In the second part of a series on principles of good self-service design, we will be continuing the discussing additional ideas that have proven themselves in a number of projects over the years. In part one, we discussed principles such as clear link labeling, hub and spoke, and reassurance. In addition, 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.

4. Username and Password Recovery

One of the most common reasons for customers to call the call center is because they have forgotten either their user name or password. It is essential to make the retrieval of these as easy as possible via the website or mobile device. A best practice in this regard is to send an email to the customer with the address in their profile and prompt them to click on that link to re-enter the website. Oftentimes this enables the customer to easily reset their password without having to call the call center.

USAA Price of Adding a Teen Driver

USAA customers are clearly shown the price impact of adding a teen driver before purchasing.

5. Show the Price with Comparisons

While it may seem obvious, most customers will not make an online purchase without a seeing the price first. Ideally, customers want to see a side-by-side comparison of what they have now and the options for replacements. With some clients, their older systems are not at a point where they can present a price to the customer online. Unfortunately, this is a non-starter for the online channel to compete with others.

Capital One Add an Account Screen

Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) offers contextual help in plain language to help customers link to other bank accounts.

6. Plain Language

Extra effort should be made to simplify the instruction text that is used on a self-service site. While some specialized terms are required by legal considerations, the customer should be able to quickly find in-line or contextual help to better understand what troublesome terms mean. This should be a particular focus during usability testing and with other user touchpoints.

While the list of design principles we’ve listed are not exhaustive, they have served us well on a number of self-service redesign projects. If you have the opportunity to implement any of them on your projects, we’d love to hear about it. Please send us an email at info at