Design That Allows Users to Help Themselves

Self-service has become a major consumer trend in the past several years. In fact, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service options instead of speaking with a company representative to solve an issue.

COVID-19 has amplified this trend. According to the 2021 Gartner CIO Survey, 65% of CIO’s reported an increase in self-service as a result of COVID-19, and 79% of CIO’s expect an increase in self-service use in 2021.

Read on to learn how to design a self-service experience that will keep customers coming back.

What is Self-Service?

Self-service means a user needs to complete a task, transaction, or get information on their own without the involvement or assistance of a human representative.

Self-service includes voice response systems, knowledge management software, and website features, such as a searchable knowledge base.

Self-service elements can also be:

  • Website content: Users can access information and perform routine tasks online. An example would be searching a knowledge base or signing up for an email list.
  • Mobile apps: Users can interact with an app on their smartphones or tablets to perform specific tasks, such as filing a claim or paying a bill.
  • eCommerce: Users can place an order or manage account information via a website or mobile app, without involving a customer service representative.
  • Chatbots: Users can get questions answered or obtain information by interacting with a chatbot via live chat, SMS, or messaging apps (e.g., on social media).
  • Virtual Assistants: Users can interact with applications using their voice to command the app to complete tasks (e.g. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant).
  • Interactive voice response: Callers can interact with an automated telephone system to complete routine tasks (e.g., ordering a prescription refill) or obtain specific information (e.g., business hours and address).
  • Kiosks: Users can perform routine activities by using a piece of small physical equipment with a computer and display screen (e.g., floor guides in a hospital or patient check-in at a clinic).
  • Scheduling tool: Users can look for open times and book an appointment directly online.
  • Self-checkout: Users can scan, bag, and pay for items without the assistance of a checker (eg. after hours in a hospital snack bar).
  • Wizard: Users can configure or customize a product or service, troubleshoot an issue, and diagnose a problem that needs additional support by a specialist.

The Benefits of Integrating Self-Service

Self-service is increasingly prominent in our everyday lives. These experiences are embraced by customers and businesses alike because:

  • Users can accomplish simple tasks or obtain information quickly without having to wait for assistance.
  • Customers can manage their accounts and make purchases whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.
  • Users can get highly personalized content tailored to their purchasing history, preferences, demographic data, and other profile information.
  • Businesses can lower customer service costs, increase profits and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Companies can allocate sales and customer care resources more efficiently to focus on generating sales or addressing complex customer service issues.
  • Businesses can improve SEO and boost online traffic by incorporating keyword-rich resources on their websites.
  • Businesses can collect and analyze more user data to further improve their customer experience.
  • Companies can build an engaging online experience that boosts customer loyalty.

How to Create an Effective Self-Service Design

A seamless and effortless user experience is essential in ensuring that a self-service experience is cost-effective, while encouraging customer engagement. Here are some key UX design considerations for implementing self-service:

  • Uncover users’ biggest challenges: Use research, data analytics, surveys, and usability testing to understand users’ issues and desired outcomes so you can design the most relevant solutions.
  • Make resources easy to find: Include self-service features and resources in your website navigation and ensure that the content is optimized for SEO.
  • Simplify user flow: Minimize the number of clicks and pages users need to go through to accomplish the primary goal.
  • Empower users by optimizing usability: Focus on design simplicity by removing features or content that aren’t necessary for achieving the primary goal.
  • Design for legibility: Use proper visual design, clear icons, and appropriate font size to ensure that the information is legible on all devices. Consider the elderly, those with impaired vision, and other accessibility issues.
  • Include clear instructions: Make the user interface as self-explanatory as possible, add instructional text to critical steps, and prominently display the calls-to-action (CTAs).
  • Use Progressive Disclosure: This is a technique to display relevant information to the user as they proceed in their task flow. This ensures that only relevant information is presented and you’re not overwhelming users with everything all at once.
  • Provide the option to get assistance: Include a phone number, live chat, or other method of support function so users can get assistance from someone if they have questions or can’t resolve their issues within the self-service experience.
  • Offer omni-channel support: Ensure a seamless UX on multiple touch points by leveraging a centralized database so customer data is updated in real-time and reflected in all subsequent interactions.
  • Ensure information accessibility: Make sure that the experience is accessible on all devices (e.g., desktop, mobile) and supported by the most commonly used browsers.
  • Understand the users’ mental model and context: It’s necessary to provide the end user with the right interaction based on what they are trying to accomplish. The end goal is an effortless experience, requiring you to understand where and when the customer is engaging with your brand, and what device they are using.

Some end users will want to talk with a “real live person” and that’s ok. Self-service doesn’t mean removing the ability to interact with a human.

To Design the Best Self-Service Experience Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Your approach to self-service needs to constantly be reviewed in order to meet user expectations. One great way to do this is through customer journey mapping. This exercise enables your team to develop empathy for your customers by viewing your customer journey through their eyes. By reconstructing each step of a customer’s interactions you can uncover issues and discover opportunities where self service might be most appropriate to implement.

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your digital experiences and assess whether or not self-service can play a larger role in your customer experience strategy. This ensures your organization is delivering the best possible customer experience to end users who expect no less.

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