Because we offer Software as a Service, we need to keep clients happy month after month. A renewed membership is just as important to us as spreading the gospel of easy design feedback to people who haven’t heard of us. If we want our customers to love our service, we have to focus on the UX of long-term relationships. This is what we want to achieve, interaction by interaction:
Strong relationships are built by giving consistent, personal attention with the aim of making your customer happy. We will always need this human touch. But once the prerequisites of enthusiasm, technical knowledge and time are in place, think about the way you incorporate support into your product. It is just as important as the quality of your support messages. A lot of companies settle with an email address or a contact form, and maybe a telephone number. This creates the feeling that there are two entities: the cold, manufactured machine of the website or software; and the people sitting somewhere to help you through email. This change of context does not really make any sense.
Customer Interaction tools
You want to help people and talk to people in the context of your web application, not in the context of their Gmail tab or Mail app. More and more people recognize this, and are busy building very promising tools to help us. These customer interaction tools offer you a way to talk to people right inside your web app. This way, you can communicate within the context of your web application. We use Olark on both our homepage and inside our application. It is a really simple chat window that is active whenever we are online. We can see which part of the app the customer is using, which system and browser is in use, and check back earlier conversations. It has become our main way of helping people with small questions about our product. Once people tried it, they almost never email us anymore. Everybody wins.
For messaging people inside our app, rather than emailing them, we use Intercom. It’s a beautiful CRM and communication app that let’s us track how often we talked to customers, and message people that fall into certain segments. For example, we give new accounts that are very active a heads up that we are always happy to help with suggestions for further tests. It allows us to say the right thing, at the right time.
I have high hopes for these kinds of tools. They have a big influence on how people feel about using your application. We proud ourselves on giving great support, which leads to happy customers, because they had at least one experience where they were helped out quickly and kindly. When that positive experience takes place inside your design, your brand, application and design gets associated with that feeling.
The future of web applications: customer interaction design
Right now, the tools look a bit different from the rest of our application. But I see them becoming very flexible in terms of design soon. I am not just talking about more ‘themes’ and color schemes. I mean that a lot of good web applications will be built from the ground up, with integrating these customer interaction tools being top priority. We can get rid of the context break of people using a strictly programmed, rules bound computer program, and looking somewhere else to get help by a human.
I think that in the future customer experience applications will let us not only send better messages inside our apps, but also let the instructions we show in the app be specific to customer segments. I think that direct communication like Olark’s chat will no longer be confined to a closed off window, but can pop up next to any element the user is having trouble with. Maybe even give my customer permission to view his screen, and let me point to elements without having to describe them.
Blurring the line between the strictly logical functioning program and human interaction can bring us a very special customer experience. The possibilities to achieve this seem to be on the rise, and I can’t wait.