How providing tech support helped me understand our customers better

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'Funding for green jobs' page on the Scottish Enterprise website

As part of the recent Green Jobs funding call, the project team asked if the service design team could help with level two system support. This meant helping with technical issues that customers were having if the enquiry team couldn’t resolve them. 

I didn’t want to do it at first. I’m not really that technical, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to help. Even though our service adoption team gave us training and a knowledge bank that we could use, I still didn’t feel confident on my first shift. 

To my surprise, it was actually an interesting – and eye-opening – experience. Here’s what I learned: 

We shouldn’t assume that all business owners are tech savvy 

A lot of the enquiries that we got were from people who were struggling because they were using outdated browsers or operating systems, and the application form didn’t work well on them. When we asked them what browser or operating system version they were using so we could diagnose the problem, they didn’t always know how to find out. We tend to assume that people who run businesses will have good IT technical skills, but that isn’t always the case. 

And if our applications work better in some browsers than others, we need to make that clear before people begin completing them so they don’t get stuck midway through. 

Only designing for recent browsers can have unintended consequences 

One customer couldn’t complete the application because they were using an older Mac and was unable to upgrade to the latest operating system or download Chrome because of insufficient memory. They ended up buying a new laptop in order to try to complete the application – and then still struggled because the application had technical issues in Safari.  

This is an extreme example of how our design choices can impact users. We may not be able to build applications that work in all legacy browsers and systems, but we also need to be aware of the impact that this might have on customers. We certainly don’t want people feeling like they need to replace functional devices in order to interact with us.   

Customers want to be able to reset their phone number 

Customers need to set up an account as part of the application process, which involves adding a phone number for multifactor authentication. Several companies have got in touch asking if they could change their phone number because: 

  • One staff member started the application, and another wanted to complete it 
  • They had issues with their SIM card 
  • They registered with a landline and wanted to change it to a mobile 

We need to make it easy to do this while still maintaining account security. 

Tech support is user research 

We did user research on the application before it went live. Of course we did. But there’s nothing quite like speaking to customers who are struggling to use your service in real time. Not only did it flag up issues that testing on the prototype had missed, but it helped remind me of the human impact that our services have.  

Completing a long, complex funding application can be stressful on its own. Add technical issues into the mix, and we’re inadvertently making it worse.   

What happens next 

We will use the feedback that we received during this funding call to improve the customer experience for the next one, including how we better support people with low technical skills and how we can make the application form as stress-free as possible. We are also planning to ask customers who didn’t complete their application why they didn’t finish it – were there particular sections that they struggled with? Did they have technical problems that prevented them from submitting? 

As for me, I’ll be the first to volunteer to answer technical enquiries for the next funding call.

One Reply to “How providing tech support helped me understand our customers better”

  1. Really interesting article. On a minor point of detail, we always wanted to allow Customers to change their phone number, but time pressures meant that this couldn’t be included in this release. Interesting to see how in demand the requirement is.

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