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“People Were Surprised That We Would Make Such a Big Change”

  • Cléa Fierz

It is easy to lose sight of the users during an 18-month web project. It was not going to happen in the post.ch project, though.

Roger Grüring and Silvan Bolli from the Swiss Post project team explain how they kept coming back to two key questions: What do our users actually need? And how do we make sure that we maintain a holistic view of this major project?

User Tests and UX Principles Inspire Surprising Innovations

How do you guide Swiss Post customers to relevant information on the new website? Can you give us a good example?

Roger Grüring: The Post website, that is, the online presence of Swiss Post, is the main point of access to Swiss Post’s digital services. This makes it a key interface between our customers and our online services. What is new is that customers have easy and swift access to the online service or information they need.

One prime example is the improved price overview: With just a few clicks, customers can find the price to send a parcel to Germany. At the same time, they are shown an overview of the relevant products and prices and what each one offers, so they can decide which product is best for them.

How did you go about putting users at the core of the project?

Roger Grüring: We started by doing specific analyses even before the project began, using qualitative customer feedback. We already had our suspicions as to what did not work so well on the old website. This preliminary work was the foundation of the project: We pooled these analyses to address them in a major project. When the project started, we could feed all these findings straight into the concept.

Silvan Bolli: During the concept phase, we continually did user tests with personal and business customers, using a clickable prototype. As part of our iterative approach, the feedback from these tests was used in the next steps.

We also got the entire project team to commit to 8 user experience principles. We kept coming back to these in our discussions. These principles were not just extremely helpful during the concept development but also during content generation. Even now, after the go-live, we are still relying on them heavily. I like to bring them up during meetings. They are part of our writers’ guidelines. They also form the basis for any and all activities on the website, including future development.

Every department had to rein in their own requirements to ensure the overall solution benefitted the customer.

Were there any surprises during the concept phase? Are there any new features that you did not see coming at the beginning of the project?

Silvan Bolli: You may have noticed that we no longer have specific customer segments following the relaunch: We stopped separating personal and business customers in the information architecture, even though we offer services for both. In the past, much of the content for personal and business customers was identical. This not only created a lot of extra work in content management, but also confused our users.

Roger Grüring: We did not expect to be able to take such a big step here. But our proposal was met with strong approval. We tested this change with our customers in several iterations, and in the end we could not find a reason not to do it. People were probably surprised that we would make such a big change.

How did the users react after the go-live?

Silvan Bolli: There was surprisingly little feedback from users. We had expected to see an increase in inquiries in our Contact Center, but the go-live and the time immediately afterwards went very smoothly. We had some positive and a bit of negative feedback. The total volume was very low, mind you — unexpectedly low, which we take as a good sign. All in all, it was a very positive go-live.

Is this also reflected in the actual number of users or in the user behavior on the website?

Roger Grüring: In the beginning, we tracked the customer service inquiries since we expected to see a spike because of the new website. We quickly realized, though, that the incoming calls had nothing to do with the new website. They were just regular calls about processes. On the other hand, we also did not see a significant decrease in inquiries. The total volume of inquiries is so large that it can’t really be absorbed by the website.

Silvan Bolli: We saw very clearly in the user tests that users would access online services a lot sooner than before. Our analytics figures confirm what the tests showed: The access rates for online services are on the increase and have been since the go-live. This confirms our concept, which was to provide faster access to the transaction for users. We have not been able to comprehensively analyse what happens in the online services themselves yet. But we can say for sure: We have improved the first step towards the transaction.

Roger Grüring (left) and Silvan Bolli from the Swiss Post.
Roger Grüring (left) and Silvan Bolli from the Swiss Post.

It’s the Holistic View That Counts

How did you put together the team for this large, group-wide project?

Roger Grüring: All divisions of Swiss Post were represented in a team of experts, which first and foremost included the four major business units: PostMail, PostLogistics, Swiss Post Solutions and PostalNetwork. Also, the communications and HR departments were represented by several people. In addition, we had several representatives from the business units: A representative for PostMail would, for instance, know a lot about mailing letters, but not about all their online services. Or to give you a different example: PostalNetwork knew a lot about access points but very little about third-party business. Having so many representatives involved was what made the project organisation such a lot of work in the end.

Silvan Bolli: In addition to the team of experts, we had put together a core team, consisting of the leading representatives of Swiss Post, Post IT and Unic. The steering committee was a project committee comprised of stakeholders from all divisions of Swiss Post.

To improve the customer experience, we had to work together across divisions and departments and constantly ask ourselves whether the new features really added benefits for the users. Each and every department had to rein in their own requirements more than once to ensure the overall solution benefitted the customer.

How did you do that? How did you manage to get the stakeholders on board with this?

Roger Grüring: One major challenge certainly was to keep educating people from within the group on human-centered design. The basic principle of involving those affected holds especially true for such major projects. We started communicating early on and kept reminding people why we were doing the project and what benefit we intend to generate for users.

This became particularly evident in “information architecture”: This is where everyone wants to be visible, where they all want to showcase their product, ideally at the top level. That lead to a few debates. But because we had brought a team of experts from all divisions on board, we managed to keep these demands in check. Since all divisions were sitting around one table, there was so much pressure to get the overall picture right that no one tried to just push their own agenda. It is a legitimate approach: The representatives speak for their divisions and want to get the most out of it for those divisions. No single person can understand all aspects per se. In the team of experts, everyone presented their own points but oftentimes also heard the opposing argument right there and then. That way, it was obvious time and again that there are different views on certain matters. This allowed us to take the discussions to a different level and to find appropriate solutions. Everyone understood that we are working on a website for the Post and not for one division of Swiss Post.

Occasionally, we also talked to people outside the team of experts, for example, to the sales team or a team of product managers. Sometimes, we also had bilateral meetings to find a good solution.

Silvan Bolli: In developing the concept, we kept circling back to the same question: What is our customers’ need for this product? We did not use reverse thinking: We have product xy and that is why it will be represented in the information architecture. The frequent user tests also helped us find good solutions. These gave us plenty of reasons to argue why this decision makes sense from a customer point of view. We even managed to turn some of our internal stakeholders into ambassadors.

We also increased awareness for the fact that the new website is a big step forward, but that we also still have a long and adventurous road to travel to achieve a stronger customer focus. Our partner Unic is an expert traveling companion for this journey and very familiar with the requirements and challenges of Swiss Post.

Guide Users Based on Their Needs

One of the project’s goals was to better showcase the various postal services. How do you present the lesser-known services on the new website?

Roger Grüring: Post.ch is now aligned even more consistently with the needs of our customers. It no longer makes a difference whether customers are already familiar with the postal services or willing to be surprised by what we have to offer — they are simply guided to the services they need.

The new website also offers suitable modules to create as much visibility as possible in a short time for the lesser-known postal services. To achieve this, we restructured the start page and created a space to display specific campaigns for new products. That helps us increase their reach.

Swiss Post operates in a competitive market. How does your new digital presence help you successfully position yourself in this competitive environment?

Silvan Bolli: The new digital presence helps us showcase our services in a cleaner and simpler fashion. Especially in logistics, products are often complex and tailored to certain target groups. The new website allows us to advertise our products even better, to communicate their advantages more clearly and to make services easier to use for the customers. This helps us stand out in a challenging market.

The Swiss Post website is now the quintessential information and transaction platform for customers. The focus has shifted to the transactions required by the customer, which allows them to get things done quickly and easily.

Regardless of how much pressure we were under, the team spirit was always positive and communication was always goal-focused.

Achieving Goals With Team Spirit and Commitment

Roger Grüring, you have been with Swiss Post for many years and have been a part of several relaunch projects. What was special about this one?

Roger Grüring: This one was special because from A to Z, everyone was pulling in the same direction. There was no resistance internally — not even when we proposed very radical changes. The fact that we kept iterating with customers for the development of the concept definitely helped.

How did this project differ from the relaunch project in 2015?

Roger Grüring: It is primarily a difference in scope. The project setup was fairly similar to five years ago. Even then, we successfully included project members from all divisions in a team of experts.

Was there a key experience for the two of you?

Silvan Bolli: When, in April, we were under a lot of pressure due to delays in development and content migration, the project members kicked it up a notch and caught up with the schedule within two weeks. The willingness of people to go the extra mile made it possible for us to realise the project on time in the end.

Roger Grüring: For me, it is similar. But it’s more about a key factor: Team spirit. Regardless of how much pressure we were under, the team spirit was always positive and communication was always goal-focused.

About the Interviewees

Roger Grüring was the expert sub-project manager and today works as Head of Channels & User Experience.

Silvan Bolli was the project manager and today is the Product Owner for Post.ch.

Reference One Experience

We have been supporting the Swiss Post on its path to digitalisation for around 20 years. For this website relaunch, we were in charge of user experience, design, and frontend to backend implementation on Sitecore 9 and more.

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