Designing a new call center

Designing for Enterprise.

Redesigning Starwood's customer support portal, one sprint at a time.

1New1New

FRAMING THE CHALLENGE

Redesigning an enterprise-level customer support dashboard.

While working as a Visual Designer at Mad*Pow, I Ied the redesign of Starwood Hotel's internal call center dashboard. The original design, which had been created over 10 years earlier by Mad*Pow's CEO, was beginning to feel a little antiquated and deserved a refresh. The complexities of the system felt overwhelming to a new generation of call center employees, mostly comprised of millennials, and the underlying codebase required more upkeep than the value it provided. It was time for a change.

The original dashboard was made up of several modular panels, each representing an action that a representative might take during a booking. Call controls, account management, important notes, and internal messaging created a shell around the core features of the platform. The app had been created to run on tiny screen sizes, but not to make use of the real estate available on modern viewports. Immediately, we knew that we had an incredible opportunity to create a more immersive platform.

OriginalComputer@2xOriginalComputer@2x

THE ORIGINAL APPLICATION. NOT PRETTY, BUT INCREDIBLY WELL PLANNED.

CONCEPTING BLUE SKIES

Defining the vision.

Leading up to the project kickoff, the Louisville office's Creative Director, David Thomas and I spent a week creating moonshot ideas for the application's evolution. We began by writing all of the current application's features on whiteboards (we literally filled up a small room), then began translating those into design explorations. 

Note: David Thomas is an amazing designer and ridiculously talented Creative Director. We spent roughly a month working together on this project before I was given the opportunity to take full responsibility for it. In the interest of transparency, unless otherwise noted, I created everything you'll see here.

Immediately, we knew that we wanted to create a clear separation between the side of the application that the employee uses for herself, and the side that she uses for clients. Within her dashboard, she might find reporting and stats on her performance, important messages from her managers, and her schedule. For security and productivity, all of this needed to play second fiddle to the customer's needs. 

As people who have called into call centers before, we knew that wait times, predefined scripts, and redundant questions ruin potentially friendly conversations. Our goal was to create a structure that really put the caller in charge.

What We Knew :

It had to be easy for this application to put the ownership of the conversation in the caller's hands. The caller should not be locked into the scripted flow of the dashboard. 

Employee's reviews are based almost exclusively on call time and upsells, so the platform needed to be fast. 

The app must be accessible to power users who prefer to use the keyboard over the mouse.

The product updates were set to roll out in stages over the course of several years. All components of the application had to be built modularly. They needed to be able to expand on the current platform without interrupting call time or employee productivity. 

FirstIdeas2FirstIdeas2

Our Moonshot Designs.

My first pass at the designs swung to the far end of the aesthetic spectrum. After a day or so, I took a step back to laugh at myself for indulging such insane Minority Report-ishness. But in my madness, I had actually stumbled across a couple pretty interesting ideas. At some point, I became attached to creating large tiles on the dashboard that represented common actions, such as searching for a guest or starting a new reservation. I also loved the concept of showing the expected weather of the caller's destination. This would allow the call center employee to make her script more relational, and possibly even offer interesting upgrades.

THE SHOW STOPPERS

Two ideas that set the stage for the rest of the project.

Although David and I came up with tons of interesting ideas during this moonshot phase, two really held our attention. Three weeks later in Stanford, CT. when we presented these ideas in the form of wireframes to Starwood's executive team, these two ideas set the direction for the rest of the project.

The Reservation Cart

At the office late one night, David jokingly said that booking travel should be as easy as buying food at the grocery. We locked up and went our separate ways, but the concept stuck with us. Over the next week, we iterated on the concept of decoupling each step of the reservation process, allowing it to become more of a Choose Your Own Adventure process instead of the industry standard step-by-step monotony. This allowed the call center employee to easily adapt to the conversation.

The SPG Panel

We knew that the majority of Starwood's callers were SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) members and that they usually just wanted to change reservations, edit reservations, or check on their points balance. When calling in, members can identify themselves by their membership numbers to get faster and more accurate service. I proposed creating a persistent SPG Member Panel that could capture and showcase all of a caller's important information, from their reservation history to member status, birthdate, and beyond.

David and I turned our ideas into complete wireframes and created a prototype using Marvel. Our initial wireframes included a lot of complex but unique interactive explorations, including a card-based UI for past stays. After much discussion, this ended up in the graveyard, along with a host of other interesting but ill-fitting ideas.

Strange WiresNew2Strange WiresNew2

SEE THE WIREFRAMES IN ACTION.

[unex_ce_button id="content_jt92kmeux,column_content_drbvv4ode" button_text_color="#ffffff" button_font="custom_one" button_font_size="17px" button_width="auto" button_alignment="left" button_text_spacing="0" button_bg_color="#dbd93e" button_padding="15px 60px 15px 60px" button_border_width="0px" button_border_color="#dbd93e" button_border_radius="50px" button_text_hover_color="#ffffff" button_text_spacing_hover="0px" button_bg_hover_color="#d8d631" button_border_hover_color="#d8d631" button_link="https://marvelapp.com/g5b54h" button_link_type="url" button_link_target="_blank" has_container="" in_column="1"]VISIT THE PROTOTYPE[/ce_button]
StarwoodCover-WiresBG4StarwoodCover-WiresBG4
2New2New

THE DESIGN PHASE

Designing the core functionality.

Ideating the core functions of the application and getting sign off on the wireframes felt like a whirlwind, so we were all excited to settle into a more regular two-week sprint timeline. For the first year of the implementation, I was tasked with overseeing the design of the app's dashboard, which we coined as the "Call Panel," and the design and UX for the SPG Panel. While Starwood worked with the dev team to build the foundation for the new product, I introduced some colorful touches to our Call Panel.

At the time, over 900 Starwood Call Center employees used this tool on a daily basis, so it was important that this redesign felt cheerful and bright. Starwood has beautiful offices and an amazing company culture, and I wanted to design this tool in a way that seemed to support that underlying message.

THE COLORFUL NEW NAVIGATION

Reservation Cart - Closed2Reservation Cart - Closed2
NewCallPanelNewCallPanel

Designing the SPG Panel. 

The dashboard was easy to design. There weren't a lot of unforeseen issues or complications in the Call Panel, and the executive team had no plans for developing it for at least another 12 months. Overhauling the entire call center application was a multi-million dollar commitment that was spread out over the span of five years. 

We decided to implement the SPG panel first, pairing it with the pre-existing application. Thirty Jira stories, sixty-two iterations, and nineteen user testing session later, we settled on a complete UI and integration for the panel. 

The Call Centers had two screen sizes. One left absolutely no room for the SPG Panel, while the other had half the screen available. We designed the panel to be dynamically visible. When the IVR (that weird system where you talk to the robot on the other end of the phone, in Starwood's case, to share your SPG number) matches with a user account, the panel is displayed. The employee may then hide it, if she desires. On the larger screens, the panel is always visible. 

Here's what the panel looked like when overlaid on the preexisting design.

CardsIconCardsIcon

We used a card-based UI to showcase important alerts, property information, and reservation details. The cards used color as a wayfinder for status indicators, and could even be branded to sync up with specific Starwood properties. This allows the employee to gain a deep awareness of the caller's needs at a glance...literally.

ACCOUNT STATUSES WERE MARKED BY COLOR AND TREATMENT

AccountColors@2xAccountColors@2x

HOTEL CARDS COULD BE CUSTOMIZED WITH THE BRAND'S COLORS AND LOGOS

Hotel Cards@2xHotel Cards@2x

IF A PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A PART OF THE STARWOOD BRAND, THE CARD WAS GIVEN SPECIAL VISUAL TREATMENT.

Artboard 22@2xArtboard 22@2x
3New3New

TESTING NOTES AND CLOSING

99% more efficient.

After nearly a year of design and development, we launched the SPG Panel beta to a test group of 300 employees. To our shock and excitement, 99% stated that it provided "a marked improvement in productivity." The remaining 1% noted that they had no feelings whatsoever about the new tool. Out of 300 employees, we did not receive one negative review. Wow! 

Two months later, I reached out to the Product Owner at Starwood to see how the rollout was going. She excitedly told me that her team had reported that calls were shortened by up to three seconds, thanks to the SPG panel!

sadDividersadDivider

Not a month after I spoke with her, Starwood hired a new CFO. His first act was to slash funding on the development of internal tools, forcing our expansion to grind to an immediate halt. It was sad to see such an incredible project end so suddenly. The SPG panel rolled out to all 900 call center employees to great success. This year-long commitment to redesigning an enterprise-level application taught me a lot about designing micro-interactions and paying attention to the product's details. Since then, I've replicated steps from this research-driven process to redesign tools for HUMANA, Aetna, Fidelity, Disney, and more.  

What UX-led projects are you working on now?

[unex_ce_button id="content_iyusurf40,column_content_ug5j9rdph" button_text_color="#ffffff" button_font="custom_one" button_font_size="18px" button_width="auto" button_alignment="center" button_text_spacing="0" button_bg_color="#ffd300" button_padding="15px 60px 15px 60px" button_border_width="0px" button_border_color="#dbd93e" button_border_radius="50px" button_text_hover_color="#ffffff" button_text_spacing_hover="0px" button_bg_hover_color="#d8d631" button_border_hover_color="#d8d631" button_link="chris@christopheralandavis.com" button_link_type="email" button_link_target="_blank" has_container="" in_column="1"]TELL ME WITH AN EMAIL[/ce_button]
fslr after hoursapple md199ll ais protonvpn goodpanasonic ez1000aaxa m5lmgcmdyvcmct stockgamevice sues nintendolg g4 bootloop freezer fixticc stock dividendnyxbt stocksamsung ks7000 amazondeepak nitrite share pricejbl synchros e30 reviewepson wf 2660 driverhow to connect hp deskjet 2541 to wifimjlb stockwww vevo com activate firetvaxovant stocklumix zs60 reviewvívosportcanon xa30 reviewwddd stocksyrx stock pricelxft stockentune definitiondell p2715q reviewflux darkroom modeinsy stock newswhat happened to askjeevesdisca stock priceaezs stock priceyrc rumorsmtgox bankruptcysamsung ks9500 pricemyhi stockzosano pharma stockversartisnike hyperadapt costhp m277dw driver downloadnanr stockimdzasm100 1580ipair registrationhp elitebook 2540p specstril stock pricebenq pd3200u reviewnabi 2 argosmsi gt70 2pc dominator ssdamd 580xipad md785ll bgopro hero specsrtrx stock priceyi 4k action camera 90003avlifipad a1474 specsffxv regalia componentsoled65b7p reviewhoneywell lyric security homekitxlnx stock pricetradewavemdr as200 sony reviewtrmr stockrifftrax hulutranscriptor turntableentrim 4dharman kardon sb20vgid stockhp pavilion 15 ab127cahalo reach backwards compatiblepfpt stockmnkd earningsdarkest dungeon narrator quotesdell i7378 reviewargxlmnx stock pricevxf stock priceprkr stock pricexniftyczz stock pricejaybird x4 rumorslogitech squeezebox duet software downloadpanasonic tx l42d25bascena stock priceblinkforhome reviewsabiveapple airdrop printerasus mb169b 15.6 full hd 1920x1080 ips usb portable monitorcostco ihome speakerapp disguisernikon keymission 170 reviewuusdflipstagramsound blasteraxx axx 200 reviewairwatch container iossaex nasdaqsony xbr900e reviewlatitude e5450 specsvoog stock pricecb281hk bmjdprnyse ufivlkaf stock priceurbt stockdvaxnymhun65ku6290fxza reviewwhat is tvixbuz etfvuzix m100r2d2 inventor kitbolva tv companylgcyovizio 70 e series 4kcustom gamerpics xbox onerveal boxm277dw driver2ps64acer aspire e 15 e5 575g 53vg 15.6 inchjbzy stock pricesony 55x930epacw stockpsdo stockplaystation network deactivate accountsamsung smartcam setup instructionscrzo stockirobot roomba 652 robot vacuumtgtx stock priceasus ux501vw ds71tilan zechorynyse qtwosony ht ct800 reviewaudio analogue puccini special editionvizio sb3851 d0 smartcast38 5.1 sound bar system 2016 modelduologpanasonic g7 vs fuji xt10herojuanaomed stock pricepshzfasus rog strix gl502vs ws71sony mdr 1000x head ficbusanasdaq frbkaxim biotech stocksamsung t520 specsmymtechableton live powerpcasus transformer mini t102ha d4 grcanon powershot gx3tcl 55c803plex on synology ds216jxbr55x850d reviewgoogle mentalplexmonowall downloadaumn stock pricepfis stockcnbx stockhhgfmpvd stockverizon etf calculatorsamsung j7v specsformlabs flexible resinfinviz heat mapdenon 3808ciexpressvpn on firestickvnq tickerare gopros waterprooft440p specsgarmin x40 reviewsamsung es8000 65 inchpxyndell latitude e7450 driversbpop stockasus zenbook ux330ua ah54 13.3 inch lcd ultra slim laptopbose qc35 equalizerhmmr stockstrikedrive convertersealskinz waterproof shooting glovesiwinksswimmo watchdwfiiphone 5se boost mobileimltvcste stockunpair apple watch without iphoneflexsmart x2 pairinghp envy 7640 setupsoftmaker freeofficerazer wildcat xbox one controller reviewnyse snaalphageo share priceskyrim giant mudcrabxps 8910 specsi7 2600k pcie lanesfrme stock pricehainly abrams mass effectsgdh stocknb runiqnyse awiswitcheroo pokemon sun and moonruniq review88ss9174 bld2yinn etfsouheil badranwedhappytrevfcambridge audio 740c pricecanon 5drsnasdaq itciroku streaming stick vs expressblto stock pricee7470 docking stationinwksound blaster x fi mb5freerecorders com reviewtp link archer c7 ac1750 reviewtibxgenital jousting ps4nasdaq eriitsco share priceduck quack ringtonefandangonow costblrx stocklouis baseneseedsun lightinglptx stock pricefmnbgetac f110 pricetza premarkethainly abrams mass effecthw k950 zaadobe kuler alternativesnapchat nyse symboloptt stocksony mdr zx780dc manualiusg stockcbmjbissell crosswave cyber mondaymixyourwatchviewdleptx buyoutmomostockijr ticker23andme ancestry accuracysecretlab omega reviewgbim stock pricetbt tickergamma scalpingdell 17353tcl p series 55p607mnng2ll amagazines mileageplus comdtrxpowerbeats3 wireless walmartamtek auto share pricebkln stockwalmart lenovo y520hormel stock price historytxmd stocknxpi tender offerfuji x e2s reviewaudio technica lp120 setupvoog stocktesxdell precision 7510 reviewhow to print double sided on epson printerretropie arcade romsis protonvpn goodsamsung hw k650 reviewartx stock newskodak orbit360orpn stocki7 7740ksony cybershot w830 lowest pricehow to recover snapchats iphoneangie's list stock pricermbs stock pricentek stockasus rt ac87rpran stock pricemarantz 6011 reviewbkep stockpsb imagine xbnakd tickert m9bilesamsung wp10 reviewnorthwest biotherapeutics inchp pavilion laptop 14 bk091stsgsvfzto express stock pricebroadchurch season 3 premiere datemrcc stockvguard share priceairadar asus rt n56uiphone 6 plus glitchingunsync iphonesastraweb serversnasdaq chrsgoogle pixel waitlistvizio smartcast setupzoomer dog commandssouhy stockhp spectre 13 v011dxdpww stocknnsr stockfrlfue megaboom not chargingdisable briefing s7itot stock pricebitcornoled65c7p best buyglbr stockdlcrnikon d2300cctc stock pricexelbtnef's enoughdell inspiron 5675 reviewhp deskjet 2542 wireless all in one printer reviewsasus pg248q reviewkerx after hourstoshiba handybookjambox warrantytcmd stock pricehateno village mapunfriend tracker appxef6ottolock reviewvívofit3 garmin vivofitiphone turn off two factor authenticationevhc stock priceunregister imessagewix linking pagestnt on firesticktumi power pack moto moddvyealdeyra therapeuticsgemalto stock pricereadiusslca earningspitch correction garagebandnikon coolpix l330 reviewinjustice controls ps4vinmopetq stock pricensrpftctzf stockhydro gfx gtx 1080 liquid cooled graphics cardi7 2600k pcie lanesleco stock priceamazon lightsail reviewnasdaq logmaudioengine a5 comparison