Much of the daily work of user experience practitioners is spent trying to understand, pre-empt and design around usability problems. Failure, however, is inevitable. No system is infallible and no user research process can hope to understand every permutation of user need; nor should it: the result would be cramming so many features into a product as to make it unusable for the majority.
The reality is customer service exists to fill the gaps where design fails.
The ability to track and respond to user behaviour in real time is changing how effective this can be at creating positive change in customer perceptions of a service.
For instance, roaming platform provider Syniverse is working with operators to provide real time measurement of the failures and network events which might impact a customer during some of the most important moments in their service usage: when they are travelling in a foreign country and especially reliant on staying connected.
Mary Clark, Senior Vice President of Roaming and Interworking at Syniverse, explained how they are trying to create, in real time, a picture of what is happening for each roaming customer. They now have the ability to use these data to intervene right down to the level of an individual subscriber and improve user experience. This could be automated, such as sending a message with guidance on roaming settings when someone lands in a new destination, or monitored manually. For instance, when the roaming authorisation of a high spending business customer fails, an action could be created to pre-emptively assign an account manager to manually solve the problem.
Once matched against other data from an operator, such as spending and usage habits, these kind of real time tools are an effective weapon in the battle to deliver better overall experience.
To be most effective, however, I suspect there is a challenge of mindset to overcome within operators. According to Mary Clark of Syniverse, this real time tracking and response is often quite new to operators accustomed to asynchronous analysis of user behaviour. Once the potential is realised though, several of their customers have expanded the application of these principles from roaming to their home network operations.
For UX practitioners, it creates new opportunities to consider how effective use of customer service can support design solutions, ensuring that even when the inevitable happens – and users behave outside what has been designed for them – the experience can be remedied in real time.