UX and Customer Support : two sides of the same coin?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As a Designer building a Customer Support Saas product, one thing that really hit me early on is how similar the basics of UX and Customer Support are.

Being in a lean team, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with people from different roles so that we can build and ship features that matter within a short period of time. In doing so, I have realised that UX and Customer Support — which are traditionally two very different areas of business, have a lot in common and both can benefit a lot from learning from each other.

Sometime back, I had read a post by William Frazier, “UX Design: A Table for Two” where he talks about how we, as designers, should start looking at seemingly dissimilar industries, in order to learn and share better customer satisfaction practices. I completely agree with William here.

Having watched many customer support people go about with their daily tasks and having talked to them, these are a few points where I think UX and Customer Support practically does the same thing and can learn from observing each other:

1. Keeping users informed about what is going on

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

As designers, we know that we need to keep users informed about what is going on in the system, in their flow. Say, what step of the onboarding stage or checkout stage the user is in. The progress bar used in many different scenarios caters to this pretty well.

This same practice is similarly very important in customer support cycles. Letting the user know how their problem is being solved and by when it will be solved helps the agitated user to calm down and adds to the overall consumer experience.

2. Speaking the user’s language

Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash

The products that we design should speak the user’s language, with words and concepts familiar to the user.

Similarly, customer support people need to make sure that they are not adding to the user’s confusion by mentioning terms and phrases which are used within the team but might not make sense to the user.

3. Understanding the user’s story

Photo by Eneida Hoti on Unsplash

In order to design good products, we need to understand the user’s story, their problems. This helps us, designers, to have empathy towards our users which would result in better products for these users.

Similarly, customer support people need to listen and try to understand the user’s story, ask them relevant questions so that they can help them in whatever way possible.

Users hate it when the support person they are talking to does not seem to understand their problem and then ends up giving them a completely different solution altogether.

4. Collaborating with users, engineers, managers and others in solving an issue

Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

Designers need to work with various stakeholders and collaborate with others in their design process. This helps in understanding the exact problem and then work on the solution together. Designers might not have answers to all the questions and needs the help of people with different expertise to understand the entire problem space.

Customer support too has to work with others sometimes to get users the help and information they need.

5. Maintaining consistency and standards

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Enough has already been said about the importance of consistency in the design of a product. It is probably one of the most important things a designer has to keep in mind while going about their work.

In customer support, consistency in how different support executives talk to users is of paramount importance. It looks very bad when the user receives different replies from different support executives of the same company.

6. Providing proper help and documentation

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

This is one such point, where the designer and the customer support executive needs to work together so that necessary information is easy to find for the users.

Even when the support executive needs to guide the user to accomplish a particular task, care should be taken that the list of tasks to be carried out is not too large, is concrete and easy to understand.

It is said that design is everywhere. But we often end up not doing enough to understand the aspects of design from people with different backgrounds and from different industries. Just by observing people go about their day to day lives will help us in broadening our knowledge of design and make design more accessible to everybody.

UX designers need to start having less conversations with each other and interact with more people from different industries and backgrounds. After all, any industry can benefit from the introduction and implementation of sound UX principles.

— William Frazier in his post