Call centers are expensive. Companies have been trying to mitigate the costs associated with them for years. Unfortunately for humanity, the strategies they have used to reduce costs– automation, outsourcing, and staff reductions– aren’t exactly popular with their customers.
A strong incentive exists to move consumers to a digital, self-service model.
The more businesses can empower their customers to take direct control of their own accounts online, the less time and money they spend managing it on their behalf.
Go ahead and call any business with which you interact, and it will be clear. Before you can speak with someone, you’re likely to hear a recording urging you to “visit our website at www…”
Everyone Wants the Same Thing
Customers and businesses are aligned on this issue. Customers want more direct access to and control over their data. They expect to be able to use their computers to manage most aspects of their lives.
More and more people dread having to make a phone call—endlessly trying to navigate a phone tree, speaking to a computer, or leaving a voicemail to wait for a callback.
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Poor Self-Service Sites Slowing Progress
Even though everybody wants the same thing— to avoid time-consuming interactions with customer service reps— a stubborn gap exists. Terrible, confusing, no-good online experiences continue to bedevil companies and their customers. Calls to support centers, sales reps, and account managers remain a drag on earnings and customer satisfaction.
Businesses struggle to provide users with viable ways for their customers to complete complex, multi-faceted tasks online.
It’s not surprising that this is a challenge.
Conversations enable people to ask follow-up questions and clarify ambiguity in real time—human beings can effectively respond to a far greater number of use cases than a website. Yet, many companies have succeeded in lessening the strain on call centers and support staff by developing user-friendly portals for their customers.
How to Ensure Your Self-Service Site is Successful
What makes some self-service experiences better than others? What can you do to help ensure that you’re creating a usable site for your customers?
Developing a digital, self-service model that works for both business and customers is fraught with risks and pitfalls. Do these three things to help ensure success.
1. Hire an expert:
We develop complex, transactional, user experiences for regulated industries. That is all we do. Nobody on our staff has been with the company for fewer than 3 years. We’re familiar with the challenges specific to data heavy portals and applications. Our collaborations with technical teams consistently result in the successful implementation of our designs. These outcomes should not be taken for granted. Asking your marketing or advertising agency to take on a data-driven user experience is ill-advised.
2. Plan to be heavily involved:
Intuitive online tools are created when client teams are willing to collaborate closely on every detail of the experience and iterate with us until we find the best possible design solutions. We don’t understand the intricacies of your regulatory environment or the goals of your business the way you do. The industries we work with are heavily regulated. We often deal with complicated security and technical constraints. To create successful products in this context, we need extensive involvement and input from our client teams.
3. Set aside budget for validation:
User research is often considered an optional, nice-to-have. This is a mistake. Even our most successful collaborations result in imperfect designs—the hard truth is that our designs will contain challenges for users. Usability ensures that we identify and resolve key issues during a test run. Research participants are paid to tell us about the things that will cause your customers to grow frustrated, call customer service, or simply give up. Skipping a usability study doesn’t save money; it simply delays payment— it’s like taking on a debt. At some point, that debt comes due. With interest.
If you’d like to talk about our philosophy on user experience design, user research or how we might partner on your next project, please contact us.
By Gregg Harrison
Gregg’s passion for all things digital started two decades ago as a project manager and has expanded over the years to include a focus on user experience consulting, client management, and operations.View Gregg's Bio