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Consolidating UX: The Secret to Designing for Customer Service

Steven Calhoun, 7 minute read

When designing for customer service, we often observe a similar base workflow: CSRs collect information to input in forms and respond to customer inquiries about products or services. However, this core workflow can slightly differ based on industry-specific needs.  Information, actions, or resources that are necessary to complete work can vary from industry to industry, and we must account for these as extensions to the core workflow. 

Why? Each vertical (the specific industry to which each customer service application caters) has overlapping requirements. If we do not consolidate these requirements, we overlook them when scoping design efforts. So, if we examine each experience through an abstract, pattern-oriented lens, we can easily pinpoint the core workflows to include in an application. We can then identify any other industry-specific functionalities as a separate top layer. This identification helps create a consistent user experience, improve designer and developer efficiency, and clearly recognize functionalities to implement in the future. 
Before discussing these benefits further, let's walk through the process that we take to unify customer service workflows from multiple industries, and then cater to the customer service needs of each industry.  
We start this process by collecting vertical-specific use cases and comparing the process steps, end outcomes, and data that is required to complete the work. By viewing customer service UX from a high-level perspective, we can identify the common denominator for the collective industries. This gives us a base experience from which we can work. 
We then identify how industries can extend this basic UX and case structure to fit the business use cases for the industries. For example, let's look at the Make a Payment Microjourney®. At its core, this Microjourney allows users to set up some type of payment for their products and/or services, but the possible actions that users can take vary based on industry: 

  • Communications: Includes "Promise-to-pay," which allows customers to forgo making a payment and pay at a specified date in the future. 
  • Insurance: Includes the ability for a customer to pay off an insurance policy in full at a discounted rate. The review screen shows these discounts alongside other payment information collected. 
  • Financial Services: Removes the ability to pay with a credit card when paying off a credit card account statement.  

We take such variations into consideration during our design process when selecting UI patterns. We then annotate our design specs with these considerations. 
This process of determining a common workflow and then tailoring this workflow to industries is useful for several reasons: 

1: A common workflow creates a consistent UX experience

Users can focus more on the necessary work rather than the discrepancies in the tool that they use. Consistent patterns and interactions allow users to navigate and interact with the application without actively thinking about how they can complete work, which boosts ease of use and productivity. 

One byproduct of our collaborative processes was the creation of pattern templates for reuse across Pega Platform™ applications, which reduce future development efforts that require similar experiences. 

2: A common workflow consolidates design work

Consolidated design work means that designers do not need to create brand new customer service workflows for each industry. Instead, they can start with the core workflow of the horizontal customer service software and build from there. 

3: A common workflow reduces development debt

Fewer development teams are needed to build the initial core functionality in customer service. It also relieves that duplicative effort from vertical teams that plan to adopt and extend that functionality. Additionally, reduction in development dept cuts down on maintenance requirements because there is only one Microjourney to maintain instead of one for each customer service vertical. 

4: A common workflow helps prioritize functionality to implement in the future

Business stakeholders can approach future development work in each vertical, while knowing what functionality comes with the product out of the box. This knowledge means that they can accurately estimate and prioritize work needed to extend and meet their business requirements.  

Additionally, when we clearly see the different customer service functionalities that each industry needs, we can more easily identify what to implement today and what to develop later. Certain functionalities might be out of scope in the current release, and determining what adds the most value helps us plan for the functionality that we hope to implement in the future. Having foresight into UX and technical dependencies also helps other Pega teams, such as the Pega Platform teams, anticipate and prioritize the work that is needed to support the industry applications.

5: A common workflow increases collaboration across applications and teams

The consolidation of work breaks down silos across applications and forms new relationships during group working and planning sessions. By planning work with stakeholders that represent different teams and disciplines, we reduce the number of meetings and time that is required to plan and accomplish work. Additionally, because a range of stakeholders is involved, technical knowledge and development approaches are shared between teams, which results in more efficient efforts across each team.

This process has a considerable impact on our clients, as well. It can help clients understand the roadmap of the features and functionality that we support. The more learning we can do between industries, the more business justification we can put towards our development and increase prioritization. We hope to effectively handle client use cases and improve our operational efficiency through the same process.  

To illustrate the benefits of the consolidation process, the following development points were necessary to complete the Make a Payment Microjourney in Pega Customer Service™ for Financial Services:

Effort Story Points
Building UI Components in Hz 7
Build Make Payment in Hz 20
Adopt Make Payment in Customer Service for Financial Services 10
Rework in Hz 8
Adopt the changes in Customer Service for Financial Services 2

Even if we ignore the "rework" effort, each vertical would have taken roughly 32-37 points if work was done individually. Because common components and case design are built once, each team saved about 25 points.  
With the consolidation process, we become more efficient by designing and implementing common experiences and extending them to meet the specific needs of a customer service vertical. The earlier we can identify similar requirements and patterns that help users complete work, the more insight we can have into our iterative and agile approach to making excellent products.

About the Author

Steven Calhoun is a product UX designer, customer service for vertical industries. 

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