UX Researcher Vanessa Pfafflin shares this great story, where she finds success in failure.
My colleague and I were visiting Las Vegas for a trade show and decided to tack on some field visits at a couple of our Vegas clients’ businesses. We planned to help out at the trade show booth for two days and then do one day’s worth of observational research before catching our flight back home. The first night we were in Vegas, we were notified that our company was experiencing a DDoS attack and our software was completely down for all 17k clients. (To give a little background, my company provides health and wellness based businesses with business management software centered around scheduling and POS). Our sales people were panicky. The show was 5 days long and we knew that it would be a really terrible week if they were unable to access the sales demos for the show if the server remained down.
Unfortunately, the attacks continued for 2 days before we were able to install a new firewall and switch to a different data mitigator. We humbly kept our booth up sans demos. By this time our war-torn trade show team had improvised with screenshots of the product. Some of our clients showed up at the booth – many offering re-assuring words, while some met us with anger.
At the end of the second day, connections were restored. I contacted the two clients we planned on visiting the following day, asking if their sites were up and working properly. Both clients assured me that their systems were back up and running just fine, and that they were anticipating our visits tomorrow.
The next morning, we visited our first client, a massage therapy business, and were greeted warmly. We spent three hours onsite (mainly troubleshooting) and they thanked us with complimentary 60 minute massages! After two days on the DDoS battlefield, it was the best gift a girl could ask for.
Our next client was a thirty minute cab ride away. By this time in the day, the temperature was in the 100s and we pushed through the wall of heat up the steps and into the lobby of the second business, a yoga studio. When we walked in, the girl at the front desk studied our business name embroidered on our shirts and said “Oh you guys, you’re on our sh*t list right now”. We apologized on behalf of our company and offered to help in any way we could. The girl did not want to have anything to do with us. Our software outage had made the last two days at work so difficult for her that all she wanted to do was scream. I asked to speak with the manager, with whom I had been working to schedule the visit. After 30 incredibly uncomfortable minutes waiting for him in the lobby, we made the decision to leave.
The reactions of our two clients were so dramatically different that my colleague and I were left feeling quite bewildered as we waited for our flight back home. In retrospect, I’m glad we decided to go forward with the visits. Although the visits turned into more PR than observational research, we felt good about showing up and offering our support. In this situation, external factors put a damper on our research and put us in some pretty uncomfortable situations. In one of the situations, we were presented with an opportunity to help, and in the other, we learned when it is best to just stop and walk away.