As a part of the CXApp team, customer experience and mobile apps are always part of the conversation. This week I sat down with our CEO, Leon Papkoff, and had a chance to ask questions specifically regarding user experience design.
The answers were intriguing. Leon values the technical functionality of the user experience and believes perfecting this element should take precedence over finessing the design. Also, he’s really annoyed by the booking process of most airlines.
- Diana Serrano
How does design affect customer experience when it comes to a company’s presence on mobile platforms?
It's critically important that you have a very good user experience (UX) first. The way design impacts it is going to be mainly around "does it match the brand, does it match the experience that you want to have, is it memorable for the user, does it stand out and differentiate [you] amongst your competitors?".
You want to make sure that you're able to at least have the UX make sense. If your customer wants to do something, if they want to know something, you must make that experience very easy, seamless and intuitive. That's probably the most critical thing. The last thing people want in mobile web or a mobile app is to bring up any roadblocks or challenges where they can't get to the next step. A lot of companies still suffer from that today.
When it comes to mobile and design, making sure that things technically work and you're providing a good customer experience is still the priority. I don't think most companies have reached that stage where they've overcome the tech hurdles.
I for one am constantly traveling for work or planning family vacations and if you take the travel industry for example … it collectively doesn't have a good mobile experience. If you think about any industry that should be really great at customer experience, it should be the travel industry. Companies that have figured out [the technical elements] are ahead of the curve. I would go with a travel or airfare [agency] where it's easier to book and check rates rather than picking one with a cool design.
Can you think of some apps with good UX that you use personally?
I use a lot of airline apps. I like the United Airlines app. I would go to the app before I would ever go to [the website] on my phone. It remembers my account information, so it makes it really easy. If I go to united.com I have to log in each time. It's kind of painful.
There are some significant things about that: the design is not very good, but the user experience is fantastic. That's a really good example of what we were talking about earlier, where I don't really care about the design as much - I care about the functionality working well every time.
For personal reasons I also use ESPN's app, which is great. It works really well for the teams that I follow: it only updates me and sends me notifications on those teams, which is fantastic. It keeps me in touch with the things I care about.
ESPN is a really good example of an app that has a number of integrations. They do integrations with groups where you can buy tickets and with social media sites, so if I did want to post anything, I have the capability directly through the app. They also have a lot of great integrations with live video streaming services and Comcast. I use Comcast at home, but when I'm on the road I have the ability to stream a game through the ESPN app. Functionally the app works really well.
When you think about the integrations that ESPN has, does that keep you engaged?
Those [integrations] are paramount to me for what that app provides. It's a combination, it's not just one integration. They [the ESPN team] have a good, strong understanding of what their users are going to want to do in the app and they've done a great job of managing that and adding features.
All these apps also have the mentality of adding new features every couple of months. That's the other thing that is critically important for app developers out there: you constantly have to have an evolving roadmap where you're outputting new features. You cannot live in today's world where you build something and think it's good enough to last for even a year. There's no way anything digital that you build is good enough 12 months later.
What advice would you give to a company that wants to provide a great digital customer experience, but maybe doesn’t have a large budget? What first steps can they take?
Going back to some of the earlier answers, the best advice I'd give them is focus on the technical aspects, the integrations and the functionality first - make that number one.
Design is a wonderful added value to any product or service and I absolutely love great design. But if you focus on the functionality first, you are going to grab a loyal audience and then you can always add design in later. So many companies miss the functionality mark - either it doesn't work well in mobile web or the mobile app doesn't work well. I would say only [approximately] 30 percent of companies do [the functionality aspect] really well.
Even some companies that have a massive budget don't prioritize functionality. Focus on that if you have a limited budget. If people like your product or service or solution, they will come back. They'll be loyal.
I mean, I’m loyal: take the United Airlines app, for example - I don't think the design is very good, but I constantly come back because the functionality works really well. When I have the option to fly on any airline, I will still choose United almost every time because the customer experience is better.
How do you make a CX mindset part of the design of your own mobile app?
I would say there are two main stages. There's the stage when we are building wire-framing and designing the features in a static mode.
The other stage is critically important to have as part of your process. Once you have your first build and you're using it, clicking from one button to another area, being able to make adjustments or potentially even pivot while you're using the experience is a critical.
Sometimes when we plan a feature in our platform, designers build it, then we'll look at it, and maybe 10 or 15 percent of the time it looks exactly like the designs, but because of the flow of using the application, we'll adjust it again because it feels better for the user experience if you make a small design tweak while actually using the application.
I think some companies suffer from not making that [kind of] adjustment because they're under big constraints to get [the app] to market or they don't want to go back to the designer.
As the leader of a “Customer Experience” company, what are some of the steps you take to ensure your team stays focused on the customer?
I think it's built in our DNA as an organization. The way that our leadership team talks about customer experience and talks about the important aspects and value of it, kind of a trickle-down effect. One of the interview questions [we ask] when we hire employees is “do you use mobile apps a lot, and which mobile apps do you use?”.
Even if they're personal use, we want everyone in our company to be involved in mobile apps and use mobile apps on a daily basis and be thinking about what makes them better. It starts from there. Then, from our leadership team standpoint it's just constantly discussed within our organization. When we build a major mobile app platform, we're constantly in it every day testing the user experience, aligning to the customer experience, and fine-tuning the design.