Finding common ground for massive digital improvements

  • Client Location Vancouver, BC
  • Industry health, insurance
  • Client Since 2016-01-01
  • Available Links

In an environment highly influenced by regulations and legal codes, one might assume that creativity and user-centered design must be obligated to take a backseat. After all, just how much “innovation” can be doled out in a setting that holds risk mitigation as a core value?

Pacific Blue Cross knows that space well: occupying the intersection of both the health and insurance industries, yet still desiring to deliver top-notch customer service.

“It’s a fascinating push-pull relationship to be part of,” says PBC’s Marketing Innovation Manager Aaron Brady. “On one hand, you have this company-wide requirement to play it safe. 

On the other hand, you have an intense organization-wide desire to truly treat our plan members like people, not policy numbers.”

It was within these conflicting aspirations that Aaron and PBC found themselves considering their customer-facing app: would it be possible to make it human-friendly and still make legal happy? To make user-experience improvements to the app that considered both the corporate environment, and the customer reality? Domain7 teamed up with PBC to explore this hypothesis.

A starting point of customer-centricity

From inside the boardrooms of Pacific Blue Cross, we saw clearly that even knowing the challenges that may arise between “creativity and corporate”, PBC was ready to pursue user-centeredness. And they had a great base to start from: existing user research and personas.

From this existing research, Domain7 created benchmarks to understand PBC’s starting point: how were things performing for their customers today? We created a measurement framework through a user satisfaction survey, and a review of analytics and activity levels of current app users.

PBC also started with six personas guiding the project, complete with photos and names: these became posters that adorned the collaborative workspaces of our project teams. We offered our UX expertise to help refine and evolve these personas to better understand the world of the users, which included running experience mapping sessions to help connect the dots between user research and personas.

“We were able to use the work of an external research agency to get to know the lived reality of the people Pacific Blue Cross is trying to serve,” says Domain7 Designer Stanley Lai. “Getting into the world of the user builds empathy towards their situations, which inevitably translates to smarter design choices.”

PBC started with six personas guiding the project, complete with photos and names.

Getting into the world of the user builds empathy towards their situations, which inevitably translates to smarter design choices.

Stanley Lai, Designer, Domain7

Exploring what's working and what's not

It was then time to begin pushing the constraints of the product.

  • We conducted online usability testing to understand how the labeling and structure of the app were connecting with user needs.

  • We evaluated the intended product flows against the behaviour of actual user interaction, which illuminated many possibilities for improvement.

  • We also made sure to spend some time dialoguing closely with PBC on the possibilities for creativity within the regulatory constraints.

  • From this foundation of product testing and regulatory dialogue, we moved into our audit of competitor products, to understand what else was taking place in the landscape.

With a measurement framework, personas, and a good sense of how the product was being used, it was time to zoom out and consider how the actual process of purchasing insurance fits into the broader world of the user. 

At what point in their lives does travel insurance become a question? Where in a person’s daily life would this question come up?

“Organizations naturally become a bit myopic over time,” explains Domain7 UX Researcher Justyna Berzowska. “We begin to see the walls of our own workplaces instead of the worlds of our users. A great user experience research process helps reorient our work to the actual realities of the people we serve.”

Conducting experience map sessions helped overcome this myopia. By creating a user journey map, based on actual conversations with users, we begin to see the actions, feelings, and thoughts of the user. It helped show that “travel insurance” is rarely on people’s minds — until it really matters, in the countdown minutes before a departure. It helped demonstrate when, exactly, travel insurance becomes an extremely relevant topic.

Organizations naturally become a bit myopic over time. We begin to see the walls of our own workplaces instead of the worlds of our users.”

Justyna Berzowska, UX Researcher, Domain7

Experience workshop with the PBC team and our head of UX: With a measurement framework and personas in place, it was time to consider how the actual process of purchasing insurance fits into the world of the user. 

Speaking human: Balancing plain language with legal-ese

From this base of understanding, it was time to explore how content and design tweaks can help make this experience better for users.

“We really saw that striking a more conversational tone was going to be key,” explains Aaron Brady. “Using plain language, in an almost colloquial tone, was going to be as much a part of any ‘design or UX improvements’ — because people’s experience often comes down to how they’re spoken to. Digital app design often neglects tone of voice, and that’s where we saw a chance to shine.”

Here, our teams got to lean in to the anticipated give-and-take in PBC’s legal and regulatory environment. Even with needing to step away from some of the simpler language, we designed a conversational user interface that embraced an accessible writing style and helped guide people through each step of the process. We broke the process down into clear steps, and connected each step with the decision-making needs and pacing preferences of PBC’s customers. The interface and onboarding flow became about customers’ needs, rather than PBC’s needs—and on the way, was able to meet both.

Getting it just right: Our Senior Designer Dan worked through a large set of options for the Blue Cross app icon. 

Digital app design often neglects tone of voice, and that’s where we saw a chance to shine.

Aaron Brady, Marketing Innovation Manager, PBC

The power of finding common ground

Through this iterative and explorative partnership, major breakthroughs were uncovered that changed how users interact. After this period of focused refinements, PBC was able to see the following impact: 

950%  increase in revenue in travel insurance sales
3x  the daily growth rate in active users since app launch
29%  more users and growing
23%  increased engagement 

“I’d love to say, ‘Put people first, and profits will come,” says Domain7 designer Stanley Lai. “It’s more like, ‘Find a way to listen and bring empathy at every step, to users and stakeholders alike, in all departments, and you’ll find an incredible return-on-investment.”

 For some of the upcoming app releases coming from Domain7 and Pacific Blue Cross partnership, customers will see a visual redesign that feels and functions like a whole new app. In the meantime, PBC clients and the corporation alike are finding great value both inside and beyond the mobile application, thanks to the strengthened understanding of the needs and experience of the members that was generated through this work.

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