This paper draws on a discovery research project focused on the customer experience of Intrepid Travel's automated booking system. The Data Analytics team initially investigated customer behaviour when booking and found problems with high exit rates on the first and second steps of the 3-step booking process. A paradox was also found between the numeric NPS and CES scores for booking, and comments which revealed high volumes of customers requiring assistance from customer service to complete their online booking. The Product Manager for this project prioritised an extended discovery research phase to provide a more holistic understanding of the customer experience of online booking and answer some questions that arose from customer behaviours highlighted by the Data Analytics team. The UX Researcher's task was to design a research project that would analyse why customers were struggling to complete Intrepid Travel's automated booking process and provide recommendations to improve this system for a better customer experience.
The UX Researcher designed a qualitative research project with an ethnographic approach, which aimed to provide a detailed understanding of customer experience of Intrepid Travel's automated booking system. The project involved real customers completing actual online bookings, with participants from Australia, North America and Europe having their face, screen and voice being recorded in discussion with a moderator. These usability sessions highlighted customer's experience of decision-making, especially how the design of the booking system impacted a customer's sense of confidence, clarity and control. Ultimately, the results from this study demonstrated that Intrepid Travel's automated booking system negatively impacted customer's sense of agency in relation to their booking. The design and functionality of the choices presented to customers removed their ability to make decisions independently and instead caused confusion and a feeling of loss of control for customers. Using real customers who were engaged emotionally and psychologically with the booking process was crucial in uncovering agency as a causal factor in a negative customer experience with Intrepid Travel's booking system.
These details of the customer experience were highlighted in collaborative workshops with stakeholders and the product team facilitated by the UX Researcher. Two synthesis and analysis workshops were conducted with the aim of bringing stakeholders closer to the customer experience and engaging them directly with customer research. The Narrative Analysis workshop especially was impactful in drawing out customer's tacit needs, highlighting customer agency as integral to positive engagement with an automated system. Both collaborative workshops were successful in engaging stakeholders in how online systems can fundamentally impact customers emotionally and psychologically and pushing the customer journey beyond highlighting ‘pain points' to solve with design.
This case study demonstrates the value of digital ethnography in uncovering how an automated system impacted Intrepid customer's ability to maintain agency in decision-making when booking a trip online. This research uncovered significant design problems and the findings created a platform for UX design principles that ensure that redevelopment of Travel's online booking system centres on customer agency.