While our team is hard at work to develop the first public release of Miles.Next Mobile, we wanted to share some insights into how we came up with the strategy, concept and interface behind it. A lengthy read, but hopefully you’ll find it worthwhile.
In the summer of 2016 we met Sofico, a software company specializing in B2B software solutions for companies providing automotive finance, leasing, fleet and mobility management. An industry leader for nearly three decades and operating on a global scale with offices on 4 continents, Sofico's powerful platforms are the backbone for leasing companies to manage their contracts, from car configuration and price quotes in the front end, to contract management and lease accounting in the back office. Users include both leasing company staff, as well as customer end users like drivers or fleet managers. Sofico wanted to revamp its front office offering based on a new cloud services architecture, and thought a mobile app would be essential for its customers to support its drivers and mobility users.
From the first contacts we got along well and Sofico decided to join forces with In The Pocket, to discover what such a product needs to do, and how it should work.
We embarked upon a Discovery Track, a fast-paced series of workshops to identify a company’s digital potential. We roughly go through two phases (and exercises).
Where we develop understanding and vision.
- Understanding the objectives, both for Miles customers (e.g. “Having a more direct, proactive and meaningful channel with their users.”) and for Sofico (e.g. “Being ready for market shifts like private lease customers or mobility budgets”).
- Mapping all of the stakeholders, their pains, potential gains and the jobs-to-be-done.
- Identifying needs to solve. Here, we created different experience maps, visualising what happens in common mobility scenarios (e.g. maintenance or an incident).
- To get our engines running, we also engage in some fruitful ideation. By looking at the experience maps, we could easily identify pockets of opportunity (e.g. interactions that felt frustrating or took way too many steps) and brainstorm around those. Or, we do some mash-up innovation: we combine a need (e.g. advice which car to pick), a technology (e.g. image recognition) and a service (e.g. Spotify Discover Weekly or Hello Fresh), and come up with a far-fetched new idea (e.g. a personalised car recommendation based on cars you often look at, delivered on your porch). Then, we work our way back. What do we like about the idea and what would be possible?
Where we map the new digital ecosystem.
- Identifying all of the different digital products; e.g. a driver app, a sales rep tablet tool, etc.
- Pulling those products apart and looking for themes; e.g. on the road actions, incidents, contractual follow-up, etc.
- Exploring how those themes could play out, what is expected, highlight best and bad practices, ... We often look at examples from other industries and look for parallels.
- Prioritising functionalities: what’s the absolute minimum (MVP), what would be a differentiator, what should be on our radar but is not crucial at this point, ...
The product design team from In The Pocket quickly understood what we were after and helped us explore the potential of mobile in our industry. A real eye opener.
After the Discovery Track, we did an extensive Product Design exercise, to come up with a future-proof interface for the mobile driver app. The ambitions were high. We set out to create a product that:
- Caters to different types of users (e.g. private lease customer, fleet driver, …) ...
- ... at different stages of the customer lifecycle (e.g. pre-contract, end-of-contract).
- Facilitates communication and transactional interactions.
- But also offers assistance at important moments (e.g. maintenance or breakdown) ...
- ... and relevant roadside tools (that are non-redundant, i.e. not another navigation app).
All of this in 1 tool that is still easy to use? Quite the nut to crack. As an added bonus, the eventual product will be modular, so customers can add or remove features, without having the whole interface collapse.
The result is a companion app that is highly contextual. One of our leading design principles was “Moments, not navigation.” Rather than having the user needing to make his or her way through a complex traditional menu, we want to anticipate why he/she would open the app at a given time. That means looking at information from Miles, telematics, … and propose the relevant info or action. For instance, through mileage reading and service center preference, we propose scheduling an appointment in the repair shop.
To make the information bite-sized and actionable, we decided on a card-based UI. Works great on mobile, and it is a design system that can be extended to other channels as well, like the web platform.
There is a fallback navigation, with distinctive tabs where all of the information can be found. But, the dashboard is where users will spend most of their time.
Below are just some of the features that will be in the Miles.Next Mobile app.
We want to maximise user adoption. This means avoiding hassle for fleet managers, like having to create hundreds of users accounts. The user can register an account, and he will get a magic link (or code) sent, with which he can authenticate the app. Simple.
On the road
All of the handy roadside tools can be activated through the Nearby action button:
This includes finding fuel or charging stations (showing only the ones included in your network fuel card), service centers (allowing you to book an appointment), parking garages, …
We also included handy tools for professionals who are on the road a lot, like adding expense tickets (like parking, including OCR scanning) or registering trips (and linking them to client appointments).
When you have an accident, breakdown or damages, our interfaces goes into “focus mode”. All clutter is removed and we guide the user, one step at a time. We allow users to send pictures (and help them with optimal shots), and even link to other applications (like accident statement apps in countries that have them).
We will keep users updated in the dashboard, and facilitate follow-up actions.
A easy-to-use chat function lets users chat with their fleet manager, leasing company, tire fitter, … In addition to being multi-party, it’s also cross-platform; it syncs between mobile and web. A CMS allows customers and companies to add their own contact info and FAQ content, plus promotional or seasonal messages to be shown in the dashboard.
We’re already looking beyond the horizon. In the future, we believe in offering users a single-point-of-help. Just ask our AI-assistant any question, and it will try and help, or route the question to a support agent.
Our team (of product designers, developers, solution architect, Q&A, product manager and product owner) and Sofico are hard at work at making the first release a reality. We’re creating a product that will be white-labeled and modular, meaning Sofico’s customers will be able to customise it to their needs.
The leasing/mobility industry is on the verge of some exciting times, with trends towards smart mobility (e.g. car sharing & ride-sharing), technological advances (connected cars, EVs, autonomous vehicles) and an overall shift from car ownership to (shared) usage. All things that may reshape the automotive finance and leasing industry, and will require a lot of software integration (front to back) to orchestrate a whole range of new use cases.
Here's to an interesting future!