In any usability study conducted in an organization, the focus is on conducting user tests to gauge the workability of the product. But customer support reports give an entirely different picture.
We have all called customer support at some point seeking their assistance for product or services that we are using. The call could be related to a bank account, purchase order, missing luggage, changing mobile plans, etc. The common thread in all these is the understanding of customers’ problems, solving them & keeping a record of it. Customer support is one division within an organization that interacts most frequently with its customers. And for a usability consultant, that’s a knowledge bank out there to understand its users. The key advantage of looking into customer support data is that usability enhancements can be done at any part of product life-cycle & don’t cost anything extra.
Not all parts of customer support data will be useful for a usability study. It needs careful filtering of data to drill down to issues reported by customers on usage of product. It could be related to incomplete transactions, error scenarios, unsuccessful operations or difficulty in understanding product in itself. These reports give a clear picture as to where the application is failing with users. Sometimes, customer support executives walk customers through the whole process and help them finish it step by step. This is when we know the product’s not working with users & needs immediate attention. Most companies are opting to record conversations between customer support staff & customers for quality monitoring purposes. This enables us to listen to actual conversations & underline customer needs. Possible usability solutions could include fixing navigational flow, making cosmetic design changes, adding usable features etc.
Usability experts will then jot down these issues and give them priority & severity ratings. It’s also a good practice to check if the issue has been reported in any other study such as user testing, surveys etc.
Customer Support Data Sources
An organization will have one or more support systems in place to assist customer on their products or services. And these are the places to look for usability roadblocks.
Customer Support Data Consumption
The data from customer support not only benefits usability studies, but has been regularly consumed by various departments of an organization. Examples would include identifying incorrect product details (content management division),fixing system errors (development teams) and recording system bugs (quality assurance team).
In May last year, while working in the Las Vegas office of our customer, I happened to meet employees of a popular e-commerce site whose office was just a few yards away. During the conversation, I got to learn about their customer first culture. They take customers so seriously that all new joiners work for Customer Support for a few weeks before being added to their respective departments. That’s part of their induction program. Hearing this gave me goose bumps!
Good usability practices will help cut down costs on customer support and gain customer confidence.
By Balachandra Shetty