By way of introduction, my name is Jason Alba. I have owned a website (JibberJobber.com) to help job seekers organize and manage their job search (and non-job seekers organize their networking, CRM-style) since 2006.
Over the last couple of years I’ve become very, very interested in UX. In the early years of my company I had hired designers, but what they had to offer was more along the lines of UI (colors, fonts, curved corners, etc.) and no interest in, knowledge of, or specialty with UX. As a business owner I was much more interested in the benefits of UX than the benefits of UI… to there was always a mismatch. Realize that eleven years ago no one in my circle was talking about UX… it was all just “design.”
But that changed, and as a company we’ve become focused on UX. The “experience” of the user. Our ability to confuse less and inspire certain actions more. The magic of enticing someone to use your product just a little more, so they become just a little more hooked. And of course, the holy grail of getting them to open their virtual wallet and share some of their hard-earned money with you.
UX is cleaning, refining, polishing, and removing friction.
I hired a brilliant UX designer (Udie Chima) who opened my eyes and trained me to think more like a UX designer. Or, more like a customer. He told me his mockups would be in black and white (and gray), not in color. That’s when I knew I had the right guy… he wasn’t going to focus on stuff the other designers focused on… he was focused on my business goals. He also taught me that every form field was a decision the user had to make, and too many decisions, for the user, is not good.
Armed with this knew UX knowledge and focus, we made a few seemingly-minor changes that increased our annual upgrades by 400% to 500%.
Can you tell we are focused on UX? This will always be a theme at my company.
Another theme we have is customer service. I am convinced that our competitors will always have some technical element of their offering that is better than what we have in JibberJobber. Maybe Company-X has a better calendaring widget, Company Y has a better API to Gmail, and Company Z has a better dashboard. We’ll work on improving each of those, of course, and many, many other things, but competing on tech features is simply a game of leapfrog. It’s an exhausting and sometimes frustrating game of outdoing someone else on a specific feature… but there’s one thing that we want to be best at, and that is customer service.
Tech companies have done a wonderful job of setting the bar ridiculously, shamefully low on customer service. I once had a problem with Google and guess what? The email I got was “you’ll never be able to do this again, EVER.” No chance of talking to a human. And even though LinkedIn setup a customer call center (I think in Nebraska), no one I talked to had gotten much more than a form email not solving their problem. There are hundreds, probably thousands of examples of software companies that have zero customer service… and that’s what our world is kind of becoming conditioned to expect.
So, when I (the company owner) email someone, or get on a webinar with a user, I get the “… are you really Jason Alba? You are really communicating with me??” treatment. I’ve had people really not believe it’s me. And it isn’t just me, I have tried to create a culture in our company that the customer comes first, no matter how small their issues are.
You see, I tend to have fickle, emotional users. Many are in job search, and depression and anxiety are not uncommon. If something in JibberJobber, which is a rather complex tool, is frustrating, that could be enough to push them back to Excel. And I’d rather have them use my system than Excel.
Customer service is the #1 part of our company that I think we can win on. Not the technology leapfrogging… but helping our users feel like they are a part of our family, our “tribe,” our movement. We want them to feel like we are a part of their mission to get back to stable. It’s a big focus.
That feels like the longest introduction to the title of this post, which is where UX meets customer service.
Yesterday I got an email from a user telling me that his account went from premium to free, but he didn’t get an email about it. We should, he said, have this notice in a few places, and he was happy to pay for the upgrade… but we were missing out on some opportunities to get upgrades because our notification/reminder system to users who go from premium to free was really weak (or, non-existent).
I spent some time and went through all of the places that we should do this, from the My Account page to the emails we send to other pages in the site, and identified about six main areas that we need to beef up. Make no mistake, beefing up these areas will increase our upgrades, perhaps by two to five times what we have right now (I hope). These changes will have a significant impact on the company finances. Obviously, that is reason enough to do it.
But, talking about the intersection of UX+CustomerService, it’s more than just increasing upgrades. Making these changes will make it easier for my users to have the experience they need, want, and expect. The changes will make it easier for the customer to self-serve, instead of having to reach out and say “why can’t I upgrade??” The changes will reduce more user friction, because instead of scratching their head, wondering how they do a certain thing, they will easily and quickly find the button to do it, and then they will do it, and they’ll get what they expect out of the experience.
I want my users to upgrade, but I want it to be a quick, easy, intuitive process. Once they are done, they need to move on to USING the system. Upgrading shouldn’t be a long, painful process, and when we make it hard to do, we make their experience poor. And we increase our need for customer service.
Cleaning your site, and having excellent UX (or, moving towards excellent UX) will change how you do customer service. The goal for both of these is to delight customers (and create a healthy, sustainable business). They are so related that they must be talked about, together, regularly.