As a UX Designer you are not the user expert

As user experience designers we are the voice of our users’ needs, but are we the most knowledgeable people in the company about our users? And if we are not, who is?

Am I not The Expert?

At Just Eat I primarily work on products that are used by restaurant owners or managers. When working on these products I regularly get to go out into the field to talk to these users, or I’ll attend lab based sessions hosted by our amazing researchers. Both of these help me understand the problem areas and the opportunities we have.

So that should make me the internal expert on how restaurant owners and managers operate, right? Well no. As much as I’d like to think I’m an expert on how our restaurant owners think, the simple truth is I’m not. I don’t spend everyday talking to them and I certainly don’t own my own restaurant.

Who is then?

Here at Just Eat we have people who speak with restaurants everyday (but not anyone who actually owns a restaurant). So when I quickly need more insight into a problem, or want someone representing the restaurants in a workshop, or just get a better idea of a restaurant owners day-to-day, I’ll reach out to our experts.

At Just Eat the people we have who spend their working day with restaurants are:

  • Call centre operators
  • Specialist operation teams
  • Territory managers
  • Telephone account managers

Call centre operators — Every restaurant who calls in with an issue will no doubt go through this team. They will know the types of problems currently coming in and how they are solved and/or escalated.

Specialist operation teams — Depending on the product, some of ours have specialist operation teams working directly with restaurants. They will know more about the ins-and-outs of the product, and how restaurants use it.

Territory managers — These are the people out in the field, going into restaurants everyday. Signing up new restaurants, working directly with the owner to maximise their opportunities and solving the problems they have. They fully understand our product and how restaurants use it.

Telephone account managers — They have a pretty similar role to our territory managers but all their work is done over the phone. So while they don’t get to physically see how restaurants use our tools, they speak to more restaurants, giving them a wider perspective of the general problems.

Okay so I’ve found my experts, now what?

When kicking off any new project, I now factor in who my internal experts are and quickly reach out to them.

Talking to the call centre operators and looking at their logs, helps me understand the scale of the problem and the steps they take to help the user.

I did this recently and discovered a feature that I thought was only available in the UK was also available in France. So I reached out to the French team and learnt more about how they used the tool which helped shape the direction of the product.

If the project has a specialist operation team, I’ll look to schedule a journey mapping session as quickly as possible. This is one of the best and quickest ways I’ve found to fully understand the problem area, how it works today (both for our internal and external users) and the opportunity areas.

I’ll reach out to Territory Managers and Telephone Account Managers to understand how important the problem is to restaurants, and hopefully be put in contact with restaurants who have specifically raised the matter. With the Territory Managers I’ll also look to book in some visits to restaurants. While with the Telephone Account Managers I’d instead focus on listening in to some calls.

When exploring a problem around time and delivery a territory manager mentioned she was having discussions around this with her restaurants. It turned out her restaurants were based in rural Scotland, and before I knew it I was travelling up there. The size of the difference between rural and urban restaurants surprised us all and helped shape how we did research going forward.

As the project evolves I will keep working with my internal experts and actively bring them into workshops. This allows me to not only learn more from them, but also have someone in the workshop (who isn’t me) proactively pushing for the user needs.

In one workshop we did crazy 8s and all the stakeholders sketched tech solutions, my internal experts sketched physical solutions. This helped open up the problem and help move the stakeholders from their solution led ideas.

Let’s wrap this up

  • You are not The Expert, but you are the person who brings everyone together.
  • Find your internal experts, reach out to any sales or support teams you have and build contacts with them.
  • Work with your internal experts through the life of the project.
  • This allows you to focus more quickly on the key discovery questions and opportunity areas.
  • It will help you avoid getting trapped in tech led solutions, particularly those pushed by stakeholders.
  • Do research! This isn’t a proxy for research, but something that will help make it more focused and useful.