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Happy to Help: How We Design for Customer Support

July 2020

Article

Courtney Gallagher
Hanna Brazier
Simon Child

People who use Spotify aren’t always happy with their experience. Sometimes things are not working, not clear, or not built to address a wide-enough variety of needs. That’s why our Support team exists — to make sure people can get the help they need, when they need it.

These help moments are critical. A bad help moment makes a frustrating experience even worse, while getting the help moment right can build lasting trust between a company and a human. You won’t be surprised that we’re always striving for the latter :-)  

Oh and allow us to introduce ourselves! We’re a design and research duo from the CSAT team (it stands for “Customer Support Systems And Technology”). We work on the support experience at Spotify — specifically the resources that help users help themselves. Beyond traditional product and brand design, we've got a whole bunch of services at Spotify that need design magic. And it’s our job to ensure that our service truly serves the needs of the people!

So how do we strive to get the help moments right? In lots of little ways, of course, but moreover by starting to follow some foundational principles that we feel are particularly suited to designing for our Support experience. We came up with these principles over the past few months by 1) talking with users to understand their needs, and 2) adopting familiar design patterns that we’ve seen work well at Spotify. 

Below, we explain each principle and illustrate how it applies to an experience on our Support site. There’s also a handy checklist that shows how we evaluate whether we’re delivering on the principle. You’ll notice that not every illustration ticks every box on its corresponding checklist, but that’s okay! They’re meant to be a reminder of our goals, and every checklist item may not apply in all situations.

Note that these principles are newly established, so in time they’ll shape how we think about the Support site. That means the illustrations you see below don’t reflect what’s on the Support site now. Rather they’re a peek into our personal crystal ball and a glimpse of what’s to come.

Ok, enough principle preambling — here are the principles themselves!

Principle 1: Transparent

Offer users visible and direct access to help, with transparent communication in both human and automated channels. 

What users say:

“Tell me why the issue was caused in the first place. And just tell me what you did when you went away for ages. Not just ‘I have sorted it.’” 

Checklist for transparent:

  • We’ve informed the user of what’s happening and why. 

  • We’ve provided evidence and communicated progress. 

  • We’ve provided access to help in a way that is visible and direct. 

Here’s an example that ticks the boxes for transparency by communicating the wait time when a user contacts a support advisor. The more specific we can be with the expectations we set, the better.

Principle 2: Empathetic

Listen to our users, trust what they say, and make them feel valued in a polite and personalized way. 

What users say:

“The worst is when it's a different support advisor every time I have to go through everything AGAIN. I already spoke to 3 different people. Surely, I mean surely, they have notes from my case?!”

Checklist for empathetic:

  • We haven’t wasted the user’s time, and all steps in the experience add value. 

  • We’ve used what we know about the user to simplify their experience.

  • We’ve listened to the user and responded in an intelligent and relevant way.

Here we strive to not waste the user’s time by grouping information within a help article to allow for skimming and scanning — something we know people like to do instead of reading every word. This helps them more quickly locate the information they’re looking for.

Principle 3: Flexible

Give the user the power to approach their help situation based on their preferences in the moment, which are dependent on the issue and environment. 

What users say:

“I wouldn't call tech support or customer service while I'm on the go, like while I'm on the subway train... In that case I would use an app or chat instead. But I'm not sure I would actually solve a problem like this when I'm on the go, unless it's extremely urgent.” 

Checklist for flexible

  • We’ve adapted to the user’s help situation and offered options to access help (search, browse, or contact).

  • We’ve empowered users to self-help for issues where self-help is possible.

  • We’ve provided direct contact options for issues where advised support is required.

Here we give users choice in how they resolve their issue. Options to search, browse help categories, or contact an advisor enable users to decide based on their issue and preferred style of support.

So those are the principles! Beyond referring to them during the design process, we use them as a common language, so everyone on our team can participate in conversations about our users’ needs. The principles are a lens we all look through to see what our users see, enabling us to agree on what we want to achieve.

In many cases, what users want is for us to immediately fix, clarify, or redesign the thing that brought them to our Support site in the first case. We can’t always do that, but our principles enable us to react in a way that is, well, principled. We can acknowledge our users’ feelings. We can provide not just one path, but an experience that adapts. And we can behave at every turn in a manner that is respectful, caring, and human. 

Credits

Courtney Gallagher

User Researcher

Courtney loves uncovering insights to inform how we craft help experiences at Spotify. An American in London, she plays football (yes, soccer) in her free time.

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Hanna Brazier

Product Designer

Hanna designs with the Support team at Spotify and loves the challenge of converting a frustrated user with an issue into a happy user with a solution.

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Simon Child

Illustrator

Simon is an all-round designer / brand creative / casual illustrator and ex-world traveler.

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