Customer service teams create a direct line between a business and its customers. Their work can make the difference between a good product and a fantastic product.
Whether it’s in person, via phone, email, or web chat, the work of customer service reps consists of writing to customers directly and conducting back-to-back user interviews, providing the company with valuable feedback on the product experience.
There’s a strong overlap between customer support and the discipline of UX, which can make reps a good fit for product teams.
CX and UX: partners in crime
Customer service teams are an important part of the CX, or customer experience, the combination of the perceptions, feelings, and beliefs that your brand has created for customers throughout the entire buyer’s journey, according to Hubspot.
Think of CX as a step further from UX. The UX takes place when the user is interacting with the product directly, while the CX is what happens when that user (or customer) interacts with the business that created the product. Once the customer buys the product and begins using it, they become a user of that product.
The team of frontline employees that the customer engages with when interacting with the company goes by many names: customer service, support, care, engineering, helpdesk…
Whatever it’s called, its people are there to help users make the most of the product, be the messenger of any user feedback, and many other tasks.
Customer service reps become the face of the company, so users depend on them to handle their problems related to the product. They thus become an inextricable part of the product. In a way, they sit between the CX and the UX.
From that position, they’re able to understand the user deeper than a constructed user persona, as they get direct insight into where the user pain points lie, what user expectations are, and most importantly, the language that users speak when referring to the product.
This helps build a strong case for more collaboration between the customer service and the UX team.
It also makes sense that a customer service rep would make a great fit for a UX writing team.
Customer service reps in UX writing
A typical customer service role will usually include these requirements in the job spec:
- Clear and empathetic communication
- Creative problem-solving
- Time management
All of these are highly compatible with a UX role. And on a day-to-day basis, reps would use many of the principles that UX writing involves.
Using conversational language
Depending on the role, the rep might engage with the customer through a variety of channels, including email, phone, webchat, or in person.
Regardless of the means of communication, a rep’s job is to help the user with their issue using conversational language that is positive and helpful, exactly what you would expect from great UX content.
A customer service rep also pays attention to the terms customers use to refer to various features of the product, which is an important part of UX research.
Staying clear and concise
Making sure that the user gets all the information they need without overloading them is an important part of providing great customer service.
This is especially relevant when writing support emails and web chat responses.
Depending on the role, a rep might also contribute to a help article where bigger tasks are broken down into step-by-step instructions, which is also a great technical writing skill.
Conducting user interviews
One-on-one interactions over the phone in a customer service role are basically like having user interviews on a daily basis.
A rep can gain valuable insight into the user’s logic in using the product. They can also get feedback on what went well and what didn’t, which is a goldmine for product teams when looking for ways to improve the product.
Last but most certainly not least is empathy. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is a key skill in providing excellent customer support—and creating helpful content.
Adjusting your tone depending on that of the customer, anticipating their concerns and confusions, and finding ways of improving their experience are just some of the ways a rep can empathize with the customer.
All of these skills are incredibly valuable in a UX writing role.
An ode to customer service
Apart from showing what skills overlap between a customer service rep and UX writer, I delved into this topic to show that there’s a lot of effort that goes into providing good customer service.
I’ve worked in my share of such roles and suffice it to say, it’s no easy gig. Despite their inherent value to the company, reps face many challenges, the most common ones being:
- Low pay
- Limited or non-existent training
- Dealing with abusive customers
- Little control over the incoming workload or the tools they use
- Minimal decision-making authority
- Poor career prospects
Some companies might require reps to stick to rigid scripts, leaving no room for creative problem-solving, and I’ve even heard stories of timed toilet breaks.
A rep whose needs aren’t being met is less likely to provide a good service, which creates a revolving door of negativity—it contributes to low company morale, damages its reputation, and negatively impacts company profits.
A customer satisfaction index, published in January this year by the UK Institute of Customer Service (ICS), found that poor customer service was costing UK businesses GBP 11.4bn per month in lost productivity.
A 2018 report by NewVoiceMedia found that poor customer service was costing US companies about USD 75bn, which was a USD 13bn increase from 2016.
There’s no denying that companies need to look after their customer service staff. Ensuring they have everything they need to provide an efficient service ensures the success of both the customers and the business.
UX writers face similar challenges in certain companies that haven’t realized the value of good UX.
All of this feeds into arguably the most important lesson for managing a company: a happy workforce means happy customers.