The UX (User Experience) industry has seen some big changes over the years. I began my career in UX research in the ‘90s. At that time only a few large organisations had usability labs, and I remember spending plenty of time convincing senior managers that understanding the customer was worth it – to the bottom line, to the brand, to their customers.
The dot.com era was a huge impact on UX and an exciting time for UX professionals. As the internet grew and people started using the web to interact with companies, brands were on a mission to find that competitive edge. But still many failed to get basic usability right. Not surprisingly during this time, we saw a rise in the number of UX consultancies appearing.
It was also common at that time for design and business process to be focused on channels in silo. While the focus on web usability increased, more traditional channels like the IVR weren’t so heavily invested in. In the context of UX, the approach was very much in understanding the end to end customer journey and the different channels customers would use, but the concept of multichannel and cross-channel UX was rarely discussed by businesses. It was up to the UX team to try and bridge that gap.Today, the practice of understanding customer needs in order to deliver the right, relevant experience is both in the public consciousness and at the core of every good business strategy. Customers expect it and organisations’ know they have to do it. But what can we learn from the years of conducting UX research, and how can this be applied to multi-channel and cross-channel UX?
The ‘multichannel’ and cross-channel dimension of customer service in 2014 does pose additional points to consider. However, in a lot of ways, whether you’re designing a single channel service or multichannel service, the principles (and challenges) of UX are not too different today, as they were back then.
Good user experience and profitable interaction doesn’t just happen with the introduction of a new communication channel. Having a structured approach to integrating the right UX activities within a project process is critical from the outset, so here are five top considerations before you take the plunge:
Design for your customers: It’s critical that your business goals and customer needs don’t clash. A successful multichannel (or cross-channel) service is dependent on understanding customer needs and expectations, their tasks, context of use and in providing a suite of touch points that support the right kind of tasks using the most appropriate channels.
Select the right channels: Not all channels are right for all tasks. A well designed, multichannel service will be based on an understanding of what customers want to do, the context in which they want to do it, and offering the most appropriate channel for supporting these tasks and contexts.
Don’t design in silo: Another factor that will determine the success of your multichannel or cross-channel service is how well the different touch points integrate and support a consistent user experience. This isn’t just about using the same branding and terminology, but really linking the touch-points and personalising a customer’s experience within them.
Don’tforget traditional channels: It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the latest technology, but for most companies, the IVR is still the contact channel of choice. It’s important that your UX contact strategy encompasses all channels, new and old.
Test with real users: User testing (or usability evaluation) is critical in really understanding how usable your product or service is. Getting early and contuinous feedback from representative users throughout the design and delivery process ensures user experience will be optimised, but can also save a whole lot of expensive and timely re-work later on.
We’ve learnt a lot over the years of conducting user research. But one thing is clear – never make assumptions about how your customers will use a product or service. User testing will always raise something that you haven’t thought about or predicted. This is why user research is so important to delivering great user experiences.