Mtek Interviews Tema Frank, User Experience Expert

The Interview

Tema has a wealth of experience in Customer Experience and User Experience both from the perpective of Marketing, and Technical Usability.  Her list of useful technology isn’t short – but it is well defined and crucial to how she does business.

Transcript Follows:

Tema: Hi. I’m Tema Frank and I am the Chief Instigator at Frank Reactions. Ah, I call myself Chief Instigator ‘cause Chief Shit Disturber just was a little too rude, and my focus is on helping organizations figure out how they can provide consistently great customer experience, especially now that we are in a digital era where there’s constant social media tension and a lot more potential pitfalls out there and a lot more competition.

What Technologies are Important to You?

Tema: Well, um, of course I use a lot of the standard stuff—I use the whole Google Suite stuff. I’ve succumbed, like everybody else, to the value of convenient free services, ah, or largely free. But there are others that I use that I just find helpful on top of that, so things like Active Inbox which is a really great little tool that works on top of Gmail and is, ah, essentially for task management and I find that quite useful. I also use for things like meeting scheduling obviously Doodle polls but also there’s a service—and there are now a few different ones—called ScheduleOnce where, in my case because I have a podcast that I do, I am also trying to book people for that and rather than a dozen back-and-forth interviews, I just send them to a link so it’s, you know, MeetMe.so/temafrank and they can just pick a time that’s convenient for both of us. So I find that’s a real time saver for me as well. And then, you know, your standard tools like MailChimp and LeadPages, various social … or digital media marketing tools.

Passions & Pet Peeves

Tema: Yeah, I really … My pet peeve, I guess, is when companies don’t take useability seriously and don’t take user experience seriously. So back in 2000/2001 I had actually founded a company called Web Mystery Shoppers, and what we were doing was essentially remote useability testing of websites and web-related customer service. And the thing that I discovered there, and I still see this … I think websites have improved since then, there’s no question, but if you’re really close to either web development or to your own company, you know stuff that’s obvious to you and isn’t obvious to people who land on your website. And so getting outside testing done is really, really important. And I mean, I fell victim to that too. I remember when we started the company and we had a survey that our potential mystery shoppers had to fill in and it went over a couple of pages, and we found people would start filling in this survey and then suddenly they’d stop! And then they’d send me these e-mails saying that my survey didn’t work. And I finally found out that what was going on is: In a computer programmer’s mind, when you wanted to move to the next tab you would press “Shift” (I guess it was), whereas in a consumer’s mind, [when] you’ve finished what you’re writing there, you press “Enter.” “Enter” was submitting the page, and that was so obvious to the programmers—so not obvious to everybody else. So it’s so easy for things like that to happen, and the longer you’ve worked in web-related stuff, the more obvious it is to you.
And the same thing really happens with companies: I see this all the time, where companies think that it’s really obvious that you’ll find, you know, they’ll give some cutesy name to services and they’ll think that it’s gonna be obvious to people, and it isn’t! So sometimes it’s better to just use the standard terminology so people can find what it is you’re offering easily.

Tips & Tools for Useability

Tema: Well, there’s several tools and you use different tools and approaches at different stages. So, in an ideal world you want to start some testing before [you’ve] even done any coding. So you want to start bringing in some people who aren’t familiar with your products or services, even when you’ve just done wireframes, when you’ve done first (sort of) little drawings of what you want the site to be. Find out what’s logical to them. There are tools you can use to help with things, what’s called a card sort in useability, where to help you come up with: What are the right navigation titles? What makes sense in what category to your potential users? So there are (and offhand I can’t think of the names of them) … but there are a lot of tools that help you do that.

Then once you’ve actually got a site that’s ready for testing there are tools like usertesting.com where you can actually get video of somebody who’s doing kinda what they used to do in a lab environment. So they’ve got a camera on them and as they’re working through the site they’re giving feedback about what they’re experiencing, where they’re hitting barriers. And that’s good if you only need to test with a few people; if you want to test with a much larger sample … And, you know, the problem with user testing is if you’re going through video with hundreds of people you’re going to be at it forever … So for a simpler type of testing but with a larger sample size there are tools like Loop11, where you can get a large number of testers to test little aspects of the site as well.

Honestly, I’m exploring new tools right now. I’m really intrigued to see what tools exist and are coming on-stream for two things: One is for mobile, and it’s … Mobile has such exciting potential as a testing tool, not just for websites but for consumer behaviour generally. So people are much more comfortable now whipping out their phone in a store and taking photos and giving some feedback; that has tremendous potential. Haven’t yet found the perfect tool for that, but that’s starting to happen. So the other type of tool that I’m really excited by the potential of, but again I don’t think we’re quite there yet, is the ability to do automated assessment of open text—of feedback that’s just open, not structured, feedback. Because one of the problems we had with Web Mystery Shoppers is we would have like, two or three hundred people giving detailed feedback; there was a mix of qualitative and quantitative. So the quant is easy—you can calculate your averages—but going through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of comments, that’s where the real richness was, but it was also really time-consuming. And I think we’re getting close to being at the point where there will be tools that will help us analyze that sort of text effectively. Ah … It’s still, I think, at this point being oversold. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re getting closer. That’s, ah, all I’ve got to add rather than the fact that if people care about customer experience I have written about the topic. I have a book called “People Shock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule,” and I also do a bi-weekly podcast, “The Frank Reactions Podcast,” and, ah, I’d be happy to talk to anyone who’s got questions. They can find me in all the usual places.

Interviewer: Fantastic.

Tema: Thank you.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Tema: Thank you!