UX design for B2B: How UXTeam helped Xenia create a next-gen operations management app for mid-size hotels
In conversation with Neil Sareen, co-founder of Xenia.
Hello Neil. Can you tell us about your background?
I was an investment banker focused on selling software companies (M&A) which is why I developed a keen interest in the tech industry. More than financial management, I was interested in the design and development of software. I always wanted to start something of my own. It was my dream to create simple and user-friendly software that would transform the way people manage their businesses.
I came from a background in physical design – drawing, and painting, and I knew a little bit of coding. So I learned about the tech industry from a business perspective like different software types — B2B and B2C and markets ranging from healthcare to nonprofit. I always had an interest in moving toward finance software.
I decided to take a leap and quit investment banking and teamed up with two of my friends to start a software company in the hospitality domain decided to launch an enterprise app for hotel management.
It’s quite a jump from Finance to the Hospitality industry. How did you stumble upon the idea of Xenia, an enterprise app in the hospitality domain? What was the inspiration behind it?
We noticed that all the industries were transforming digitally except hospitality and we also saw a market gap in the hospitality industry enterprise software. When we spoke with the General Managers of Hotels and interviewed the staff to understand their pain points, we tapped into insight: in mid-sized and large-sized hotels with more than 300 rooms, the hotel staff was often unable to complete tasks in time. The operational problems were directly affecting the customer experience which resulted in negative feedback and low conversions.
Learning about the day-to-day problems in the hospitality industry, my team and I decided to launch Xenia, a software for operations execution management of the internal hotel management teams to stay connected for task allotment and ensure timely task completion and compliance.
Xenia brings digital transformation to hospitality businesses by getting rid of paper documents and radio chatter. It enables admins/managers to assign, manage, track, and organize operational tasks easily while keeping every employee in the loop. Xenia helps Hoteliers to automate their operations which saves them the time to focus on providing customer service and satisfaction.
What business challenges did you face as an entrepreneur? Were there any design challenges before you worked with UXTeam?
When Xenia kicked off, the team was working with two designers. These designers created mockups and wireframes for specific modules that they can pitch to prospective clients. I wanted the design process to be agile but the two designers were using the Photoshop tool to create wireframes.
Far from being agile, the design process became cumbersome, slow, and tedious. Instead of quick revisions, even the small changes were taking at least 2-3 weeks. I thought to myself “if my task is to constantly revise the designs, when and how will we build the next module?”
The biggest challenge was the designers were slow, they didn’t approach the UX design in the right way — they never mapped user journeys. Their only process was to create mockups based on what I asked. None of the designers followed a user-centric approach to solve any problem. Even more, the design quality was really low — it was helpful to get ideas in motion but it was nowhere close to real visual designs.
“I was extremely frustrated with the whole process, it was a vicious cycle of delay. I had already spent a lot of money which in reality went down the drain because the designs never came to fruition. I quickly realized that if we want to reach the development stage faster and increase the go-to-market speed, I need a design team that used better processes and tools.”
What were your requirements before hiring a design agency?
I started looking for different UX designers to create designs that would justify their business. I was looking for a design team that:
- Has experience working on B2B products and not only B2C products on both web and mobile platforms
- Has a sophisticated and modern design approach; follows quick and efficient ways to design
- Is great at visual design
- Knows about market trends and stays updated with the tools
- Uses the latest tools and processes to design
Among all the designers, vendors, and contractors we vetted, I liked UXTeam’s portfolio the most because it matched the criteria perfectly.
Were there any risks or fears involved before hiring a design agency? What were those inhibitions?
I was worried about spending too much on designs and incurring losses again. I was also concerned about the timezone difference.
“My biggest fear was to explaining the whole business again and not get results in time.”
How was your experience working with UXTeam?
Discovery meetings with Chintan and UXTeam changed my perspective on UX design. I realized there’s so much in store when it comes to building UX for the software, it opened his eyes to underlying opportunities in the digital product. It was actually worth it.
There were days when I had to stay up super late for communication because of the timezone difference. I had to explain things and be involved in the first few rounds of the process for clarity. I wanted to make sure that I’m communicating it properly to the designers to translate it into great results. I didn’t want to be stuck in the loop of iterations.
“Honestly the initial effort of discovery and strategy sessions was all worth it. The results were astonishing for me and my team. I was extremely relieved and thoroughly satisfied with the output.”
What was the outcome of the user experience design of Xenia created by UXTeam? Did you see any measurable benefit from this collaboration?
The experience is infinitely better compared to my past design experiences. Every time I received a new design, I was excited to see the output. I was now able to invest in the success of the business because the design was finally coming to life.
“All the communication and late-night Zoom calls came to fruition because UXTeam turned up on the timeline and processes so well. It was a truly enjoyable experience because I discovered new things and UXTeam understood my apprehensions.”
While working with UXTeam, I realized something as a product manager —
Instead of pushing for visual designs from day 1, it’s better to stay on the low-fidelity wireframes when you are constantly iterating on new things. It takes less effort to make changes and it causes fewer problems. Not only does it take time for the design team to understand what the client wants and desires but it also takes time for the product owners to understand they are not making the design process messy through their inputs.
If you had to talk about one element of UXTeam that stood out or surprised you pleasantly, what would that be?
I had a vision of how the product will be but the first 3 weeks were a lot of discovery sessions and the design team was working on low-fidelity wireframes. So I was unsure and nervous about the full impact of the design. Once I received the first visual design, it exceeded my expectations. All my concerns were settled.
“I was surprised with the speed of work from text to final design. I decided then and there to continue working with UXTeam for the next year as well.”
One last question, would you recommend UXTeam to other entrepreneurs in your network?
“I’ve already talked about UXTeam to my friends and people in my network looking for good UX design services. I would definitely recommend UXTeam for its professionalism, UX design process, communication skills, and Figma skills. The team stays updated with the latest UX trends and they care about your business and churn out what’s best for the business. Their outcome motivated me to do better!”
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