CXA Spotlight

John Walker
“If I took anything away from this CXA experience, it would definitely be about how to communicate more effectively to management the return on investment (ROI) of the user experience. When you can actively demonstrate that if you invest in user experience at the beginning of the product life cycle, at the end it results in less rework, greater shareholder value, and a product or service that customers love and want to engage with, then getting buy-in on things that are highly qualitative becomes easy.”
John Walker
UX Manager
Capital One

Innovation for Optimum UX

By Jim Garrett

John Walker has been working in the User Experience (UX) discipline for almost six years. He has held the titles of Business Systems Analyst, Usability Analyst, UI Process Manager, and currently UX Manager. Over the years he has helped shape and manage the user experience of self-service banking kiosks and ATMs at two of the top 10 banks – JPMorgan Chase and Capital One.

Now at Capital One, John operates among the product management and operations teams, but also must interface with the technology and design teams. By going from a systems analysis role at his previous company to UX manager at Capital One, his focus is no longer narrowly aligned to a technical solution but addresses aspects of the experience ranging from service and interaction design to product awareness and education.

How did your role change after coming to Capital One?

I was hired to focus on the process behind how we develop and deliver ATM user interfaces (UI) and to influence how we create better experiences for our customers. To help design and shape our first UI experience, it was important that I engage with our digital product, design, user research, brand, and technology teams. The information from these teams helped shape the information architecture, screen flow, visual design, and content strategy for the experience. These were the major steps that came into play when I initially started with the team back in 2013.

Currently, my role has progressed more into the innovation space, still focusing on self-service experiences, but on a broader scale. Where I was previously focused on the design and development of a single product and its base offerings, my focus is now the overall user experience for our entire product and service from initial design to how it’s performing in the market. When you think about an ATM, or any self-service option for that matter, the best experiences allow the customers to interact on their own terms in a convenient and secure manner. This often requires a multi-channel solution that is seamlessly integrated. Right now in our department we are focusing on enhancing our ATMs, bringing simplicity, humanity and ingenuity to the experience. This means revamping the ATM interactions, the product and service offerings, and the environments in which the ATMs live.

From an innovation front, we’ll be exploring alternative methods for our customers to engage with products and services in a more digital and personalized manner. I participate in our Innovation Design Thinking process, overseeing the UX research and design aspects of the processes, as well as being an advocate for the customer throughout the journey of the product development life cycle. We make sure we understand our customers and then figure out the best method to sharpen that product – what are the moments that matter to our customers? What does the product look like? What does it feel like? Then it becomes a matter of how we effectively develop and deliver that product such that it meets our requirements and adds value to our customers’ experience.

Has your business analysis background helped with your work applying UX principles on the product team?

It has been extremely valuable, especially in regard to putting tangibility behind what UX is, rather than it just being a buzzword. When I first joined my team at Capital One, I would hear people say, user center design (UCD), usability, or user experience, and no one really knew what it was. But, from taking the CUA and CXA classes, it really helped me understand what is this thing called UX design, what is user experience, and what are the actual tools, methods, and frameworks for me to effectively do my job.

After being equipped with my UX toolkit, I could confidently express the work that I was doing and the effect it was having on the products and the customers. It is about how easily our customers can engage with our products and services, how we can be proactive in making sure they have the information they need to make informed decisions along their journey. Now I can frame things in my mind and have the appropriate words to articulate the impact to my management team.

If I took anything away from this CXA experience, it would definitely be about how to communicate more effectively to management the return on investment (ROI) of the user experience. When you can actively demonstrate that if you invest in user experience at the beginning of the product life cycle, at the end it results in less rework, greater shareholder value, and a product or service that customers love and want to engage with, then getting buy-in on things that are highly qualitative becomes easy. That was the biggest take-away from the CXA.

Then it’s a matter of how you internalize, institutionalize, and scale UX in the department as a whole. This is something I’m still working on. I talked with my management team about the usability matrix, and how we could score where we are along our journey, as well as how mature our practice is within the department. When I first came to Capital One there was no notion of what a mature UX shop should look like, so I explained what we could be doing to at least raise our score if we were going to use this matrix; these are things that we can do to help mature ourselves in this practice, and how we can then integrate that into Scaled Agile (SAFe). We had just changed our framework from Waterfall to SAFe, so it was really instrumental at that time.

How does the knowledge you gained to become a CXA spread to the rest of the team?

I think it happens on multiple fronts. Now I sit with the product team so it organically manifests itself throughout our innovation and product planning phases. In applying innovation to our channel, we have adopted the framework of design thinking. Design thinking is really big in our organization and the broader industry right now. The question becomes, “How is user experience design different from design thinking; is it really different from other leading UX practices?”

At the product and design level we tend to gravitate toward user centered design and design thinking methodologies, but since the overall guiding principles are the same, it’s easy to grab whatever method best suits the problem space. Given that I work directly with the product managers, when they come to my team with a product concept or business requirement, I reach into my arsenal of different UX tools and methods to make sure we are leveraging the right one to best understand our users before we move forward with our UX and product strategies.

Can you give an example where you applied PET – persuasion, emotion, and trust?

When I think about persuasion, emotion, and trust (PET) in general, the ATM is one of those things in which some people love it and trust it, while others don't like it, or are skeptical based on a previous negative experience. When they are at the ATM, they want to perform their transaction and get out of there quickly. Trust and security are huge factors, and we hear that a lot during our user research and through our Voice of the Customer (VoC) feedback. A huge trust factor that we have heard resoundingly is around ATM acceptance of media – checks and cash. When the machine meets the user’s needs by performing as expected, they trust it. During the PET interviews, you’re able to tease out those emotional drives and blocks people have towards their money and the machine that’s going to accept it and/or give it to them. From these conversations we’re able to translate that into something actionable our operational reliability team can address.

How can we have a casual conversation with our customers and speak their language? A lot of the work that comes from the content strategy team focuses on how we can use words and phrases that speak to them, but also helps guide them and/or persuade them to take a particular action. This is what makes the PET interviews so powerful; you’re able to hear and understand the words and phrases people use to refer to different aspects of an experience. We leverage this to create a conversation (on-screen and via voice guidance) that is more humane and straightforward. We want to create content that not only presents clear and concise information and instructions, but also makes them feel comfortable and know that they can trust us, and that we have their best interest at heart. One example would be using less formal jargon by personalizing the conversation using the words “you can” to empower them and provide a sense of control over the experience. 

Is trust a factor when you are trying to move the process from the ATM card to the smartphone?

Absolutely. One of our strategies, like a lot of other banks, is to increase our self-service options. We’re really trying to wrap our heads around this model where there is an increased presence of self-service technologies and less human interaction. What happens when there is not an actual person I can call to help me in the event this machine has an issue? Trust becomes extremely important at this point, because it is easy to build trust with a person, but to build trust with an ATM is trickier.

When an ATM doesn’t do what you want or expect it to do, there is no dynamic dialog you can quickly have with the ATM to resolve the problem. If the ATM breaks at the moment, what happens then? Are there instructions as to what to do next? Can the ATM self-correct the issue on its own? So now trust becomes a huge factor when you’re layering in a second technological interaction – the mobile device and the ATM must now be trusted. Is this phone more secure than my card, and how do you ensure that for our customers?  It is our job as UXers to help build that trust across platforms, because without trust customers won’t use our products and services.

There will be a lot of this type of “card-less authentication” trending in 2016 into 2017. Things are moving fast in the FinTech space and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

CXA Spotlight

In this series we highlight the successes and achievements of those who have earned the CXA. If you are a Certified User Experience Analyst and would like to be considered for CXA Spotlight recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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