I recently had the chance to speak with Jennifer Barton, Senior Director Product Management, and Toni Lo Sasso, Principal, User Experience, who both work for Accolade, a high-touch healthcare technology company, about the techniques they used to improve a claims interface for their internal customer service team.
To address the interface’s shortcomings, Barton and Lo Sasso started from scratch. They began by conducting interviews with the Accolade Health Assistants who rely on the system to answer claims questions for their users and to help them navigate the complex world of healthcare.
“We were looking to uncover the top pain points for Health Assistants and apply the 80/20 rule,” says Barton. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, focuses on finding and fixing the 20 percent of causes that create 80 percent of the effect.
But getting that information isn’t always easy. “I feel like half of the job is getting people to tell us the problem without solutioning it for us,” says Lo Sasso.
“We get a lot of solutions,” she says. “People say, ‘just change this to that or that to this,’ and it’s our job to push back and say, ‘but I really want to understand your problem because your solution may not scale or your solution may not solve two or three other problems we know we have.’”
Lo Sasso says the three most important things to identify at the outset of a process improvement project are, “What problem needs to be solved, why is it a problem, and who is it affecting?”
As a user experience designer, Lo Sasso gets users to reveal problems by observing them. “I get them to show me what they’re doing,” she says. “It adds a lot of value to be able to see someone use their tools…to see what they’re doing and the shortcuts they’ve created for themselves. I always want to see it…show me what you’re talking about.”
For Barton, it’s all about asking the right questions to solicit the kind of responses you want. “There are techniques like the five whys,” she says, “where you keep going and digging deeper until you get to the actual problem.”
“It’s an art,” Barton continues, “a skill you have to hone over time to make sure you are getting to the actual problem.”
Barton asks questions like, “If you say you want to get this done, tell me the process you would normally walk through to get to that point.” She says she takes on the role of a student: “I say, ‘just teach me, you’re the expert, tell me what you think is going on here and walk me through that.’” When users start talking about what they do every day, Barton says, “They are released from responsibility of giving me a solution, and they can start to just openly and freely talk about things.”
Barton and Lo Sasso both say their version of show and tell helps them get to the real problem, while uncovering the user’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. This gives the team a complete picture of who they are designing the improvements for.
Using show and tell, Barton and Lo Sasso learn what needs to be solved, for whom it’s a problem, and why it’s a problem. They’re then ready to compare notes and start working toward a scalable solution that works for everyone.
- Koch, Richard. “The Pareto Principle: Achieving More With Less.” Process Excellence Network, 25 May 2018, www.processexcellencenetwork.com/lean-six-sigma-business-performance/interviews/the-pareto-principle-achieving-more-with-less.
- “The UXer’s Guide to User Personas.” Justinmind, www.justinmind.com/blog/uxers-guide-to-user-personas/.