Monday, November 05, 2007

Customer Support on the Web: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Making online support a better UX ...

"When customers arrive at a Web site, they have goals and tasks they want to complete—for example, buying a movie ticket, transferring money, signing up for a service, applying for a loan, asking for help, and so on. An important requirement for a Web site is the ability for customers to serve themselves, so they can generally complete their tasks without needing to contact Customer Support or ask a friend for help. However, understandably, there are times when customers do need help from Customer Support—by either speaking over the phone or using live chat—so they can solve more complex problems or complete tasks they cannot complete on their own. In such cases, customers need email addresses and phone numbers that let them contact Customer Support directly.

Sometimes, however, when a customer looks for contact information for Customer Support, it is hidden from view or buried beneath layers of menus. Some companies even deliberately hide their contact information, because they simply don’t want customers to contact them.

So, what factors should you consider if your goal is providing more optimal customer support on the Web?

What Is Self-Service?

To create a self-service Web site that helps customers help themselves, you can support customers through various means like field-based contextual Help, validation messages—which often appear too late to be of real help—instructional text—which users often don’t read—FAQs, and user’s manuals. As customers try to accomplish their tasks, they first rely on the contextual Help and instructional text that appear on a specific page within the context in which they’re working, then on FAQs and Help on the site.

However, if there is a mismatch between the workflow a site presents and what customers want to do, if a site’s terminology is hard to understand, or if completing tasks requires so many steps customers cannot easily accomplish their goals, customers lose confidence in a Web site as a self-service channel and quickly look for other ways to get the answers they need—for example, in-person support from a family member, coworker, or support staff at work or a Web site’s Customer Support number."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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