Our Schibsted UX Principles tell us to “get with users from the first moment” – to use their insights to impact product and business decisions. There are a lot of ways to do this, from user testing sessions to data analysis, but it’s easy to forget about another huge source of information on user expectations: Customer Support.
At Schibsted, I’m lucky enough to work in a team which includes Customer Support within UX. Here’s why I think this is the right way to go. 🙂
Customer Support is a source of information about users
Customer Support are a unique point of access to users. They deal with all of the complaints, respond to all the frustrations and deal with the challenges. The flipside of this is that your Customer Support team can tell you exactly what users think of a feature (“Oh, they don’t like that, they always ask us for a refund”) or of a page (“Mmm, now that you mention it, I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone complain about that.”)
Want to learn more about what your users think? Ask the people who spend their day talking to them.
Customer Support is already part of your product
Have you ever gotten frustrated over an answer you got from a customer service?
I know I have.
Every answer a user gets from Customer Support will forever be associated with the product. When a user is feeling lost using your product, giving them an unhelpful answer is just about the worst thing you can do to your brand. Just one frustrating or unhelpful answer from Customer Support can convince a user that your product is just too complicated for them.
Don’t let your users feel alone or abandoned.
Users are invested in your product
Customer Support isn’t there simply to spit out answers, but to engage with users, and listen to them, so they feel welcome and valued.
Customer Support isn’t just about answering users’ questions about your product, it’s about helping them. You might almost say it’s about supporting them!
When a user asks how to do something, it’s good to answer them, but why not make it easier for them next time?
If a user asks “How do I edit my ad’s category?” it doesn’t mean they didn’t try to find the information, it means the information wasn’t where they expected it.
Ask yourself, “How could I make this clearer for them?”
There’s a story behind every contact
If someone writes to you, it’s because they have something to say.
I agree, that seems pretty obvious, but bear with me. Your users have an opinion on your product; whether they are writing to complain, asking for clarification or suggesting a new feature, they are expressing an opinion.
Every user who has ever sent an email to Customer Support has voluntarily taken 5-10 minutes out of their life to tell you what they think of your product. User complaints are a gold mine of user expectations! 🙂
Now, you may think that 15 people a month complaining about a specific page is no big deal, but don’t forget, for every user who bothers to complain, 26 other users remain silent. (Source)
Make your product what your users want it to be.
UX and Customer Support have the same goal
Both UX and Customer Support want to make the product easy to use.
Most people see customer complaints as unavoidable, and to some extent that’s true. No matter how good you make your product, users will always ask for more features or get confused over those they already have.
By shaping products to better fit your users’ needs you reduce the number of complaints, make it easier for Customer Support to answer them, and eventually improve satisfaction.
Great Customer Support makes for an even better User Experience.
The link between your product and its Customer Support
An easy to use product will trigger fewer customer complaints, giving your Customer Support team more time to answer the questions they do get. They can answer more quickly and give customised replies, and as a result, user satisfaction with your product will grow.
Take the time to work together
You have more in common than you might think.
Customer Support is a source of information about users behaviours and pain points. The user relationship with your product is defined by a lot of things, including the availability and quality of the customer service they get.
In the end, UX and Customer Support have a common goal. Every user who writes to your Customer Support is invested in making the product better; learning to listen to them is key and should be what Customer Support does best.
That’s all well and good, but what do I do now?
Do user testing sessions, A/B test if you can. Learn as much as you can about your users. Find data.
And don’t forget that Customer Support is as much a source of information about users as the rest of your research tools. Ask them and they’ll tell you more about your users than you might expect.