omni-channel usability study (2015)


I proposed and commissioned an omni-channel usability study for Alaska Airlines, where we observed customers interacting with email, web, mobile apps, kiosks, and post-trip surveys in an effort to improve the overall customer journey. A secondary goal and benefit was to build customer empathy within the organization. 

my role.

My role was to propose the research, get funding, engage stakeholders, help design the study, and oversee the internal and external researchers who conducted the research.


As a first step, the team worked with stakeholders to identify research questions important to them, as well as ensure organizational buy-in. Our research questions included:

  • What opportunities do we have to reduce pain-points across the customers' omni-channel journey, both within and across channels?
  • How can we provide a more consistent omni-channel experience? What inconsistencies stand out most to customers? How do experiences with other channels color the experience of the channel they are using?
  • How do customer expectations about features vary across devices and contexts?
  • Do customers have a clear picture of what to do next at any point in their journey? Do they have clear wayfinding clues?

Next, we used analytics to determine typical customer behavior at each phase in the customer journey. We mapped which personas tended to use which channel for each phase of the customer journey, and used that to guide the creation of prototypes as well as construct our testing scripts:

A journey map describing the various ways customers interacted with Alaska Air. This enabled us to create scenarios that were representative of what real travelers do. Blurred due to NDA.

Once the test scripts were finalized we recruited research candidates guided by the various personas we wanted to understand better:

Recruiting guidelines and participant scheduler spreadsheet. We had more than 15 participants. Blurred due to NDA.

With test scripts in hand and participants identified, we conducted the study. The sessions lasted several days. To engage the majority of stakeholders, the sessions were both live-streamed across the company. We also set-up a conference room for people to observe the sessions and debrief after each. 

Some screen captures of participant sessions--showing a kiosk (left) and a mobile phone (right).

We (designers, research, product managers and developers alike) debriefed after each session, and at the end of all the sessions we had a study debrief as well. In the debriefs we identified surprises, customer delights, pain points, and overall themes. 


The study itself was an opportunity to center the product, technology, and design teams around the customer. I deliberately designed a study that exposed non-researchers to customers to build empathy and an appreciation for how teams responsible for each channel could improve coordination.  


The research produced dozens of findings, many of which were new to the Alaska team. We created an action plan for each channel describing areas of improvement. We also visualized customer behaviors to help product teams better understand how customers use various products and features across their omni-channel journey--and identify where pain points are:

At right: A graph describing the various channels customers used to complete certain tasks. This was helpful for us to understand where pain points were in the cross-platform experience.