This month was busy! I also contributed an article, Beyond User Research: Giving Voice of Customer Another Chance, to the UXPA’s User Experience magazine.. It’s an argument that while, on the one hand, there’s often inappropriate pressure for enterprise UX people to do what customers say, we nonetheless need to make sure we’re not losing touch with customers entirely. They’re important from a relationship perspective, but more importantly, they can provide context for understanding what our users need to accomplish.
I keep running into this confusion. An account manager refers to me as “that nice VOC lady.” (He’s partly right.) Another product manager wants to know why we have to have “so many people” participate in a research study (“you could just get a guy and ask him what he thinks!”) So it seems worth talking about the difference between the two, and why they’re both important. Because as much as I might hate to admit it, getting that punchlist from your Big Fricking Order customer is as critical to your business as ensuring a highly usable software UI.
I put together this chart of differences for a quick rundown of the differences. The biggest one to my mind is that VOC measures desires, while user research measures behavior. . The people (or personas) who participate are different, too: VOC is voice of the customer, but not necessarily of the user, whereas user research doesn’t necessarily include anything about the organization’s goals, or why the product is purchased.
I made a PDF, too.
Here’s what I talk about when I talk about ROI.
Periodically I need to justify the business value of user experience or customer experience activities in an enterprise environment. In an e-commerce B2C environment, the idea that usability testing will yield improved returns is common wisdom nowadays, but not all enterprise software companies have institutionalized user experience practices. Furthermore, even organizations with a strong UX presence contain pockets of entrenched doubters. While I believe that the value of an investment in user experience isn’t fully expressed in numbers, I usually try to address these concerns by talking about return on investment (ROI), ideally with a series of memorable killshots (pew pew pew). When I’m in this situation, I want to prove that UX is more than just a cost center — that it’s directly connected to revenue and other metrics that my audience cares about.
Enterprise-relevant proof points have been hard to find, however, which isn’t surprising. Many of the studies that have been done are twenty years out of date, and others aren’t especially relevant for an enterprise software product (rather than an e-commerce experience or a consumer product). In an enterprise environment the revenue outcomes of activities can be harder to track, as well. So I’ve pulled together a few of the key bullet points I’ve used over the past year or two. You’re welcome to use them, but make sure you credit the actual author, as I have below.
There’s a caveat here: No published numbers will be as compelling as internal and timely information from within your own organization. Even if they’re preliminary numbers, or half-baked anecdotes, describing the time we tested the prototype at EventCon and how the insight led to a 25% uptick in sales will probably pack a bigger punch. But in the absence of airtight success stories, the below points can help bolster a business case.
User-centered Design (UCD) Drives Customer Satisfaction and Revenue
- User-centered design can raise customer satisfaction 40% or more over other methods. (1992 Gartner Group study, cited in Bias & Mayhew).
- System Usability Score (SUS) metric significantly correlated with Net Promoter Score (NPS), a generally accepted measure of customers’ willingness to recommend a product or service. (Predicting Net Promoter Scores From System Usability Scale Scores)
UCD Reduces Development Cost
- Design changes made in an up-front user-centered design phase cost only 1% as much as those changes after product release. (Bias & Mayhew, 1994)
UCD Reduces Operational Cost
- Susan Weinschenk estimates that a well-designed internal application saved 300 help desk calls (against the average) in the first month after release — with a benchmark of $15/call, that’s a total savings of $75k in the first month. (ROI of User Experience)
An Appeal to Authority
- 10% of the Fortune 125 have executive- or C-level design talent. These include not just Apple, but companies with significant enterprise business such as General Electric, IBM, General Motors, Ford, 3M…In other words, it’s not just for the guys with the cool glasses. (Design in Tech 2015.)
Bias & Mayhew refers to Bias, Randolph G. and Mayhew, Deborah J., eds. (1994) “Cost-Justifying Usability.” Harcourt Brace & Co., Boston.