Aosheng Ran

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About
Glass Half Empty

I teamed with three designers to identify enterprise experience opportunities in a company that provides customized battery solutions. Sponsored by Oracle, we proposed a CRM solution that integrates information sources and simplifies workflows through automation.

Practices
Tools
Duration
Team
Sponsorship

Client

Aiming to design solutions beyond personal experiences, our team reached out and connected with a company to collaborate with us to identify opportunities in enterprise workflow.

Located in Fremont, CA, the company has been providing customized battery solutions to a wide range of customers for decades. It works closely with customers to develop battery, chargers, and other power products.

The company thrives on responding to customer needs efficiently. As the business continues to grow, managing product requirements become a more difficult endeavor.

Photo by Frank Wang, Unsplash

Research

Through conversing with Hannah and Brian, we learned that the salespeople are responsible for maintaining product requirement documents (PRD) that each project evolves around throughout its life cycle. In each iteration, salespeople have to discuss with customers, PM, and engineering team.

Stages in a typical project.

From the initial conversation, we identified two problems that affect the efficiency of project completion.

Problem 1

The lack of alignment on customer needs affects battery performance and delays shipment.

A high level view of the service blueprint.

Some customers give wrong information due to the lack of knowledge for anticipating battery performance. Salespeople and engineering team also don’t always fully anticipate the factors that influence battery performance.

It's hard for sales to collect real requirements from customers. A lot of customers may say they want something operating at 85 degrees max., but we need to ask for more specific information. If the salesperson doesn't know how to collect the information or if the potential customer don't know how to tell their real needs, there would be become a miscommunication.

Hannah, VP of Industrial Business Group

Problem 2

Scattered information across different teams and platforms prevents salespeople from managing customer requirements efficiently.

Scroll right to see the details of salespeople's communication process in the service blueprint.

Currently, the PRD is originated from customer requirements in email, attached to the opportunity in NetSuite CRM, and managed in a Word document as the email conversations evolve.

It’s non-value added work. I don’t think our salespeople should put these information in one by one. It’s very time consuming, and more importantly, there will be mistakes.

Hannah, VP of Industrial Business Group

Working with customers, you can have five to ten, even more people that you’re dealing with at any given time. Our days are quite busy, we have to organize what’s the priority every hour.

Brian, Senior Sales Manager

We decided to focus on the first problem after confirming with Hannah that delay of shipment has greater impact on the current business.

Intent

How might we surface insightful information to help customers and salespeople align on project expectations and requirements?

To better anticipate battery performance, we aimed to explore design opportunities utilizing machine learning to surface insights based on past trends, including quote details, product specifications, battery spec, use cases, text results, etc.

Ideation

To make the best use of time between weekly check-ins with Hannah and Brian, we decided to brainstorm concepts and use concept testing to better understand the problem space and prioritize design direction.

Initial brainstorming.

We organized the ideas into different stages in the project, evaluated the benefit of each concept, and prioritized the ones with higher impact and reasonable feasibility.

Converging ideas.

Validation

In our check-in, we shared our simplified service blueprint with three concepts with the client.

Concept 1

Hypothesis

By adding a chatbot that confirms specs, asks additional questions, and gives immediate quote into the proposal form, the system sets early customer expectations and lays foundation to kick-start customer-salesperson conversation.

Feedback

The chatbot is useful in spotting obvious mistakes (i.e. unrealistic values.) The quote estimate isn't meaningful, since most customers are not 100% sure about the battery specs, and the quote could change very dramatically as the project develops.

Concept 2

Hypothesis

By asking initial questions before handling to the salesperson and comparing the project with past orders, the chatbot enables salesperson to ask more meaningful questions and ensure that past mistakes will not be repeated.

Feedback

The system equipped the salesperson with knowledge about the battery performance to avoid obvious mistakes and unnecessary communication with the engineering team, but isn't helpful when the customers don't express their needs clearly.

In reality, the latter case happens much more frequently. Many customers ask for quote before the engineering details are confirmed, presumably due to tight deadlines. The salespeople are left with no option but to wait for updates before the conversation continues.

Concept 3

Hypothesis

By suggesting multiple samples for testing, the system increase probability of successful performance and mitigate back-and-forth communication.

Feedback

It is better to get it right the first time to stay efficient and outrun competitors within the short time. Offering multiple options also appear to be less confident and isn't the company's style, when building relationship is critical for the business growth.

We realized that the problem isn't about understanding customer requirements when the specs aren't perfectly defined by customers themselves when they reach out.

While it was an impactful problem space, much more time and effort is needed to reach a purposeful solution. To better leverage our existing resources, we thought: can we help the company make existing workflow more efficient and respond to customer changes more quickly?

We turned to the second problem identified:

Scattered information across different teams and platforms prevents salespeople from managing customer requirements efficiently.

In the existing CRM solution, the time and effort spent in unnecessary labor impedes salespeople’s productivity and directly impacts the business.

Intent

How might we provide a timely and comprehensive view of customer requirements for all departments?

Market Research

We evaluated the features and plugins in the prominent CRM products in the market, including Salesforce and NetSuite CRM – currently used by our client.

While both products offer integrations to store relevant information at one place, there is little synergy between information sources. We aimed to introduce automation to today's workflow to reduce the amount of manual labor.

Ideation #2

Designing for Trust

When brainstorming ways to introduce automation to the workflow, we aimed to empower the employees by providing control and transparency, instead of replacing their roles and contribution.

Second brainstorming.

We organized our ideas based on the problematic moments addressed. Next, we prioritized the concepts based on the amount of impact and time saved, and examined how they could exist cohesively throughout the workflow.

Validation #2

We shared four opportunity moments in the experience journey and low-fidelity sketches in our next check-in.

Concept 1

Hypothesis

By generating customer account automatically from the opportunity, the system saves the salesperson's time copying and pasting information, and helps customer manages their orders more quickly.

Feedback

It is more worthy to help salespeople generate opportunities than customer accounts. It takes more time to copy and paste information to create opportunities, since they usually arrive as unstructured information, such as plain text in emails or PDFs.

Concept 2

Hypothesis

By generating PRD automatically based on opportunity information, the system saves the salesperson's time copying and pasting information and avoids human errors.

Feedback

The feature is useful if it works perfectly. For each opportunity, the salesperson will spend 5-10 minutes filling the form based on the email received. It is essential to keep options to manual edit the form.

Concept 3

Hypothesis

By generating talking points and reply prompts from the missing items in the PRD, the system helps salespersons prepare faster for the follow-up conversation.

Feedback

The feature sounds very useful, especially displaying missing items by the side of the call, since a lot of times the conversations go off tangent.

Concept 4

Hypothesis

By updating PRD automatically based on the conversation, the system the system saves the salesperson's time and avoids human errors.

Feedback

The feature is useful if it works perfectly. The salespeople could concentrate on the conversation and take fewer notes.

Design

Concept Iteration

Based on the feedback, we iterated our concepts focusing on:

Examining levels of automation.

High-fidelity Prototyping

Though we didn't put emphasis on brand identity, I created high-fidelity prototypes as proof of concept. We aimed to accompany the intelligence of automation with succinct and distilled visual design to differentiate ourselves from other enterprise software.

Approach

Structured Product Definition

It is essential to connect opportunities closely to product development status. By changing the format of product requirement document (PRD) from a word document to a living structured product definition, we believe that the system can avoid input errors and unlock potential insights from existing data.

Integrated Information Sources

By integrating the CRM tool with other platforms, we believe that the system can recognize opportunities for automated actions.

Solution Proposal

Recognizing Opportunity

When a salesperson receives an opportunity as unstructured information, such as a forwarded email, the email plugin recognizes it as a potential opportunity and suggests to import.

Autofilling PRD

Coordial recognizes the information in the email attachment and automatically generates a PRD. The salesperson can review all the fields before approving the changes.

Real-time Update from Follow-up

Before the salesperson has the follow-up conversation with customer, Coordial suggests talking points by displaying the missing items in the PRD.

In the call, based on the conversation, Coordial suggests updates to the PRD in real-time.

Structured Internal Communication

After the manager approves the opportunity to move forward, the information would be immediately available to the engineering team, so that all of them can communicate around the single source of truth.

Responding to Customer Changes

Whenever customers change their requirements, the salesperson can update the document immediately in the email, or open in Coordial and mark it as an issue to discuss with the team later.

We shared our findings and solution proposal with Oracle Design team at their SF office.

Reflection

Our team with the mentor, Sohaj Brar, designer at Facebook.

I'm very happy that we got to design for real-world problems in the enterprise space. I learned to adapt and pivot fast even if though the first problem we located didn't fit the scope of the project.

If there were more time, I would like to refine the detailed experience by conducting heuristic analysis of competitor products and usability testing.