CASE STUDY

INSTANT ACCESS

Verizon's Innovative New IVR Product

Instant Access is Verizon’s new interactive voice response (IVR) system that bridges customer support calls with over-the-internet call-to-actions. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems traditionally offload human customer support human representatives. Instant Access takes IVR a step ahead, by connecting it to the internet, which allows our clients and their developers to orchestrate various services, such as pushing mobile apps to caller’s phone for self-help, drive app discovery or facilitate service/ product marketing.

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Comparison of traditional IVR and Instant Access IVR

The Problem

A traditional IVR takes forever for its user, the caller, to actually get help. It also only allows one track of solution, that is, having a human representative perform tasks on the user’s behalf. Studies suggest the average time for a caller to reach a human representative is upwards of seven minutes. Industry trends paint a worse picture and average help time going upwards of fifteen minutes.

Cloud-based solution company Twilio has published several whitepapers that illustrate how “the cloud” can be leveraged to benefit a company’s customer relationship management (CRM), or simply, how a traditional IVR can deliver tailored services to its callers, thereby helping them in a faster more meaningful way.

What I Did

The project has been an ongoing one and I joined the team in May 2015 as the sole UX designer in the team. I was responsible for user research, wireframing, prototyping, interaction design and shipping the final visual design for the project along with delivering the design assets to developers. I worked along with Ritika SinghGaurav Gupta and a team of engineers at DigitalTurbine, Israel, towards making a product ready for pilot phase.

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Some of the tools used in the project

One of the key contributions I made to the team and to this particular project was my advocacy for user research to become a part of the product development process. It was not a common practice at Verizon Labs to involve user research in the agile development process, however, the team was patient and willing to consider my argument. After several presentations made to expose and educate stakeholders, we were able to adopt the use of Personas in the product development process, albeit a proto-persona. In the words of design legend, Alan Cooper:

Don’t wait for permission to create personas. Make proto — personas on your own and show how they help your team make better product decisions. Invite key decision-makers to participate in a proto — persona workshop that fosters interest in personas and introduces thinking from a user-centric perspective.

Don’t wait for permission to create personas. Make proto — personas on your own and show how they help your team make better product decisions. Invite key decision-makers to participate in a proto — persona workshop that fosters interest in personas and introduces thinking from a user-centric perspective.

User Research

Since we lacked the resources and time to invest in user research, I decided to use Proto-Persona to ensure alignment and empathy within the team when it comes to our users, or to answer “Who are we making this product for ?”

Proto-personas are an ad-hoc, non-research-backed articulation of a customer archetype based on a diversified team’s experience and well informed guesses.

To ensure diversity and richness in the sampling of our personas, we adhered to the process articulated by Brent Summers at Digital Telepathy, with which they had significant success.

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In the process of developing proto-personas

Two personas were developed which encompassed the target users planned for the pilot launch.

Primary Persona - Julia Harden

Primary Persona - Adam Kent

User Journeys - Traditional IVR

Let us look at Julia and Adam’s journey and their emotional status if they are helped by a traditional IVR in a typical customer support centre. We will compare their present experience to one with Instant Access as the IVR, later.

Use case: Julia trying to find a clinic with her healthcare provider

Use case: Adam trying to find a SiriusXM store by calling their customer support

Constraints
  1. One of the most important constraints was the device and platform dependency. Instant access’ underlying technology was made to work out-of-box for Verizon phones shipped with Android, but not with iOS. Although later the technology was developed, the design boundaries during the time of the project only encompassed Android OS.

  2. Instant Access’ user experience (UX) would not be in the form of an app but in the form of a novel set of OS states. This implicitly brings in the issue of learnability and familiarity of such UX which would need to be carefully mitigated.

  3. Since the product was already under development design only had a month’s time to revisit the old designs and redesign or improve to a production version depending on new requirements.

The Design

The design process I followed was that of Lean UX insight of the limited time, one month. I dove into the problem space, the business goals, the technology and implementation plan which formed the bedrock of my research and surfaced the design constraints. Then effort was put into building proto-personas which would become the anchor in the design process. The previous designs were then reconceptualized on paper in the form of wireframes. Then I swiftly moved to hi-fidelity static designs for feedback from the team internally. After several iterations of redesign and feedback, the team was ready to sign-off the design for development.

Interactions

​The user experience begins with the user navigating the call-tree which flows into a set of visual UIs requiring user inputs in the form of tapping and selecting. It is a seamless flow of the following interactions intertwined into a user experience.

Call Tree Design

Call tree is the vital starting point of the UX flow as it is the gateway for callers to choose to use Instant Access (new IVR) or go the conventional route. Since we’re able to predict significant benefit on the caller’s part to choose Instant Access, by reducing call time and increasing ease-of-use, a gentle motivation to choose Instant Access was necessary. I kept the call tree short in-depth and brief by focusing on the copywriting. A gentle order bias was introduced right after disclosing the options of user goals (what the caller wanted to do ?).

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User Experience

If we take a look at Adam’s experience with Instant Access, the flow below would be his experience. Adam, when greeted by the new IVR and explained his options, chooses to have SiriusXM’s app downloaded and have a page in the app opened automatically displaying the solution to his problem, the list of stores where he can get his SiriusXM device fixed.

Adam’s experience when calling the SiriusXM customer support

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Let us compare Adam’s previous user journeys with a traditional IVR to his new journey with Instant Access. Also, let us note the number of steps he has to take to achieve his desired goal.

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Adam is consistently considerably happy and is successful at learning a new means of achieving his task, using a pro self-help method, which leads him to the result and the next call-to-action in his own device.

Julia, our other persona, would also have a very different journey with Instant Access as IVR when she calls Anthem, her healthcare provider.

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Let us compare Julia’s previous user journey with a traditional IVR to her new journey with Instant Access. Also, let us note the number of steps he has to take to achieve his desired goal. Not only does she arrive at her goal faster, she is also considerably happier.

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Designed for Scalability 

Although the Instant Access UIs are not app UI they would stand out and might confuse the users about the state of their experience since it is not an app on their phone. The apps being downloaded are also not managed nor sourced from the Android Play store.

It needed a novel design that would serve the context of caller’s call being ended, the app being downloaded and the result being displayed in that app.

Since the brand or company being reached to was the overarching context that remains the same throughout the experience, it was decided to implement the brand’s identity to depict the context. It also allowed the user experience to be tailored depending to brands, each providing their own mark/logo along with a complementing font color for the UI. This allowed the design to work as a framework and be scalable.

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Deliverables

The final deliverables to the product and engineering team was a design document that statically illustrated the various UX flows in their respective use-cases and edge-case conditions. Due to a non-disclosure agreement with Verizon, I’m redacting the visual fidelity of the document. However, the illustrations below could give a brief idea of the nature of work and scale.

Visual fidelity is redacted to comply with non-disclosure policy with Verizon.

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Results

Instant Access is currently in its public alpha phase and SiriusXM has come onboard as a client to conduct a pilot launch. SiriusXM reported conducting a small user research study with their employees to test adoption of Instant Access by users previously using conventional IVR. The results came in our favour reporting the following:

  1. 8 out of 10 users continued using the downloaded application.

  2. 75% people reported feeling “happy/successful” in the survey after experiencing Instant Access.

Retrospective

In retrospective, a few points stand out which could critically enhance the quality of the product. The first being investing in initial user research to form a strong foundation of our understanding of our target users. Second, more time could’ve afforded for feedback from actual users of IVR. This would’ve fortified various product decisions which were made based on collective knowledge and trends.