Came across this quote and couldn’t agree more. This concept is core to the strategy of Proper Cloth.
For software going forward, help will be built into the user interface. It will be a part of the infrastructure, embedded in normal interface elements instead of being an add-on. (via 52 Weeks of UX)
When a customer is using your website, in order of preference:
- The customer understands everything and knows exactly what to do. The colors, imagery and micro-text are so clear and intuitive that everything happens at the sub-conscious level. Questions never even arise in the customers mind. It’s as natural as walking down the street.
- Small questions arise in the customers mind but strategically placed help links or hover text quickly answer these questions and keep the customer moving forward.
- Questions arise in the customers mind that are not answered seamlessly. The customer has to stop what they are doing and go to a special help, how-to or FAQ page to answer their question.
- Questions arise in the customers mind that are not answered seamlessly and, even after digging around on the website, the customer still cannot figure out what to do. They eventually come to the contact-us page and either email or call customer support. (Or they just leave your website entirely).
Ideally, every interaction would fall into category #1. However, depending on the complexity of what you’re doing, interactions in the #2 and #3 categories are probably inevitable.
Category #4 changes things though. It’s expensive for the business and exceedingly frustrating for the customer. It lacks elegance. It is a hack. Internet businesses are exciting primarily because of their intrinsic scalability. Customer service centers are not scalable like software.
Some great businesses have been built claiming their core strategy is “customer service”. A lot of times this means they have invested heavily in a call center full of friendly, well trained customer service folks. I wonder if once you’ve invested heavily in a customer service center, do you spend as much energy trying to perfect your design?
It’s two very different ways of solving the same problem. One is infinitely scalable, but trickier to get right. The other is easier to get right, but more expensive to scale. Which solution would you choose? Is it possible for a new company with good design to disrupt an established company with a large customer service team?