CUA of the Month – September, 2014

Jeff Janis
“Pretty much anything that our core audiences interact with is an opportunity for obtaining a customer’s or end-user’s perspective. We emphasize to our business and IT project teams that ‘you are not your user or customer.’”
Jeff Janis
Sr. Usability & UX Services Consultant
Progressive Corp.

Giving Voice to the User Experience

by Jim Garrett

Our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, Jeff Janis, is a true champion for the user experience. Jeff has a passion for educating, leading and improving the overall Progressive user experience for its customers, agents, and employees. Jeff introduced User-Centered Analysis & Design methodology into Progressive business and IT projects in 1997.

Jeff facilitated the first information architecture design reviews and card sorting studies in 1999, as well as led the effort to design, fund, and build Progressive’s two usability labs. He is a Senior Usability Services and UX Consultant at Progressive. He received his CUA from Human Factors International in 2008 and is studying for his CXA exam in September 2014.

What kind of testing do you do?

We do a mixture of web and mobile testing. Our targeted participants are customers, agents, and our own employees who use our business applications and sites along with our Intranet sites. Testing web-based training modules is also important since our reps cannot always take time to go back into the classroom. We have screening requirements for each audience based on the demographics and user behaviors to select our targeted participants. We introduced an eye tracker for particular business studies. We have conducted a number of studies on all of our customer interactions over the years.

You test everything?

Pretty much anything that our core audiences interact with is an opportunity for obtaining a customer’s or end-user’s perspective. We emphasize to our business and IT project teams that “you are not your user or customer.” We even test our interactive phone menus because we are concerned about any misrouted calls that lead to an unfavorable customer experience. One case in particular comes to mind in 2010 where we needed to revise and usability test the menu set up with consumers due to numerous misrouted calls.  Because the menu was based on our internal org structure, it did not meet our customers’ expectations. We quickly tested it out and corrected it which resulted in no more misrouted calls for that function. It was a lesson learned and we applied that change to our web/mobile sites and mobile apps. Business intention has to meet customer expectations, and you need to obtain their input on the full experience.

Any surprises from your teams?

We have opened a lot of eyes by having a lab for bringing our IT, training, and business teams together so they see the same thing happening by observing our usability tests. Many team members who come in to observe sometimes end up staying the whole day and say they are surprised with the results. They become believers in the process.

Can you think of any projects you worked on that created a really significant impact on the business or the user?

We did about four straight years of testing with three different audiences every six weeks on one of our larger projects. We came up with a common solution that works for our customers, our internal users, and our agents. That was huge. It was difficult because we were trying to make sure it works for two power user groups – our employees and agents – plus our customers. Fix second dash

What have the CUA and CXA classes helped you with in your position?

Our team passed the CUA certification in 2008 and we took the May and June 2014 CXA classes in preparation for the September exam. I’ve taken the basic concepts from the CUA portion into the classroom by teaching the same material in a 3-day “Essentials of Usability” class we purchased from HFI. I added many Progressive examples in the material so our employees get a sense of how the concepts apply in our own sites and apps.  We’ve also taught a “Usability Overview” class to hundreds of employees to give a summary of how User Experience research and testing are important to Progressive’s success.

We are looking to incorporate the PET methodology from the CXA tract into our practice to support our innovation efforts. HFI has been very supportive through the classes, training materials, certification tracks, and general information in helping us expand our services. We look forward to working with HFI as our mentors on some future efforts especially around innovation.

Your career parallels the evolution of UX, and now here comes the innovation structure that takes you into new territories. Does it make it more interesting for you?

It does. I mean we still do quite a bit of day to day types of things but over time we have been getting into some of the other areas where we can do some deeper dives. Over the years we have offered white board design facilitation, business process modeling, information architecture consultation, remote moderated and unmoderated testing, and other user research services.  That is why we are interested in the PET methodology as a next value-add capability.

I think there is value there, so the timing of that training this year was great. As far as taking those courses, I had no idea what impact it could have until I saw how the techniques can apply to our business. The HFI CXA courses highlighted the importance of customers’ emotions and trust in their relationship with us and the proper persuasion techniques we can use to address their needs and concerns. PET is definitely the “will do” part while usability is the “can do.”  They are inseparable.

Does it make it more of a challenge without numbers to convince the business of the feasibility of what you need to do?

Some of the tools we have can give us a prediction of how customers will respond and now we can test larger numbers which helps the business make better decisions. Sometimes there are challenges, but I believe our work is pretty well received.  I think it is because we provide valuable services and we have been able to test and make changes that turn things around quickly.  We have done usability testing since 1997, and business groups still come back on a regular basis.  Since we have new employees, or new users of our services, we invite people to come over and watch other tests and talk to us about their user experience needs especially if they have never been here before.  We enjoy working with our teams. 

What is the main challenge to upholding the user experience?

There is always that struggle between meeting business objectives, seeing what is technically possible within the project budget, and the project deadline.  We are constantly trying new things. Some work, others don’t without some redesign and retesting. We would like to think everything meets the users’ expectations right away along with the business objectives but that’s not always the case.  It’s a bit of give and take. Knowing the users’ motivations and meeting their mental model is really important. It’s always rewarding to see how pleased the business teams are with the results when they meet users’ expectations. The payoff is meeting the users’ expectations while also fulfilling the business objectives.

I know you made reference to a couple of other projects.  Are there any other current projects that you are working on that you can talk about?

We have some of the same challenges that our colleagues are working on in insurance and other industries such as customer service center applications, internal sites, and keeping up with mobile changes. The number one challenge is still navigation on a site or app along with clean and useful information architecture.

Where does your passion come from?

I’m always a customer user advocate.  I can see it from their view more so than just as an employee or part of the business. I started usability testing here part time sitting next to our users before we went to a portable lab and then built the two labs here.  I mainly watch what they are doing, their reactions, and why they do what they do.  I learn something new every day which makes this challenging and rewarding task.

An extraordinary customer experience just flows and people give us feedback that it “just works the way I expect it to.” That’s what we are striving for which also helps us meet the business needs.  It’s a win-win and that is what drives me in what I do.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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