Companies often overlook customer support operations as a big part of customer engagement, and are frequently unaware that there’s a very thin line between a customer being a promoter or a detractor for a brand.
Creating an engaging and empathetic relationship with customers is key to a successful approach to customer service, and this is where self-service comes into play. In the immediate world we live in, leaving people — or customers — waiting is a big no. There’s probably a competitor right next door, looking to provide a better experience.
Self-service allows companies to provide immediate responses 24/7, whenever a customer needs help solving a problem. So what should they keep in mind when building and designing their self-service solution to create the best experience possible?
The Dos and Don’ts of user experience
The first step to creating a seamless experience throughout the entire customer journey is to acknowledge that the customer should be the center part of the equation.
When it comes to designing a self-service solution it’s all about providing a product that will be able to help even when agents are unavailable. And precisely because it will be there when agents are not, self-service must be a user-friendly solution with the right usability.
The following are examples of a bad user experience:
- Actions that jeopardize trust — using dark patterns that try to trick customers into an unwanted action (e.g. the missing checkbox that has an extra cost for them);
- Negative language;
- Hiding a company phone number or contact alternative when self-service fails to provide the desired answer;
- Asking for too much information — too many fields to fill in that just makes it harder to find an answer or submit a ticket.
And here are some good examples:
- Acknowledge a customer’s multi-context journey — including form fields (phone number, order number, etc.) that make it easy to cross-check information if a customer submits a ticket through self-service;
- Having a friendly and easy-to-navigate website and having a customer self-service product that matches that;
- Use simple, clear, and positive language.
When it comes to designing the actual self-service interface, it’s about accommodating usability principles, making the product accessible, user-friendly and putting the customer first.
Some of the most well-known usability principles are advocated in 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design shared by Jakob Nielsen. Some of these are important to the users, even if they don’t realize that they exist. This is part of the standard consistency and design across the digital world and it belongs to the psychology field and how humans perceive digital information, and how they interact with digital systems.
To name a few of these principles:
- Visibility of system status — The design should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable amount of time.
- User control and freedom — Users often perform actions by mistake. They need a marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted action without having to go through an extended process.
- Consistency and standards — Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform and industry conventions.
- Error prevention — Good error messages are important, but the best designs carefully prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions, or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors — Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no error codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
Nielsen says “users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.” So having consistency with system standards was also important when we were designing our own Cleverly self-service feature.
Designing Cleverly’s Customer Self-Service
At Cleverly, we embrace a Lean UX methodology that pushes us forward in making our products closer to real users. By identifying the user needs and combining them with product strategy and our vision, we can react quickly and build fast. Like we mentioned before, users don't like to wait, and our customers are no different.
Some of the main questions that we take into account during the process are:
- Who are our users or personas?
- What is the main use case for this feature or product?
- In which part of the journey will this feature be used?
- In which scenarios will this feature be used?
- How can we scale it?
Most of our work is done around a user-centricity approach, we hear our users, we gather metrics and we value their feedback. We do usability testing to gather qualitative data, but we also bring quantitative usage metrics to the table. That allows us to make informed decisions, and that’s a key part of making our product scalable, dynamic, and customizable to our customers’ needs.
This is why our self-service solution is fully customizable according to the customers’ brand and not Cleverly branded.
On a basic principle, while users engage with a brand, they are doing so as part of a journey, being that a purchase, a usage, a service, or even just gathering information from a website or a digital platform. Inserting a new design or journey in the middle of this journey will always create hurdles.
Additionally, providing a customizable, dynamic, and scalable product was always part of our vision. There are not two equal businesses, equal journeys, or even equal users, no matter the variables in play, but this will impact the way companies position themselves and want their business to be perceived.
Brand value is something non-tangible. We see why people love a certain product just because it was released by a certain brand, but not as often the other way around. That's why brands are something that people trust and create a relationship with.
In that sense, providing a custom and scalable solution to accommodate the variety of industry cases, allowing them to customize our self-service solution to their specific needs, was something that we understood and incorporated right from the start.
In terms of design, we respect and acknowledge that each brand has its very own approach and design, like colors, fonts, voice and tone, and even imagery. Forms, shapes, lines, space, textures are key elements of design. That’s why we looked in the first instance to accommodate this approach to embrace our customers' design approach.
We wanted to stand by our customers and embrace their journey as a top priority for our product. And I think we managed to do just that.