Caring about Customer Support — UX for enterprise software
Why should you improve your enterprise software?
If you want to improve your customer experience, you need to empower your employees with digital tools. Enterprise software impacts efficiency and affects interactions with customers. Enterprise software is especially important for your employees, as they spend 8 hours x every weekday x year, multiplied by every year spent in your company using it. They work in specific work conditions, not always convenient for their physical and psychological health. This is the reason why employees always need to have tools which most importantly don’t lower the quality of their work but also help them manage their tasks in an easier and faster way.
So if you care about talent retention, you need to agree that a user-centered approach isn’t only for consumer software, but it can also bring value to your company in the form of enterprise tools for employees.
How to start a user-centered enterprise software redesign
Enterprise software usually doesn’t look as good as consumer software, but the trend is changing now. It should be useful, practical, but also designed to fulfill needs and provide comfort.
It’s a typical designers’ sin to say that an old system is worthless. They forget that the old systems may be a great source of inspiration and information about employees as end-users.
So if you cannot document why it is wrong, how can you think that the redesign will be any better than a color palette upgrade? Of course it is not about copying the old flow and changing everything to make the system look modern and trendy. This doesn’t solve anything. Good UX designers check the users’ habits and can analyze the results into a brand new informational architecture and flows with shorter paths to end the tasks. You need to establish the jobs to be done, find out the typical problems, and shadow users to find specific work patterns. But remember, talking with the users is just as important.
How to get input when you have no time
No time is not an excuse. Gathering the quickest input for quick design work isn’t easy, especially when you and your users come from different countries, but it is possible. Technology allows us to connect with people on the other side of the world, but it needs a good strategy and logistics. It is important that as UX designers, we should ensure that the people we are going to talk fully trust us.
Sesam Sesam support case study
We were redesigning an app made a few years ago, but never before tested with users.
The app was dedicated for the Customer Support of one of our clients — Sesam Sesam — operating free-flow car parks in Norway. But support is not the only group of end-users. Our developers served as the third line of support, so they were genuinely interested in giving design feedback and pushing towards redesign as well. Until then, they were overwhelmed with all the cases that the supporters from Norway could find or solve. Having a context of use, they easily noticed areas that required changes, which is what we used in the design process.
How to find a source of the problems
A free-flow car park system is based on camera image recognition, but this technology isn’t 100% accurate, so the primary task of the Supporters is solving clients’ problems. But there weren’t only issues with the system, people also made mistakes and generated problems, so they would call the support for help. Unfortunately, a Sesam Sesam support job used to look like a detective’s job of fishing in tables of data, looking for explanations of mistakes. It took too much time and required too much effort.
On the other hand, there are also Sesam Sesam clients who report problems. They are not insignificant. They don’t have a direct impact on the tool that support uses, but they give them information about their problems, which is a clue to help search for the right solutions.
Unfortunately, people writing e-mails to support or calling by phone usually weren’t sure which information is necessary to quickly solve the problem.
It was easy to design an update — we just asked for one additional field in a contact form on a webpage, and from that moment it has become possible for support to solve most of the client messages in one e-mail.
At the same time we asked support employees for common support materials, like emails, questions, and workflows (frequent, annoying, and very long to resolve).
We had a quick focus group on Skype — searching for the most important patterns, habits, and common cases in everyday work.
Based on the gathered information we rethought support flows and redesigned the system. The main design goal was to make working with the new system easier, faster, and more convenient for the supporters’ eyes, since they work 8h sitting in the office. Searching for information has never been easier. We decided to base it on a simple search module with basic information about the customers. It allowed the employees to see data in a specific context where all types of information are linked to each other, and we made it possible to go through the whole system independently from wherever they are.
How to conduct usability testing and shadowing in Norway
We planned our work and created wireframes based on the supporters’ input.
We traveled to the clients’ offices and support’s workplace — to see how they work in real life, and of course, to test our ideas on wireframes.
Being in their real work environment, we did some lean shadowing — we noticed that the monitors are used vertically, and some of the tasks are hard to perform because selected filters would disappear when the users went back in their search. This was very useful input – we would never have known about it if we hadn’t gone there. For the supporters it was so natural that they didn’t even consider telling us about it.
One month later we tested the wireframes and the designs were ready to be implemented.
Success metrics of the UCD process
We implemented what we had and tested it remotely with the support team.
We conducted questionnaires and individual interviews (IDI) with Sesam Sesam — they went fine. Every time we planned to add new features into the Supporters’ system, we talked to them and created solutions based on the problems they faced in their work. The design was always prepared in the context of Sesam Sesam support work.
The biggest test for us was the onboarding of new Supporters. They were the only ones who could share their first impressions and opinions. Luckily, their introduction process went fast. It became easier to understand how the system works.
“I don’t believe in perfection, but the new system is almost perfect! Sometimes it feels a little bit rigid, but finding the information I need has become effortless.”
User, Human, Supporter
Why your customer support is one of your biggest assets and you should take care of their tools
Customer Supporters are an excellent source of knowledge about your current customers and organization because they are usually right in the middle of the problem. Their expertise and emotions are fantastic tools which you can use to remodel your service. You should consider taking them on-board in the co-creation sessions of your main service. It might be an inspiration for simplifying and improving processes in your company.
Support talks to your clients, so in fact, it is your voice for the end-users.
An Agile approach to user-centered app redesign
Even having a dedicated UX designer on the team doesn’t solve the problem. All the team members should be included at the different stages of the design process. Allow them to see at least one usability test session — real people and their problems motivate genuinely. But what if you don’t have the end-users on hand? Ask your colleagues to go through the design, and give them real tasks to do. Just ask them to play the roles. Of course, it is not a real usability test with real end-users, but it’s enough to find the basic mistakes and incomprehensible places. It’s free and not time-consuming; it takes just a few minutes.
The takeaway for enterprise software designers and owners
- Be bold — invent a method to see people in their real work environment
- go on a service safari and get hired in your support office
- perform shadowing
- examine artifacts — work manuals, onboarding, mail, voice recording
- talk to the supporters
- Be inclusive — keep in mind that a software change can be difficult for people who learned the system and their workplace — involve them in the co-creation process
- Be clear — design for prolonged use (legibility and contrast are fundamental) and use real language instead of jargon
- Be practical — focus on jobs to be done instead of features
- Be kind — leave some space for the individuality of people and don’t judge their opinions. Being at work shouldn’t be a pain and flexibility is a very important factor for software enterprise systems
- Test with users – test your ideas with people as often as possible to avoid mistakes.
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Enterprise UXers unite!