I’m a huge fan of baseball. More specifically, I’m a fan of live baseball games. The grilled hot dogs, the cold beer, the lush grass, the warm sunshine — it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a couple hours. But as summer goes, the possibility of pop-up storms arises. And while the weather is generally predictable (I still wouldn’t want that job), the reality may be surprising.

The rain delay is one of the more frustrating components of America’s past time. During a rain delay the experience of baseball breaks down, just as a website or a digital product like Netflix going down. The system goes down for an unknown amount of time. Limited knowledge is shared with the users (fans). We are left to our own assumptions and devices (literally, in most cases). The experience suffers, even if momentarily.

In the world of product and experience design we’re laser-focused on delivering a product that functions at its best, when it’s at its best. But what about when a product can’t function at its best? What about when a product has to function at its worst?

For a product to be lovable, a business must manage customer expectations for when the product is broken or the experience breaks down.

When it’s in a rain delay.

What’s your strategy when the unexpected happens? What happens when the system shuts down? When the road is closed? For an undetermined period of time? Are you prepared? Do you have a backup plan? What about customer support? How do you communicate what’s going on? What happens in the mean time?

How Basecamp Does It

Basecamp, the company which owns and produces the business and project management tool of the same name, is delightfully transparent of its goals and business decisions — from how their product pricing is determined to how they approach customer service and support. Over time, their support team has experimented with various required response times to customer issues. Interestingly, they landed on a response timeframe that is not too long to frustrate users, but not too short to seem automated and impersonal (I believe the target is 10 minutes). How did they figure this out? By getting feedback from their customers, of course. What’s more is that they communicate approximate response time on their support web page (below).

Snapshot from Basecamp’s Support Page
Snapshot from Basecamp’s Support Page

To bring it back to baseball for a minute, I was at a Chicago Cubs recently when a storm rolled in. Proactively, the organization did what they could to alert fans to prepare themselves for the delay, which was a welcome message. Then, once the storm had passed through, they posted an additional message about the estimated restart time. (This information is especially helpful when you’re waiting with two 7-year-olds.)

Wrigley Field Scoreboard Photo by: instagram.com/cocohanks25

Photo by: instagram.com/cocohanks25

I realize these may seem like minor solutions, even obvious ones, but they play an important role in a person’s experience of the product. When circumstances are out of your control, you need to consider a number of solutions to maintain a lovable experience. The difficult part of the process is deciding which solution makes the most sense.

At Moonshot, when we have a decision to be made, or at least tried, we utilize Design Thinking to experiment with potential solutions that may make the most sense, ease the most burden, and make the unexpected more lovable (and maybe forgettable). One of our favorite Design Thinking processes is the Design Sprint. The Design Sprint begins with learning about your business, learning about your product, and most importantly learning about your customer/user. From that point, through open discussion and collaboration we create testable solutions for when the sh*t does hit the fan, and the lightning does strike.

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