Having been involved in a number of self-service redesign projects over the past few years, a number of user experience principles have emerged for success. We’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a number of user research initiatives to try to capture customer expectations and obtained their feedback via usability testing as well.  As part of a two part blog series, we’ll be highlighting principles that have served us well with successful self-service redesign projects.

Most organizations have come to the realization that there is money to be saved in having customers complete transactions for themselves online. In fact, one company we worked with estimated that it cost them $8 every time a customer phoned into their call center.

Something that we’ve learned to keep in mind is that we’re competing with other channels. If it is easier, faster, or provides a greater sense that the transaction has been completed by picking up the phone or walking into an office, then that is what customers will do as opposed to doing it online.

1. Reassurance

A common concern among customers is that their work online will wind up in a “black hole.” In other words, they need a certain level of reassurance that what they’ve gone online to complete has actually taken place.

Confirmation Page from Chase Credit Card with Transaction Number

Chase offers a transaction number to customers after making a credit card payment.

Designers can help allay these fears through the use of date and time stamps, confirmation numbers, and enabling the customer to either print or email a confirmation page to themselves. In addition, an email summary is now a given with most self-service transactions. All of these help create a strong sense that the customer has successfully completed a transaction.

Given the growing use of tablets and other mobile devices, it is important to enable customers to also email a confirmation message or quote to themselves. Many users do not yet have access to wireless printers, so providing them the ability to email a key message (e.g. confirmation, quote, etc.) to themselves helps to bridge the gap.

2. Clear Link Labeling/Less Marketing

User research we’ve done has shown that many times customers are online paying bills or performing self-service transactions late at night, at work, or on the weekends. They are very interested in completing these transactions as quickly as possible. As a result they rely on clear link labeling to find their way to the transaction they wish to complete. Usability testing focused on proper labeling is time well spent in this regard.

Quick Links List from USAA

USAA surfaces common transactions in the left rail once a customer logs in.

In addition, the time pressed user is typically not in an ideal place to offer marketing advertisements. However, should the marketing be targeted to the customer because of something the company knows about them, then that message is better received. For example, a good student discount offer is appreciated by the parent of a 15-year old, but not as much by the 65-year old retiree.

3. Hub and Spoke

Interaction design models need to help facilitate costumers finding and completing transactions. Oftentimes, providing users with a hub or landing page to start all of their self-service transactions with is helpful in this regard. As transactions are completed, the user is brought back to the hub to either sign out or begin another transaction. During usability testing, we’ve often seen customers feel that the hub or landing page provided them with a certain sense of security before attempting another transaction.

While many of the design considerations mentioned above may seem like common sense, it is surprising how often they are ignored. Sometimes this happens because of pressure from leadership to provide more complex or compelling designs. It is important that the designers do everything possible to keep these transactions as easy to complete as possible. When we have been successful in doing so, customer satisfaction scores have indicated that did our jobs well. In part two of this blog series, we will be considering additional user experience principles that have served us well with successful redesign projects.