Get to know your users

design work, human centered design, user research

Personas should always be developed as a result of real observations, interviews and true qualitative data. Sometimes you have assumptions about your users. No problem. Just make sure your team is validating these. Do not make this up and design to it. Make it up if you must but then validate, iterate and design for the people you meet, not the ones you’ve made up in your head.

I recently created some theoretical persona docs based on my experiences studying 4 separate call centers. Over the years I’ve met 3 types of call center agents, the temp agent, the forever agent and the rising agent. I look forward to this new product team carrying this research forward.



Personas are just one tool designers can use to create alignment with stakeholders. How is your team working to understand their users?




When you can’t design for everyone, how are you deciding who to focus on; when and why?



As an employee, the temp agent is not loyal to one company. They may be a college student working part-time or a seasonal agent, but it’s temporary. They view their role as a means to an ends and typically don’t stay long. They’re likely on a different career path, using this role to gain customer service experience in the short-term. More than other agents, temp agents value time flexibility and the ability to adjust their schedule on-the-go. In most cases, they learn and adapt quickly to change.

Temp agents can sometimes skew younger in age, but that depends on the industry and geography. Freshmen agents may be completely new to the industry and/or not as skilled with the software, while seasoned temps may be extremely knowledgable. Designers should consider this range of experience levels and design for both novice and power users.



How might you empower your teams to start authentic relationships with those you design for?



The forever agent is a lifer. They are confident in their role and know customer issues well. They are task-oriented, often with a ritualistic approach to their work. They know the software and like the familiarity and predictability of process. They are used to having less autonomy and choice in scheduling and they don’t mind, even prefer, a schedule set weeks in advance.

Forever agents have been around for years, they’re aware of the pros and cons of the software. They approach tasks with less urgency and are not always inclined to report pain points, they simply navigate their way around them. These employees are more resistant to change, mostly out of fear. They are more reactive and traditional in nature. They are so used to the tools they have and generally report more satisfaction than their counterparts due to their experience.



How might you continue the conversation and include your users in the design process?



The rising agent is a star employee. They are very engaged and loyal to their company, likely on the path to team lead. Floor supervisors and other agents rely on the rising agent due to their computer experience, job knowledge and willingness to support the bigger service goals. They are great customer service agents but will not stay on the phones forever.

Rising agents are leveling up in their career, often staying in the same industry (and company) to develop into a more strategic role. They are open to change and actively solve problems. This is the type of employee who will read manuals, watch videos and play around with software on their own. They sometimes develop workarounds and become part of process improvement efforts. Rising agents make the perfect workshop and test candidates. They are committed and love helping.



How might your team create sustainable feedback loops and learning mechanisms?



What is the true essence of user-centricity? Prioritizing the relationship you have with your users, connecting with them and learning about them on a regular basis.


Persona work is never really done. Teams should be consistently visiting users to understand them as people. They are complex and they evolve too, just like our products. It’s our job to remain curious, empathetic researchers.


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.