Design Thinking Process

A Product Manager’s Retrospective

A Product Manager’s Retrospective

To create successful products, Product Managers must assume a larger role than the tactical day-to-day management of project execution. While it is imperative to keep the team on track and moving toward the end goal, a broader, more strategic stance will create long-term success and viability.

At Handsome, our Product Managers are part of every dedicated project team. They ensure that we’re hyper-focused on details, while also taking a comprehensive look at the project overall. This enables us to help our clients establish a long-term strategy for their product system as a whole.

Recently, we’ve been working with FedEx to help them reimagine the customer experience around their drop box. Since this is one of FedEx’s largest retail channels ($1 billion+ a year in revenue), I, as the Product Manager, knew there was a major opportunity to help establish a long-term strategic vision that would truly set them up for success.

Setting the Standard

One of our first steps in this type of engagement is to gather varying levels of stakeholders for a kickoff workshop. This typically consists of one or two days of in-person activities during which we begin unpacking the complexities of our client’s business and the problem they want us to address. In this case, we coordinated a 2-day workshop at our headquarters in Austin, TX, and included a large group of mid- and senior-level FedEx leaders.

These kickoffs enable everyone involved to align early, and they give us the opportunity to set client expectations before a project starts. Coordinating this with FedEx required typical meeting preparation such as establishing an agenda, prepping the team, and ensuring that all the right people ended up in the room. The kickoff is a crucial part of our process. It’s important for me, and other Handsome Product Managers, to immerse ourselves in the problem space so we can have informed, productive discussions with our clients and gain a deep understanding of their business and industry. One of the most effective ways we’ve discovered to accomplish this is by working directly with clients to build out a Service Blueprint.

Beyond The Box

In preparation for the Service Blueprint exercise, our Lead UX Designer and I outlined the typical customer journey of someone trying to ship a package using a FedEx drop box.

We used this outline in our meeting as a framework upon which we could build our understanding of the drop box experience and the shipping industry as a whole. We worked alongside our FedEx stakeholders to outline all of the steps in a range of different use cases. We highlighted pain points and opportunities surrounding everything from the first time someone decides to ship a package, to discovering the drop box as a viable option, to using it and beyond.

One of our values at Handsome is to “own the experience.” This means that we consider the entire lifecycle of a product as well as the overall journey of a user. A Service Blueprint is an effective tool to visualize the customer journey end-to-end.

Generating Ideas For Today and Tomorrow

The Service Blueprint Exercise revealed several opportunities to improve a user’s shipping experience before they even arrived at a physical drop box.

We took these opportunities into collaborative sketching sessions and ideated, not only on near-term solutions but also on more far-reaching and future-thinking concepts. As the team generated ideas, we began bucketing these improvements into short-, mid-, and long-term opportunities in order to develop a strategic roadmap for FedEx. This allowed us to focus on the immediate task at hand — redesigning the drop box experience — while also considering how we could integrate longer-term improvements that would enhance FedEx’s overall retail experience.

After shipping a package myself, I was surprised how little information was readily available about drop boxes. I had never used a drop box before because I wasn’t sure how to use it or its limitations. Helping someone understand the shipping methods that would best suit their needs seemed like the simplest way to make an immediate impact and drive more consumers to the drop box.

Once our team had a direction and a plan to solve for the issues we uncovered, we began constructing prototypes of the boxes for testing. The prototypes proved crucial to ensuring that every part of the design served its purpose. In order to see how consumers would respond to our proposed design changes, we recruited subjects, put them in front of our two life-size FedEx drop box prototypes and observed them as they walked through the entire shipping process.

Over the next few weeks, we spoke to end users ranging from shipping customers to actual FedEx couriers. Personally conducting and helping to facilitate this user testing, rather than just hearing about the findings second-hand, was a great opportunity for me to empathize with the users and to understand which parts of our solutions provided the most value. Using our observations, we were able to quickly evolve our designs — through multiple design iterations and testing cycles — to arrive at the best possible solution.

Helping build the physical drop box prototypes gave me a deeper sense of what we were trying to accomplish. I was eager to get the boxes in front of potential shippers, hear their feedback, and iterate on the designs so that we could create the best experience for both FedEx and their customers.

Looking Forward

Involving Product Managers from kickoff to delivery not only keeps our projects running smoothly but also helps cultivate a deeper understanding of what we’re building and, more importantly, why we’re building it. Maintaining a dual focus on what we’re working towards today and where we can take the product in the future allows us to provide our clients with the best product support and strategic guidance.

About Handsome

Handsome is a design and innovation company.

We create beautiful experiences that drive businesses to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

We’re entrepreneurs, collaborators, inventors, thinkers, and makers. We focus on creating brands, services, and products that impact users across a holistic, technology-empowered journey.

We’re independently owned and headquartered in Austin, Texas with a team comprised of strategists, designers, and technologists.

Our client partnerships include FedEx, Keller Williams, Facebook, Home Depot, and Nickelodeon.

Our team is growing. Want to create things that make an impact? careers@handsome.is

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