April 30, 2020

An invaluable trifecta of insights for every product leader: analytics, voice of customer, and session replay

Post by: Guest Author

This guest post is part of our Continuous Product Design (CPD) Evangelist series.

In this post, Jason Dickson shares what he considers an invaluable trifecta of insights needed to build better digital products. Jason is the former Director of Product at Hilton and former Head of Website Optimization at Expedia Affiliate Network.

Like many parents these days, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find activities to keep my kids busy during our new quarantined lifestyle. This has led me to break out old jigsaw puzzles that haven’t been used in years.

My daughter in particular loves these throwbacks to a simpler, analog time. But inevitably, after completing the puzzle we always end up with a missing piece (or two).

It’s a disappointment, because without that piece the picture isn’t complete.

Many of us face the same challenge when building digital products.

Product design should start with the customer, but often there’s a missing piece or a black hole in our understanding of the customer experience.

Often this means that we’re unaware of friction points that make it difficult for customers to use our product. Or, if we’re aware of the friction points, we can’t quantify how frequently they occur or what the impact is to the business, and therefore we can’t reliably prioritize them.

Through the years, I’ve come to rely on what I see as an invaluable trifecta of insights to help fill in this picture: analytics, voice of customer (VoC), and session replay.

While each of these tools provides value in their own right, when integrated they provide powerful insights about the customer experience.

Analytics tools give us a view into performance

Of course, everyone knows and loves analytics tools.

We couldn’t run our businesses without them. They’re great at giving us a view into the performance of our product. For instance, what paths are customers taking? What are they engaging with? Where are they dropping off? This is all critical information that we need in order to maintain the health of the product.

But, while these tools are great at telling us what is happening, they’re not so good at telling us why.

Why do some customers abandon the enrollment form before completing it? Why are others not clicking on the fancy new marketing banner? It’s not always clear.

Voice of customer helps fill in the why

VoC adds to the picture by helping to fill in the “why.” VoC takes many forms, but I’ve always found it helpful to provide a combination of passive and active options for customers to provide feedback.

Passive feedback can include feedback buttons or forms that are static, always-on, and available whenever a customer wants to tell you something. This is a great channel for uncovering previously unknown issues and bugs.

Conversely, active feedback options such as online surveys allow you to focus on specific business questions. Was the guest able to accomplish what they came to do? Why or why not?

The insights received through VoC channels are a goldmine because it’s your actual customers telling you about their experience.

Unfortunately, feedback can sometimes be vague. It’s always frustrating to receive a comment like “Your app won’t let me complete a booking” or “Your website stinks”—only to be told by your Support teams that they can’t reproduce or troubleshoot the issue.

You know you have a problem; you just don’t know what it is. And to make matters worse, you can’t quantify the impact to determine if this is an anomaly or a larger issue.

Session replay fills in the rest of the picture

Luckily, we have session replay tools to help fill in the rest of the picture.

By connecting session replay with your VoC and analytics tools you can now “see” exactly what the customer experienced. No longer do you need to spend hours and hours to (hopefully) reproduce a bug so that the Engineering team can identify the issue and implement a fix.

Now you can quickly understand what actions were taken that resulted in that lost booking. And what’s more, you can search for similar sessions in order to identify how many other customers are affected and quantify the business impact.

Is this a one-off issue or just the tip of the iceberg of a larger underlying problem with the product? By quantifying the business impact, you’re now able to make informed data-driven decisions on prioritization.

We need the complete picture for a continuous loop of learning

Obviously, these aren’t the only tools that the team will want to look at. Application Performance Monitoring (APM), Marketing Analytics, and others may be used to help pull together the full picture.

It’s important that data sets are integrated together to create a single source of truth for the company, and not siloed away among different teams. It’s only through this full picture that we’re able to rapidly learn and respond to customer needs. We’re no longer guessing about what should be built or why yesterday’s code release is converting worse than the previous version.

With a focus on this single point of truth, stakeholders from across the organization are clear on what is driving performance and what should be prioritized based on hard data from customers.

Teams are able to identify, quantify, and prioritize new opportunities in real time. It’s this continuous loop of learning and iterating that allows us to achieve Continuous Product Design and truly deliver products that our customers love.

Jason Dickson