Project at a Glance

A Boston-based tech company that creates automated technologies for the Salesforce ecosystem wanted to gain a better understanding of the human factors involved in successful human-to-technology customer service experiences. I designed the exploratory research study, recruited participants, moderated the interviews, performed the analysis and developed the personas. The findings were used to inspire future designs of automated customer service using artificial intelligence.

Research Goals

  • Understand why people might adopt or resist automated customer service technology
  • Understand when the level of personalization is efficient yet comfortable

Strategy & Larger Social Context

Human beings are hardwired for connection. This wiring has deep ties to our evolutionary past, as it was critical to be accepted by the group in order to access resources for survival. However, the way we connect and communicate is undergoing a massive transformation as a result of technology. Additionally, people operate across a wide spectrum with regards to their need for and comfort with connection. With all the options now available for communicating and connecting, understanding the motivations and behaviors that drive those choices and how they impact the adoption or rejection of automated customer service technology is an important element of this research.

Many people have a general sense that they are creating a ‘digital exhaust’ as they conduct more and more of their lives connected but have no real clarity on what it means for their lives or privacy. As experts attempt to predict the impact of big data and artificial intelligence on society, people are living with the uncertainty and discomfort that accompanies any major change. My strategy included using Facebook — with its curated content algorithms and personalized advertising — as a proxy scenario for gathering insights into participant behaviors and motivations regarding online connections, problem-solving and privacy.

Kris Carafelli | Experience Designer & Researcher | iPhone Connection Brene Brown Quote Image

Study Design

For this exploratory research study, I recruited a representative sample of five participants between the ages of 26 – 46. Because the participants are all real life and FaceBook friends, a level of in-context knowledge existed. I know how the participants conduct themselves in real life and socially online within the FaceBook space. I used this knowledge when selecting for a mix of introverts, ambiverts and extroverts and noted the level of FaceBook interaction.

To gain an in-depth understanding of each participant’s behavior and motivations, I conducted 60 minute, moderated, out-of-context, one-on-one interviews. I filled out activity worksheets with the participants and took notes with pen and paper.

The Me & My Friends activity worksheet transferred talking to the participant and helped me learn more about the participants’ affinity for human connection and communication style on a very personal level.

The bulk of the interview questions used an onion-peeling approach to uncover the interviewees’ propensity for human connection and communication style in this order:

  • Participant and their close friends
  • Larger circle of friends on social media
  • Companies on social media
  • Companies and customer service in general

Woven through out the onion peeling process were sub-themes including:

  • Problem solving
  • Asking for help or information
  • Privacy concerns

The Sharing/Privacy Spectrum worksheet was designed to further explore the participants’ feelings surrounding privacy and sharing and probe for any inconsistencies.

View Question Matrix
Me & My Friends Worksheet Image
Sharing & Privacy Spectrum Worksheet Image | Kris Carafelli
Onion Peeling Question Approach Image | Kris Carafelli

Analysis and Themes

I assigned each participant a color and transferred my session notes on to post-it notes. I sorted the data until behavior pattern clusters and themes emerged.

Further analysis revealed two personas on opposing ends of the behavioral patterns social spectrum. The personas manifested themselves via communication preference behavior as The Writer and The Talker. The salient stories told by the personas gave clear insights into how personalized and automated customer service experiences will best suit each persona.

Keyboard Graphic
Speech bubble graphic

The themes emerging from the research suggest that giving people options for customer service may be a good strategy. Using artificial intelligence to tailor and customize the experience based on the customer’s affinity for human connection — which motivates the behavior behind their preferred communication style — could be a successful approach.

View Deliverable
Field Research Post It Note Analysis Photo