Bespoke tooling for funeral directors

hello

Farewill started organising funerals at the beginning of 2020. In a year we went from having one funeral director to ten, organising hundreds of funerals every month. To start the team used a bunch of third party tools to run case management. As the number of cases grew our team managed to maintain an exceptional customer experience, as measured by a 90+ NPS, but it was becoming harder for the ops team to stay on top of things.

Role

Lead designer

Team

James Maskell • Product management

Yasemin Kaya • Operations lead

At Farewill we believe that investing in brilliant internal tools is a key strategic advantage. The previous year we created Backstage, a case management tool for Probate. If you’re interested I talk a little bit about the history of it on this podcast. So rather than starting from scratch, the aim of this piece of work was to build out Backstage to also handle funerals.

I started by shadowing members of the funeral operations team. I asked them to show me a case from start to finish, which I used to build a picture of their daily work.

Shadowing Fi, one of our funeral ops people
Shadowing Fi, one of our funeral ops people

To create a shared understanding of the problem I turned that into a workflow diagram and a series of job stories. I used this to explain how funeral operations work to engineering, product and design.

Workflow diagram and job stories
Workflow diagram and job stories

 Designing an MVP

After giving ops some time to test Backstage, I held a codesign session to unpick the knotiest design challenge, which was a way to see what’s going on with all of your cases at a glance.

To dig into this problem, I ran a co-design workshop with ops looking at the case list.

Co-design session with the whole operations team
Co-design session with the whole operations team

After pulling that all together into a figma prototype, I ran a round of task based testing with ops. Whilst the structure of what we’d come up with was sound, there were a bunch of smaller tweaks surfaced by that research.

For example, not a single person I tested the prototype with discovered the shortcut to see just your own cases. Katie from ops described it as a ‘Derren Brown trick’! The checkbox you only see after it’s pointed out for you. The final design uses a more obvious tab based system.

The backstage prototype
The backstage prototype

 Improving backstage beyond Funerals

Through the process I spotted a few opportunities to improve Backstage across all products. Here are two of them:

Case list

The previous case list had limited space for actual case information because of a bulky filter design. Unlike the products already in Backstage, it felt important for Funerals to have space for notes on each case. Whilst a more spacious case list felt imperative for funerals, it also intuitively felt like a more spacious case list could benefit other products too.

I scheduled a few quick chats with ops people from other products, and saw that they more often work from bookmarked views of the case list rather than using the filters themselves. Therefore it seemed like a design which prioritised clear information about what filters are applied rather than direct access to the filters could be beneficial for everyone.

I tested a prototype of the new case list with ops people from across all products, which gave me confidence to recommend building the new design across all of Backstage.

Keyboard shortcuts

I also realised that there’s an opportunity for keyboard shortcuts to help funeral ops work more efficiently for particular tasks. For example, being able to assign holiday cover for each of your cases from the case list itself. I designed a reusable visual style and component to make it easy for other teams to implement it across backstage.

Backstage keyboard shortcuts
Backstage keyboard shortcuts

As I was leaving Farewill, ops were just starting to manage all their funerals cases on backstage - meaning we could say goodbye to the tangle of third party tools, with better case efficiency, better reporting and ultimately happier ops people.

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