Oct 2019 — May 2020
In 2019, I was thrilled to join the design team serving one of isobar’s largest accounts in Australia: the Qantas-owned budget airline, Jetstar.
isobar had been partnered with Jetstar for more than 10 years, and the team had pioneered many innovations for the airline industry, like creating a seamless check-in experience for customers through mobile boarding passes.
I never would have guessed that my experience would culminate with the challenge of managing changes to Jetstar's website design during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent airline industry shutdown.
I was hired to look after UX design for the Optimization Squad. Our team’s main responsibility was overseeing hundreds of client-side experiments which provided Jetstar with valuable data and insights to inform how they could improve their customers' experience through the website.
During my time on this team, we focused our experimentation efforts on a few key areas of the customer experience:
Depending on what sort of experiments our stakeholders asked us to implement, the actual design work varied from project to project.
We often began with some sort of current-state analysis to make sure everyone involved in the project understood what’s currently working well as well as what we might be able improve through experimentation.
I found storyboarding to be highly effective and efficient in aligning everyone on the specific opportunities for improvement:
Many of our tests were designed to garner insights for the Personalization Team and guide the decision engines and propensity models which they were developing. For these tests, we focused our design efforts on things like content strategy, and exploring more basic personalization techniques which were technically possible.
We also helped identify which touchpoints throughout the customer journey would be the best candidates to test personalization, including many areas across the website, personalized emails, service calls, and advertisements on frequented travel sites.
In another project, I led a Design Thinking workshop with the Customer Service Team on ways of promoting onsite self-service for customers to avoid the need to make contact with the service center.
First, the Customer Service Team approached our squad with some specific test ideas on pages like Help, Contact Us & FAQs. I was worried that the focus was too narrow, and that these customer problems could be avoided altogether through design changes earlier in the journey.
We agreed to take a broader approach, and collaborate through a Design Thinking workshop to get a better holistic view of where customers were running into trouble.
Once we collated the breadth of research, data and insights available to us, we used the DT workshop to align our team on the customers' experiences and identify the problem areas to solve for. Then we generated a large set of ideas for solutions directions we could take to reduce customers' propensity to contact.
The Design Thinking workshop with the Customer Service Team was a huge success that yielded many promising ideas, and we concluded this piece of work with a backlog of optimization tests to prioritize and develop, as well as broader ideas for other design teams to continue exploring.
Then the pandemic struck.
Our ultimate challenge was maintaining the front-line of design changes to Jetstar’s website during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting airline industry shut-down.
When the pandemic escalated, the responsibility fell on us to make daily changes to the website in response to the rapidly deteriorating circumstance that Jetstar faced.
We allowed Jetstar to manage refunds and flight changes for millions of customers in just three weeks, through essentially dropping everything over-night and creating a new way of working so that we could keep the customer’s experience front of mind while the entire airline industry collapsed around us.
We began facing chaotic requests for immediate changes throughout the website (usually in the form of emails, Slack messages, and/or verbal requests during the litany of COVID Response stand-ups).
To manage this, I created a template to sense-check any design changes our team was asked to implement. The goal was a something we could complete in a few minutes and ensure that production changes not only met our base-line design standards, but also kept focus on the intended change to the onsite customer experience:
The task of keeping the Jetstar website up-to-date was absolutely hectic, as we faced constant changes to Qantas and Jetstar’s policies, changes in government regulations, changes in our understanding of what this pandemic entailed for both the airline industry as well as all aspects of our lives, not to mention that our stakeholders were being furloughed in waves.
To keep focus on the customer experience, we collaborated with Jetstar designers and stakeholders on a high-level journey map which anchored all teams on the most pressing customer problems, where the problems were arising, and which customer groups were impacted:
It wasn’t enough to make sure that website content was simply up-to-date, and that UI continued to match our style guide and meet accessibility guidelines.
We caught and resolved bugs in pages which began loading so that the alert messages were obscured. We ensured that key Travel Alert pages remained mobile responsive and met accessibility guidelines:
We approved dozens of design changes during these dire weeks which gave our clients confidence that these website updates were on-point to achieve the best customer experience we could manage in the face of catastrophe:
In the end, my team got wide recognition for our efforts, notably from Jetstar’s CCO and isobar's Client Engagement Director, for keeping our focus and adapting on an hourly basis to the bitter end.
My brief experience at isobar ended with the long-standing Jetstar partnership suddenly dissolving, and the majority of my design team being made redundant.
While this was never the end any of us hoped for, I am incredibly proud of our work, and know that we did our best under extreme, unprecedented circumstances.
Sharif Labban • UX Designer • Music Composer
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