Design That Allows Users to Help Themselves

Self-service applications have become a major consumer trend in the past few years. In fact, 50 percent of consumers now prefer self-service over interacting with someone else to solve an issue.

So how does this affect UX designers, and the way products are built? Read on to learn all about self-service applications and how to design a UX that will keep customers coming back.


What Are Self-Service Applications?

A self-service application is a piece of software that allows users to get information, perform a task, or complete a transaction without the involvement of a human representative.

Self-service applications include voice response systems, knowledge management software, and website features, such as a searchable knowledge base or online store.

  • Website content: Visitors can access information and perform routine tasks online. An example would be searching a knowledge base or signing up for an email list.
  • Mobile apps: Users can interact with an app on their smartphones or tablets to perform specific tasks, such as transferring funds from a bank account or paying bills.
  • eCommerce: Customers can place an order or manage account information via an eCommerce website or mobile app, without involving a customer service representative.
  • Chatbots: Users can perform tasks or obtain information by interacting with a chatbot via live chat, SMS, or messaging apps (e.g., on social media).
  • Interactive voice response: Callers can interact with an automated telephone system to complete routine tasks (e.g., ordering a prescription refill) or obtain specific information (e.g., business hours and address).
  • Kiosks: Users can perform routine activities by using a piece of small physical equipment with a computer and display screen (e.g., check-in at an airport or price check in retail stores).
  • Self-checkout: Customers can scan, bag, and pay for items without the assistance of a sales associate at retail stores.


The Benefits of Self-Service Applications

Self-service experiences are increasingly prominent in our everyday lives. Here’s why these applications are embraced by customers and businesses alike:

  • Users can accomplish simple tasks or obtain information quickly without having to wait for assistance.
  • Customers can manage their accounts and make purchases whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.
  • Users can get highly personalized content tailored to their purchasing history, preferences, demographic data, and other profile information.
  • Businesses can lower customer service costs and increase profits.
  • Companies can allocate sales and customer care resources more efficiently to focus on generating sales or addressing complex customer service issues.
  • Businesses can improve SEO and boost online traffic by incorporating keyword-rich resources on their websites.
  • Businesses can collect and analyze more user data to further improve their customer experience.
  • Companies can build an engaging online experience that boosts customer loyalty.


How to Create an Effective Self-Service Design

A seamless UX is essential in ensuring that a self-service application is cost-effective, while encouraging customer engagement. Here are some key UX design considerations for self-service applications:

  • Uncover users’ biggest challenges: Use research, data analytics, surveys, and usability testing to understand users’ issues and desired outcomes so you can design the most relevant solutions.
  • Make resources easy to find: Include self-service features and resources in your website navigation and ensure that the content is optimized for SEO.
  • Simplify user flow: Minimize the number of clicks and pages users need to go through to accomplish the primary goal.
  • Empower users by optimizing usability: Focus on design simplicity by removing features or content that aren’t necessary for achieving the primary goal.
  • Design for legibility: Use proper visual design, clear icons, and appropriate font size to ensure that the information is legible on all devices, especially for the elderly and those with impaired vision.
  • Include clear instructions: Make the user interface as self-explanatory as possible, add instructional text to critical steps, and prominently display the calls-to-action (CTAs).
  • Provide the option to get assistance: Include a phone number or live chat function so users can get the assistance of an agent if they have questions or can’t resolve their issues with the self-service app.
  • Offer omnichannel support: Ensure a seamless UX on multiple touchpoints by leveraging a centralized database so customer data is updated in real-time and reflected in all subsequent interactions.
  • Ensure information accessibility: Make sure that the application is accessible on all devices (e.g., desktop, mobile) and supported by the most commonly used browsers.

The UX design of self-service applications needs to constantly evolve in order to meet consumer expectations. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your applications to ensure they feature the most relevant information and deliver the best-in-class customer experience.