Sarah Bernard is a product leader who has pioneered innovative design experiences to enhance customer engagement. At its best, product design delivers positive results for people who are most in need. Crisis Text Line is an innovative solution that provides people with essential support services in a timely fashion. However, as Sarah explains, the design team has shifted its focus also to meet the needs of its counselors more effectively.

Product Design For Those In Need

In the spirit of talking about “products that count,” my current role at Crisis Text Line is all about providing support for those in need. From a product design perspective, this platform makes it easier than ever to get help. For instance, it can be very difficult to talk over the phone when you’re in difficulty. Instead, a kid who’s getting bullied in the cafeteria can send a text and receive immediate support.

With 60 million people suffering every year, the product’s adoption among those in need has been growing very quickly. However, the counselors who respond to our users are volunteers. As a result, retention of counselors has been a challenge – and our platform would not deliver the same experience without their expertise.

Even after providing 30 hours of training for all counselors, our churn rate used to be quite high. With this, our product design team started to look into what was happening. Interestingly, we found that most counselors were leaving because our counselor experience wasn’t engaging enough. In a way, this was good news – because they all want to commit themselves to help others. All we needed to do was support them differently in doing so.

As a result, we targeted the “unspoken needs” of crisis counselors. For example, we have added recognition mechanisms to acknowledge their service. In addition, we have created a sense of community for our counselors to be more connected to the overall experience.

Ultimately, we need to take a more holistic view of product design when balancing the needs of multiple users. In this case, our focus has adapted to incorporate the needs of both our end users and those who support them.


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About the Speaker
Sarah Bernard
Crisis Text Line COO
Sarah Bernard is COO at Crisis Text Line, a technology non-profit in the space of mental health that spreads empathy with innovation. Bernard has grown her career over the last 20 years in Tech. Previously she was VP, Product at and held positions as General Manager, SVP and VP of Global Product with Expedia’s Hotwire, HP’s, Johnson & Johnson’s, and Vantiv. Ms. Bernard leads Product, User Experience, Analytics, and Technology in comprehensive transformations with initiatives that accelerate growth. She applies innovative organizational design, process implementation, product discovery, development methodologies, and talent curating within her companies.

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