'Discover, understand and use': how interactive guides make Customer Self-Service better

Our eyes widened this week on reading the headlines from the latest Forrester report on customer self-service. Once the poor relation to phone support, self-service over-took phone support as customers' preferred method of resolving their queries.

This has made us think that it is probably worthwhile to more clearly sketch out why we think interactive guides can and do play a critical role in the success of customer self-service initiatives. Given the increasing popularity as highlighted by the report it is probably more critical than ever that users can discover, understand and use the features and tools that have been built for them.

Showing versus Telling; Interactive Guides versus FAQs

For the first time in the history of our survey, respondents reported using the FAQ pages on a company's website more often than speaking with an agent over the phone. Use of the help/FAQ pages on a company's website for customer service increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014, while phone interactions have remained constant at a 73% usage rate.

One of the stand-out stats for use is that that 76% of respondents to their survey used the FAQ or help pages of a site to resolve their issue. Now FAQs have a long and noble history and a lot of the information is valuable and an FAQ page is the appropriate place to contain that information. But some of it is not. Taking a random example from the Help section of a large UK telco provider we see the following advice for a user who thinks they might need to change their password.

Take this fairly simple instruction from an O2 FAQ page. This is a fairly classic case of showing versus telling. It’s somewhat useful but frustrating - the user has to remember to open a new tab, recall the instructions, hope they don’t get them wrong, switch back to the other tab. How much easier to do the following;

  1. Take the user directly to the correct part of the site (the user would instigate a ‘Show me how’ option in the FAQ). Then..

  2. You can take them directly to the highlighted section in the website. Note this is all happening in the context of a real user experience - they are not watching a demonstration of this happening so much as having an experience of the website ‘on rails’ having indicated precisely what it was that they were looking for. Not only are you showing the user but you are also teaching them at the same time, reducing future dependency on the FAQ.

It is notable too that in the O2 FAQ example the information is actually out-of-date leading potentially to an even more confusing experience (there is no right hand menu as indicated in the advice). Nickelled's feedback system allows users to flag up information that is no longer useful, bringing errors to the attention of the Customer Support team much more quickly.

The users of Customer Self Service are changing

Another key point that struck us from the Forrester report

Self-service adoption increased across all generations from 2012 to 2014, with the largest increases attributable to older boomers (ages 59-69) and the golden generation (ages 70+).

So we are seeing the fastest growth in self-service from groups that on average at least are the least comfortable with using technology in order to resolve their issue. This is interesting as again it highlights that different user groups require different approaches something we discussed last week

Adrian Swinscoe has written interestingly on people’s psychological bias to create experiences with which they themselves would feel comfortable. Given the average age of people creating online customer experiences is significantly below the age of this fast-growing category of users there is an obvious risk of creating a less than useful experience.

Now a good UX and/or CX process will account for most of this but there is every reason to consider tools like Nickelled as part of that strategy of enabling users to find what they are looking for without recourse to an phone on online chat assistant as a first port of call.

Nickelled guide tracking will give you information on which guides are being viewed, if people are completing those guides, if people are finding those guides useful, how far people are getting through the guides and if they leave early, was their problem solved. Again - discover, understand and use are key elements to a succesful experience.

It still requires planning to get these experiences right but a key advantage of next-gen tools like Nickelled is that there is zero coding. This puts the building of these experiences in the hands of the people responsible for their success removing one layer of disintermediation between the user and the creator of the customer experience. This is critical as the easier something is to change, the faster and more accurate those changes will become of driven by the right people.

Discover, understand and use - contextual learning releases the value of the experience

The Forrester Report chimes with what we are increasingly seeing the market - that companies large and small are investigating more and more ways of helping customers to save themselves. The danger of course is that the more the number of approaches there is a risk of user confusion. We believe though that the fact that interactive guides are contextual to what the user was doing in the first place (browsing a web or mobile site) ameliorates this risk significantly. We’d love to hear what new technologies you are seeing in the market to help with this effort. To keep up with ours, please follow @nickelledapp or subscribe to our blog.

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