UX Insider Interview: Dane Howard, Chief Experience Officer, Trov
Following on from our FinTech UX Review of Trōv, I spoke to Dane Howard, Chief Experience Officer about their UX challenges, process and what’s next for Trōv.
Can you start by telling me a bit about your role and responsibilities at Trōv?
I am the Chief Experience Officer at Trōv. This gives me the opportunity to be externally facing for our customers and also internally facing to serve our employee experience. I have the great pleasure to oversee all of the touch points across our customer journey. From Marketing & Communications, to Design & Customer Service, to our Customer Insights & Research group, I benefit from having a great organization that is fanatical about our customers and learning from them every day.
What would you say a typical day is like for you?
I love that many of my days are different. We’re in two geographies now, being Australia and the UK, and we’re working hard to launch in the United States later this year. I break up my week between ‘People’ time and ‘Headphone’ time. I still enjoy the craft of touching and shaping work. I split my time between my home in the South Bay and our HQ in Danville.
How have you gone about creating the UX team from scratch at Trōv?
Our leadership is very aligned to ground the Trōv Product in the customer experience, so this makes the job of recruiting and building a strong design team an easy one. I’ve been in a lot of organizations in the past where it requires a lot of convincing that design matters. At Trōv, it’s a fundamental value. We’re a small team, with a few design ‘leads’ that have both Impact and Influence over the product and the company culture. They are our ‘momentum makers.’
The design team is small, because the customer-centric values are embodied in the entire product team, so I consider every sprint a collection of talent all focused on the UX. It’s a huge benefit to think of a UX team in a broader context.
Talking about the UX team at Trōv, how do you tell the difference between a good UX person and a great UX person?
I’ve observed that the practice of great User Experience includes a strong listening posture. A lot of our strongest UX thinkers and makers lead with empathy and listening. Their insights are best served when they first build a body of insights and understanding that come from the customer.
A great UX person is always designing in context and their work is usually serial. The sequence of events implies a vignette or story narrative. Great UX almost always sits within a story. Stories build in strength with re-telling. The stories of Trōv’s future are those that we usually all get excited about. Those stories of the future inspire us, and we all want to build it together.
How do you measure your team’s success, or know you’re doing a good job?
Success is usually measured in business metrics and performance. That is always an indicator that is shared across the organization. Quantitative (Analytics) and Qualitative (NPS and customer testimonies) give us a good measure of how we are doing. It’s a balance.
I tend to also layer on the emotional health and wealth of our product. Are we inspiring the developers? Are we making a product that we’re all proud of? Are we effective as a UX group in building strong arguments grounded in customer insights? You asked about success, and I like to think of effectiveness. If grounded in the customer, business performance should follow.
Could we get an overview of the process you and your team have gone through and your driving principles behind designing Trōv?
Sure. I’ll try. At Trōv, we build software that revolutionizes the way people protect and experience the things they care about. Software is NEVER finished, and so we feel like we are always in the process of listening, iterating and asking the question, ‘Why does it have to exist that way?’ That simple question creates an entire journey of looking at problems from a new perspective.
Listen — First we have to better understand how people protect and experience their things. We are constantly on the go, and we ask a lot of questions about how people feel about their travel, their commute and the gear they carry with them. This helps shape our insight.
POV — From our listening to customers and living in their shoes, we derive a POV from this empathy & understanding. We begin to create a story of ‘What if…’
Make for the sake — We make ‘sacrificial’ prototypes and designs in order to provoke a discussion. We share these early and often in order to create a dialogue internally and with customers. The sacrificial part is important, because it is important that we are NOT wed to the outcome. We’re beginning to fall in love with the problem.
Decide — This is one of the hardest steps in the process. Should we do this? Should we do it this way? Which iterations should we build and A|B test them? So much user feedback, analytics, discussion & gut feeling goes into this process.
Iterate — Once we build it, we watch it and iterate. We build with iteration in mind, so we are always having discussions about speed and quality. Software is never finished, so polishing it too much removes iteration cycles. Too little polish and you risk the customer experience and hurting your brand. There is a lot of discussion about ‘fail fast’, but I learned from a good friend and mentor, John Maeda that you have to ‘recover fast.’ Iterating is all about learning and recovering fast.
There has been a lot of talk about Trōv targeting millennials: now the product is out in the wild and people are using it, who is a typical Trōv user?
Trōv exists to transform the ways in which people’s lives are enhanced by things. Turns out that there is a huge audience out there that cares about their stuff. We’d like to exist at the intersection between experiences and their things.
That said, we see not just millennials, but an entire ‘untethered’ generation out there that is constantly on-the-go. The boundaries between home, work and transportation are blurring and traditional coverage is a blunt force object in a mobile enabled and increasingly contextual world. Trōv would like to serve this untethered generation and help give them more agency and control over how they protect, where they protect and for any duration they desire.
We are finding that Trov thrives in the scenarios where people on-the-go want a smarter, more contextual coverage that is personalized to their needs. In this immense addressable audience, We see incredible opportunities for to serve photographers, as their livelihoods depend on their gear. Students are also an example of a huge opportunity for Trōv, because students own just a few things, value them immensely and are completely mobile enabled.
Trōv is lucky in that we are first a technology company. This gives us tremendous advantage to build, accelerate and iterate. What has emerged is the world’s first cloud based, mobile enabled platform that can administer micro-duration policies for several types of cover. Who is the typical Trōv user? New segments are finding Trōv every day.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role the next 12 months?
We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to scale geographically as well as through several categories that we serve. We’ll be challenged to grow and scale our organizations in a way that allows us to preserve our culture and values. With such growth, this requires a responsibility for better process and more communication and knowledge transfer.
In an era of plenty, there is also the challenge of knowing what to say ‘no’ to. Time and resources become increasingly valuable, so we’ve been having a lot of discussion internally about what we DO and what we decide NOT to do.
What’s the most valuable thing that you’ve learned in your time at Trōv?
The importance of a strong, interdependent leadership team — every single member of the leadership is world class and SO good at what they do. The strength of these relationships, expertise and experience is critical for our success and resilience.
Balance of ‘People’ time and ‘Headphone’ time — After 20 years, I’ve finally discovered a schedule that works for me, which includes just the right amount of travel and a posture that serves communicating and making. It’s a balance I’ve strived for a long time.
With the recent investment, can you give us any insight into what’s next for Trōv, and how do you prioritise new features, or new ideas?
You can expect more geographies and categories from Trōv. We feel fortunate to be able to lean into this opportunity and help affect a 300 year old industry. We’ll be making our own investments to ensure that Trōv Protection is increasingly smarter and more contextual.
Where do you see InsurTech heading over the next few years and what impact is this going to have on a typical insurance company?
Many of the ‘typical’ insurance companies are our underwriting partners, so we’ll be doing it together. We’re learning together, and discovering many of these innovations and insights together. At Trōv, we know that we will hold ourselves accountable to the customers we serve, and they don’t really care where ‘insurtech’ is heading. They just keep living their lives and we want to continue to listen to them. Their optimism makes risk possible. Risk moves humankind forward.
I guess we’ll all move forward together.
Dane Howard is a Design leader & Entrepreneur. He has built his career through helping companies design products, services & brands. He has played a principle design and leadership role for Microsoft, Designworks | BMW, Major League Baseball, Scient Corporation, Quokka Sports, NBCOlympics, VUVOX & eBay. His work & travels have brought him global experience across Europe & Asia.
Dane co-founded VUVOX in 2006, which was acquired in 2008 by eBay. He is currently the Chief Experience Officer at Trōv.com and an advisor to several startups.