CASE STUDY A user experience process
Monitor the lifeline of earth moving machines using an app
Client: CAT®, the product brand of Caterpillar® Inc.
Team: Revy Samia, Kevin Tanouye, Miranda Kay, and CAT Innovation Team
Duration: Two-and-a-half weeks
CAT's customers believed they need to purchase a new earth moving machine in order to upgrade their equipment. CAT would like to research how they could help their customers reduce their acquisition costs using a digital shopping tool.
We discovered that parts can be sold to customers from dealers only. Then dealer will contact CAT for parts or simply get more information. Buying parts from a dealer via phone call or using CAT's online store has proven to be frustrating for customers. First, it is difficult to identify legacy parts for old machines due to lack of tribal knowledge. Second, it is frustrating to buy parts online due to inconsistent database of parts. As a result, customer drops off a call or shop somewhere else. This cause lost revenue for the dealer and CAT and creates warranty problems for parts bought from non-authorized dealers.
In our research, we also did a competitive and comparative analysis of the industry's eCommerce platform. We wanted to understand how CAT's competitors are selling their products and what other services they provide online. We uncovered that all have similar issues, such as, unorganized information architecture, duplicated categories, broken data systems, and overlapped pages. A lot of the way finding didn't make sense.
Also, talking with dealers and customers, we learned that customers (ones who operate the machines) wanted an efficient way to track their machines on construction site. This will give them ability to monitor their machine's maintenance and have inventory equipment accurate. Currently, they are having to do too much inefficiently and end up spending more money, such as, unnoticed expired equipment warranty.
CAT is radically transforming their digital platform to help their dealer network and customers to make informed decisions when shopping for parts or machines so they don’t end up making unnecessary expenses.
The problem is CAT’s customers are confused about using the current acquisition tools that they end up doing too much. They don’t have the ability to track their equipment on the field efficiently, they have problems in maintaining their services accurately, and they face challenges in buying parts especially for the old equipments.
The goal is to increase clarity and user efficiency. If there’s a way for customers to perform their tasks efficiently, then CAT and their dealers will be well informed to meet their needs.
The opportunity is to expand revenue growth through a robust digital platform. One of the idea to address this is to create a mobile app for easy accessibility when needed right away. The primary goal is for customers to do their tasks efficiently and easy without confusion. The business goal is to mitigate loss of revenue from customer drop-offs and lack of customer-centered process.
Synthesizing our research data reminded us who the customers were and their challenging experiences, which allowed us to ideate the solution to the problem.
One of the methods we created was a journey map to determine improvement opportunities for the customer’s experience when using the digital platform.
On top of that, we created personas to humanize the problem based on individual goals and needs. This helped us further focused on the solution.
When is the next service?
Joe is a 36 years old operations manager who works for a company that has a fleet of 200 machines on 40 different sites. They have a dedicated CAT mechanic from their dealer for tech support.
He wants to save money on operations and his priority is efficiency. Keeping track of maintenance status on 200 machines is very difficult. He wants to use technology to solve this.
He is very tech-savvy and likes John Deere and Komatsu apps for machine tracking.
Goals and needs
He wants to save time and track maintenance on machines.
Where are my dozers?
Bob is a 45 year old business owner. He is a contractor currently working on 3 separate projects: installing a pool, renovating a kitchen to an existing house, and leveling a backyard.
He doesn't remember where his dozers are and often calls the site office to confirm the location.
He is not very tech-savvy and late adaptors of smartphone. He has trouble keeping track of his machines.
Goals and needs
He wants to track where the machines are and organize the equipment as per job specifications.
My machines are old. Upgrade or buy new?
Jim is a 62 years old factory owner of a brick manufacturing company that has been around 100 years. It pivoted from being primarily mining company about 40 years ago.
He is thinking about replacing one of his old machines with something that runs more efficiently and fits emissions regulations. He's not too concerned about price.
He is somewhat tech-savvy who likes to keep his machines forever and replace parts over time.
Goals and needs
He wants to replace his equipment or upgrade them to optimize his operation.
Before moving forward with the project, we had to get the client’s buy-in to the idea of the mobile app. Armed with our research data, we explained and suggested that in order for the app to work, their current digital infrastructure needed a major overhaul.
First, the major impact was the information architecture for way finding didn’t make sense. There were flows that went to another product portfolio and taken the user to the digital abyss.
Second, there were too many digital products with different data systems not aligned. This confused the user when searching for a particular product.
The client understood the challenges it will impose to incorporate the mobile app with their current system. Knowing that they are committed to transform their digital platform for scalability and profitability, they were okay for us to move forward with the prototype.
To focus on developing of the product, we conducted a design studio with the client to help us structure the goals and needs of the customer as a solution, such as, to track the maintenance of their equipment, to manage the fleet, and to buy parts for services or upgrades.
With the client’s involvement, we were able to fine tune the many design iterations and flesh out the features, way finding, and user flow of the product.
After the design studio, we created a wireframe for the mobile app to visualize the concept with material designs in place. It was the development phase where getting the right design of the app intertwines with getting the design right for the user’s experience. As a result, a prototype was created.
Armed with the clickable prototype stored in a smartphone, we went back to the customers we originally interviewed and did a usability test. They gave us constructive feedback and said solving the problem based on their goals and needs were met. Their experience in using the app was efficient and productive with less disruptive on time management. The only constraints we have found was the prototype was not high fidelity enough. It required time to explain the intent and being ‘wow’d’ by the initial look, they expected more content. Otherwise, the task was taken without any distraction.
One of the takeaway was during the research stage when we wished we had more customer experience data when we went out to do interviews. Given that we were given 2.5 weeks for this project, we were fortunate to acquire enough solid facts for CAT Innovation Team to present to Caterpillar’s stakeholders and influencers. They were confident with the materials gathered that they used our prototype as part of their presentation to land funding.
The next steps we recommended to them were to do more user research to get a better feel of the variety of customers and explore the advancement and overhaul of their data management systems.