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By David Batey

On 2015-11-19

How To Consistently Support An Inconsistent Customer Base

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If you think your job is hard, try being a website serving a user base of 80 million. That job is way harder.

That’s essentially what the UK government’s workhorse of a website, GOV.UK, does for its people. They won an award for it - as they should, because they did it without cluttering up the entire experience. (That’s why they won the award.)

GOV.UK - a teardown of the British Government's self-service journey
from Kayako

GOV.UK proves that a large and inconsistent user base made up of entirely different levels of web savvy, ages and literacy, can co-exist and thrive on a single website.

And that should be a source of inspiration to all of us, because if a government website can pull off this tricky feat, then so can the rest of us.

After all, GOV.UK isn’t the only online destination with an inconsistent user base. Marketplaces (like Gumtree or Ebay), e-commerce sites (like Amazon), and online banking services all serve a major variety of customers.

If you have an inconsistent user base, whether it’s varied experience levels or users who only log in once in awhile, here’s a good way to bucket your users and serve up the level the support they need at different times:

1. Design your help center for the average user (or make it helpful to the majority)

Look for patterns to see what the majority of users come to the site to do - and then design for them.

  • A short (maybe 5 point) FAQ
  • A “Getting Started” Guide
  • An intro video

This might feel uncomfortable to you. You’ll have to pull the curtain on a vast amount of resources to make this happen. “What if we alienate users?” you might think.

Don’t worry about that yet. Most of your users will get around just fine on your site after checking out the basic help you’ve outlined on your support centre. The fact that you can knock out most support requests by designing a great basic help centre means you have more time and resources on your hands to take care of the rest of them.

2. Branch Out Support For The Rest Of Your Customers

After you’ve taken care of the majority of your users’ support needs, you’ll still have these guys:

people who have urgent or escalated needs

What channels do you have available to you? Try to find other support channels, including live chat or email. Some of these customers might be troubleshooting, frustrated and have already spent time digging around on your support site.

Instead of letting customers find their own help, here you’ll push the help to them. That might look like a support article, a video, a how-to guide, etc. This kind of help is still really cost-effective because you won’t be walking customers through their individual problem. You’ll just shoot them over the links they need to help themselves.

3. Offer live support to the rest

Now here’s the obvious part. You’ve helped all the customers who can be helped with your existing support docs and resources. This last bucket of customers need your individual attention. But the good news is, you’ve built such an effective process for your other customers that you have the time to give these users the additional help they need:

  • people who just prefer personal attention (they will always be there)
  • one-off, unique “edge” cases that require personal support
  • cases that are more complex or involved

The Takeaway

Not everyone needs live help, especially if you can design a way to get them the information your customers need as they need it. If you’re overloaded with support requests, bucket your customers and give them the lowest touch support they need to resolve their issues.

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