May 18, 2010

Getting a BMTC monthly bus pass

At the beginning of this month, I decided to get the BMTC monthly bus pass since it had become a big pain to carry enough change every morning. On 4th May evening, I asked the bus conductor of a Volvo to give me the bus pass and I paid him Rs.1250. It was a big relief on 5th morning when I was leaving for work. "I don't have to carry 10s or coins. I can switch buses easily without any problem", I thought to myself. As I was about to leave my home, I quickly looked at the bus pass and there was a mention of ID card. I quickly went to my cupboard and grabbed my PAN card. Without much waiting time, I boarded a Volvo to work. When the conductor asked me to show the bus pass, I happily showed the pass as well as my PAN card. She stared at them for a while and then said "This is not a valid ID card. This pass is invalid". I looked at her in disbelief and replied "PAN card is a valid ID proof just like driving license".

There were other passengers overhearing this conversation. One of the passengers showed me a new ID card and said that this is the ID card we are supposed to carry and it's issued by BMTC. Now how the hell am I supposed to know that? I don't see any specific need to carry another ID card. Thankfully he also gave a tip that this ID card is available in Shanti Nagar Bus depot only till 6th of every month. Or else I need to go to Majestic to get this ID card. None of these make sense to me. Anyway, the next day, I went to Shanti Nagar bus depot and purchased the ID card. This trip took me more than an hour. Such a waste of time and energy!

1) Why should we get another ID card? Why doesn't BMTC allow either PAN card, driving license or voter's ID card?
2) Why doesn't the conductor check if the commuter already has this so-called BMTC ID card before issuing the monthly pass?
3) Why can't the conductors carry the fresh ID card which commuters can purchase while purchasing the monthly pass and then they can apply the stamp?
4) Why do they issue the ID cards only till 6th of every month in Shanti Nagar bus depot?
5) Why should one go all the way to Majestic bus stand just to get this ID card after 6th?

If BMTC wants more and more people to take public transport, they should make things easily accessible. Will they ponder over these 5 questions and make this bus pass purchasing process simpler for commuters?

Update: (based on Times of India article dated 6th June 2010)
 BMTC has introduced a friendly pass which you can purchase directly from the bus conductor. You can use any ID card like driver's license, passport, voter's ID card etc. With this new pass, all the five questions I raised have been answered. Kudos to BMTC!!!

May 17, 2010

User Personas

Having touched upon the idea of integrating user behavior into the product design in the previous post, let me explore further on this topic. One of the approaches that I have found to be very useful is this idea of "user personas".

By trying to build a persona, one gets to understand the intricacies of the user behavior. This provides valuable inputs that can be fed into the product design.

A user persona is a mechanism to understand the potential users of your product or service. The idea of a persona derives more from the behavioral and psychographic aspects of the users.

In order to build a user persona, explore the following questions:
* Who is my customer?
* Where does he live?
* What does his typical day look like?
* Whom does he interact with on a typical day?
* What motivates him to do something?
* What irritates him the most?
* What is his typical personality?
* Is he intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?
* Under what circumstances does he feel the pain point that you are trying to solve?
* What are the after-effects when he faces the pain point that you are trying to solve?

It helps if you can build a story around this user by giving a fictitious name and articulating his environment. You can also come up with hand sketches and drawings to illustrate the personality of the user of your product idea. This can provide useful and interesting inputs to your design and engineering teams.

If your product or service is catered to different market segments, build a user persona that represents each of these segments. Highlight the difference in the behaviors of these different users.

The best time to take up this persona building activity is just after you are done with segmentation of your market and just before you formulate the product strategy. With segmentation in place, you will exactly know which markets to target and depending on the target segments, whether the personas will be different. After you have the personas clearly defined, it will be much more easier to think about your product roadmap and the needs you will address for your target segments.

For more information on personas, check out these blogs:

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