to read? They’re not going to read it. They’re going to watch a video, or they want to share content that way.

Phil Terrill: Just little things that are obvious that from a design point of view or an experience point of view, we’re talking about mirroring the consumer environment [inaudible 00:58:00] for our end users and internally here at Microsoft.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. All right. We’re going to wrap up in the last minute or so here. You can do a little self-talk. Haden, are you speaking at anything coming up? Where can people find you?

Haden Kirkpatrick: Great question. I’ll be presenting at the Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Summit down at Santa Clara at the end of August. Then I’ll be presenting at the [inaudible 00:58:27] summit, which is the rebranding of the Open Mobile Summit in late November.

Craig Nishizaki: Cool. Okay.

Haden Kirkpatrick: I think both of those are in my LinkedIn page, so feel free to reach out.

Craig Nishizaki: Okay. Phil, anything? I know you had a book. You’ve spoken on a couple of things [crosstalk 00:58:41].

Phil Terrill: Yeah. I’ve been a part of co-authoring a book called Sales Success Stories Volume One. That comes out later in October. Then for any of our Microsoft customers that might be listening, or associated, we’ll probably be at Envision, which is end of September-

Craig Nishizaki: Cool.

Phil Terrill: … in Florida, Orlando, Florida. We’ll be doing a presentation around artificial intelligence with the bot that I talked about and how that’s driving some of the content and experiences here.

Craig Nishizaki: That’s great. Leigh’s not here, but you can find her podcast at UX Cake. I’m not speaking at anything coming up, but I wrote a little article called How to be a UX Design Thought Leader Without Being a Complete A-Hole. You can find that on LinkedIn as well.

Craig Nishizaki: Thanks for your time today, everybody. We’ll have a recording. We’ll post this, and you can share it with your friends. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you soon.

Phil Terrill: Thanks, everyone.

Haden Kirkpatrick: Pleasure.

Phil Terrill: Cool.