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Customer Experience and Design

How User Experience is Customer Service

Stop and think about your day. How many times do you interact with someone in a service-based role? Is it your morning coffee? The front desk of your daycare, office, or gym? Did you go out for lunch? Grab the dry-cleaning on the way home? Was it a call to tech support? A trip to the grocery store or another retail space?
For most of us, interacting with the service industry happens almost daily. These exchanges can be a few seconds or take hours. Good ones can escape our notice. A particularly bad one can ruin our perception of and relationship with the company. A great one makes us feel special, cared for, and earns our loyalty.
User experience, is, at its core, customer service. This sounds obvious but is so easy to overlook. The UX is what gives the user the feeling that they are welcome, assures them that they can complete the task, and makes it easy to actually complete said task. Consider these four key elements of great customer service and the correlation to UX. 
Be Prompt.
How long do you want to wait for your drink? Or to finish checking out at the store? Once a person has committed to a physical location, they’ll likely be patient a little bit longer before leaving. But in the digital space, where there may be a thousand other avenues to complete the task, each only a second or two away, that threshold is lowered. Load quickly. Streamline the navigation stack. The faster a user gets to that first target, the more invested they feel, and the less likely they are to abandon the process. If there is a checkout process, look at it objectively. A flow that is streamlined and secure will reassure the user that their information is in good hands.
Be Friendly.
This seems harder to achieve without the live, physical interaction, but it isn’t impossible. Page layouts that are open, uncluttered, and clear feel inviting. Make your calls to action obvious. Use accessibility guidelines to ensure your page works for everyone. Websites should be responsive and streamlined for mobile, where the user experience is well-planned, instead of shoehorning elements wherever they’ll fit. Welcome returning users and save their preferences. These small elements have a lasting impact on making your user feel welcome.
Be Empathetic.
Like being friendly, this one is a more abstract concept. A digital forum cannot truly empathize with a user. But a UX designer can. Take a step back, look at your personas and user flows, and try to stand in their shoes. What are their problems? What are their probable frustrations? Here is where you empathize. Find the flaws in your design, empathize with the frustrations that can cause, and solve the problem BEFORE it even becomes a problem. This might be as simple as making an actionable element clearer. It may require more thought. But having empathy now prevents headaches after launch.
Be Proactive.
A server brings a refill before your drink is empty. A sales associate might recommend a product based on what you’re buying. Your coffee already comes in the heat-protected sleeve. These micro-interactions cut off a potential issue before it’s even entered your mind. Do the same with your design. Look at the logical next steps for your user. Consider the desired outcome of the site or app, and make the progression through those steps a no-brainer. If you can anticipate your choke points and eliminate them early, you have made your final product that little bit more useful.
Most customer service roles are the sum of a hundred tiny elements. A smile when you walk in, help locating your item, quick service, a positive attitude. Looking at these real-life points of process in a digital environment requires a bit of abstraction, but your end-user is the same. Offering a way for them to easily and enjoyably complete their goal is, after all, the point of both.

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