You know when you buy something new, especially if it’s a technology product – you get all excited and you show it off to your friends? Then all of the questions follow, like, “where’d you get that from?”, “How much did that set you back?”, “What are the specs?”, “What other colours did they have?”. Then you proceed by rattling off all of those high numbers and cool features it has.
And somehow, the answers you give to these questions, help your peers determine how cool the product is or how smart of a decision it was.
How about “How long did it take you to figure out?”
A surprisingly simple question that should be asked at the same time and held in the same regard, if not higher than the questions above. It’s one of those things that people rarely think about but it is an important contributor to the overall value of the product.
First, I’ll clarify what I mean.
In the software world, it’s slightly subjective, but the process from ‘commitment’ to ‘proficient’ is called ‘User Onboarding’. And the name for when a customer has ‘figured it out’ is when they are ‘100% Onboarded’.
At Boardingware this is the time from when a school has signed a contract, to the time that all of the users within the organisation are engaged with the software and achieving their desired goals.
Our Customer Success team works tirelessly to reduce the Onboarding Time every single day, which is evident in all of our amazing feedback, so today I want to discuss the two most important contributing factors to our success in this area.
- User Experience: Choosing an intelligent product
User Experience is how a person feels when interacting with a product. It’s the way it works for the customer and how it helps them to get the jobs they hired the product to do, done, with as little friction as possible.
In the picture above you can see Apple’s sleek design with only 3 buttons versus the remote for GoogleTV made by Sony. This is a perfect example of the product designer’s understanding of their users.
These products have been hired to do the same thing, but one is simple with 3 buttons and the other is unnecessarily complex. ’Oh but look at all of the cool features’ is the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people, but the truth is that 95% of the time – you won’t even use those ‘cool features’. Would you rather the company spent most of their time perfecting the features you always use or spread themselves thinly across a whole bunch of pointless junk?
I guess there’s a reason most of us have heard of AppleTV and not SonyTV!
So the first step to choosing a product with a great user-experience is understanding what jobs you are hiring the software to do.
We recommend using the ‘Jobs To Be Done’ method introduced by Clayton M. Christensen in the book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’.
If you are an IT manager at a boarding school, it’s incredibility important to do this alongside your residential staff because they’re the ones that will use the product on a day to day basis.
Once you have noted down the jobs you are trying to achieve, take a look at the frequency in which you do these jobs within boarding.
When we have talked to our current customers, these are the most common objectives….
Once this is laid out in front of you and your staff it’s easier to see what is important to your organisation and decide what product has a better user experience. This forces the conversation between departments to be focused on what gets the most important jobs done, in the simplest way possible.
But the UX isn’t solely responsible for onboarding your school. Given the complexity in staff structures and responsibilities at schools, there will always have to be some form of human touch to help with understanding the school’s processes and creating the proper workflows to match. This takes me to the next point.
2. Training and Implementation
In order to ensure the proper use of technology within the complexities in your organisation, it’s incredibly important to receive thorough training.
If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a product, you should look at the ‘time to value’ or the ‘time to ROI’. This is the time it takes to actually start generating a return on your investment.
A good company will begin providing value immediately with a personal success manager to ensure you and your staff begin benefiting immediately. A company with poor onboarding processes will throw clients in the deep end and expect them to learn for themselves. This causes a period of losses, and only a client will only reap rewards if they’re willing to stick it out.
It’s simply bad business to select a product that provides bad training. This paired with bad UX causes a much lower ROI than if you were to have these in place.
Let’s take a look.
Traditionally, school’s would have to spend a lot of money for a company to come on-site for training with their staff, and it wasn’t normally included in the ‘setup fee’. It was time consuming, expensive and it often relied heavily on the school’s internal IT team.
Following the expensive training sessions, software companies were limited in how they would monitor the success of the school’s progress, so the IT department was responsible for making sure that the product was used. This would spread them even thinner and could often lead to internal conflict due to a lack of understanding of the end-user’s job (In this case Residential/Boarding Staff Vs. IT).
In 2017, cloud software has dramatically decreased the cost for training and improved its effectiveness. This is due to the fact that it can be conducted remotely.
With proper training, your school will decrease the time it takes for you and your community to ‘figure it out’ so it should be included in your evaluation criteria.
The 3 key elements you want to check for
- Dedicated success managers: It’s important for your software provider to have dedicated success managers. If they don’t you will be sharing ‘sales reps’ which means a salesperson will be your point of contact who’s main role is to grow the revenue of a business. So if there’s you’re contacting them at the same time as a potential new customer, who do you think will win the attention of the sales rep?
- Training regimen tested by hundreds of customers: The training regimen itself is the ‘product’ you are paying for when you purchase training. Talk to the customers of the software provider to see what people say about their training program, that’s normally the most honest feedback.
- An average ‘Onboarding’ time of less than 60 days: I often think the best test is to be very blunt. Ask the software provider how long it takes to get a customer ‘Onboarded’. If they don’t know, or if it’s longer than 60 days, you will probably have a much bigger task on your hands than you originally thought.
From this information, it’s clear as to why it’s important to ask ‘how long does it take to figure it out?’ when judging a product. All of the bells and whistles you can rattle off mean nothing if no one uses them.
Be sure to use this criteria when you look at any software system for your school and feel free to ask any questions below in the comments section.