How to Collaborate with a Support Agent to Improve Your UX Writing
You’ve built a great product and your customers love it for how it solves their problems. You’d naturally believe that as your product evolves and grows, there will be fewer fires to put out, lesser bugs to squash, and you’d be shipping a holistic, clean product. Yet, you notice a steady inflow of basic how-to questions from your customers, or what support agents fondly call ‘L1 tickets’. Have you wondered why a clean product still receives questions like ‘how do I log in?’ or ‘how do I enable this feature?’ and other such basic questions pouring in from customers?
One of the most important reasons for the high inflow of L1 tickets is the microcopy. But what does microcopy / UX writing have to do with L1 tickets?
Well, think about it — if the product communicated clearly all that it is capable of, the frequency of the basic questions will decrease and probably stop altogether. For instance, take a look at the two buttons below:When the ‘sign in’ and ‘sign up’ buttons are placed right next to each other in the product or the website, a user trying to sign in will invariably need to pause to find and select the sign in button. Sometimes, since the buttons look so similar, a user might accidentally try to log in by clicking the wrong button. The cognitive effort required by the user while signing in or signing up can frustrate him/her, and this translates to a bad user experience. However, if the copy for the “sign up” button was replaced with: ‘register’ or ‘create an account’, users wouldn’t face this problem.
One of the biggest challenges with product copy is that most often, it is the people building the product who also write the copy. Since they are involved right from the birth of the idea, they might inadvertently turn a blind eye to the difference between what they think the user does with the product versus what the user actually does with the product. The copy ends up not serving its purpose.
This brings us to the next question: Who is the right person to work on the product copy?
Here’s where a UX writer enters the picture. A UX writer improves the experience a user has with the product by making the product communicate better. A good UX writer spends time going through tickets and listening to customer calls to understand the different issues that customers face, and then works towards fixing them.
However, going through an ocean of support tickets and identifying cases that tie back to weak product copy, is a time-consuming process. While it isn’t impossible to accomplish this by yourself, a little help from someone who has experience in working with the customer support team can go a long way.The customer support team is at the heart of resolving customer issues. Their insight into customers and the product are really valuable to a UX writer. Click To Tweet
Here’s how you can collaborate with a support agent to improve your UX writing:
#1 Understand the User Better
To write copy that truly helps your users, you need to know:
– who the user is
– what the user does with the product, in different instances
For this, designers and UX teams alike refer to user personas. A user persona is a representation of an ideal user. Contrary to popular belief, user personas are not just used by marketing/product teams, but also by designers and customer support teams. User personas are created by designers to understand the needs, goals, and characteristics of the target audience.
To write effective copy, you need to go beyond user personas and delve deeper into understanding the user. To do that, you should work closely with customer support agents, since they spend a lot of their time talking to customers and will have a firm understanding of user perspectives. Support agents have insights on the ideal workflows, use cases, understanding, and expectations of different segments of users. Working with them can help you put yourself in your users’ shoes.
#2 Make a List of Pain-points
To write copy that improves the user experience, apart from understanding the user, you also need to take stock of their pain points. To do that, you need to spot hiccups in using the product and eliminate them by writing good copy.
Getting on customer calls will help you identify cases where the user is having trouble accomplishing something on their own. In addition to getting on calls with customers, speaking to support agents can give you a bigger picture of the problems users face with the product. One way to go about this is to discuss features (focus on the ones that have lesser adoption) and get a download of different use cases and usability issues from the customer support team.When key users told us something wasn't working, we fixed it—immediately. Click To Tweet
Slack, for example, took a customer-centric approach1 right from the start and solved for pain-points about email. For several months, Slack tested its product and constantly improved it by listening to customer feedback and concerns. “When key users told us something wasn’t working, we fixed it—immediately.”, says Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack. They worked with real-time feedback that they received, and addressed all customer pain-points. It’s the relationship between their customer support team and the customers that made the product what it is today.
#3 Use the Language That Customers Use
The main aim of a UX writer is to craft copy that resonates with the user. In order to achieve this, you need to make sure that the language you use is not different from the one your users do.
Customers tend to refer to features in your product differently. They might pick up the terminology from the products they used previously, or coin new terms based on their understanding of the feature.
For instance, in Freshdesk, we have a feature named ‘Forward’, which lets you forward a customer conversation to someone who isn’t part of the system. The thought process behind naming the feature was that we had customers who moved from email to helpdesk and were used to forwarding emails to people outside their system when they needed extra help. But we realized that it didn’t resonate too well with customers who move to Freshdesk from other ticketing software, and we’re looking to rename it in the future.
Usually, there is always a gap that a UX writer needs to bridge. To help you with this, the support team can share a sheet or a document internally, to track the terms customers use most often, as a word bank or a corpus. This way, any new term used by a customer gets documented, making it easy for UX writers to pick terms that are frequently used by customers.
The benefits of this exercise extend to the support team as well. The word-bank can be shared with agents who are new to the team. Sometimes, even experts might find a term or two that their customers use synonymously, which they previously might not have caught.
Here’s a sample of a word bank:
#4 Revisit Old Features and Tweak the Copy
A prerequisite for a UX writer is to know the product inside out. To meet this requirement, UX writers play around with the product to get more familiar with it. If you’re a UX writer who’s just starting out, use this exercise to note down instances where you think the copy could use some tweaking. Your list can consist of pieces of copy that are inconsistent with the rest of the product, has title case instead of sentence case, a button that doesn’t communicate what it is required to, and so on.
For UX writers who have been in the system for long, it’s a good practice to review old features and tweak the copy if necessary. Apart from working on new features, it is important to revisit existing features and update the copy, because the goal here is to make the entire product useable, and not just parts of it.
A great way to ensure that this list covers everything that needs to be changed is to run it by the support team. The support team might have more instances to add to the list since customers write to them with questions about the features in the product, both old and new ones. This way, you get a more holistic picture of what needs to be changed.
For instance, in the help-text for a feature in Freshdesk, we’d written ‘his’ instead of ‘theirs’ and it was our support team that brought the error to our notice. It’s these small things that slip our eyes when we’re writing or reviewing copy, but these are the very things that have the potential to deliver moments of wow to our customers when done right.
#5 Design Better Interfaces
While designing a product’s interface, designers take input from various teams. One of them should be the customer support team. Involving a support agent and a UX writer right from when a feature is at the design stage, is advantageous to all three teams – design, support, and UX. And of course, the user too.
Support agents carry experiences that involve walking customers through features, and suggesting solutions when customers face roadblocks. These experiences make them a better judge of the flow of a feature from beginning to end.
Support agents also receive constant feedback about the product and are familiar with various feature requests which help when it comes to making design calls.
Since Freshdesk uses Freshdesk, conducting this exercise with our customer support team proved to be really useful. We gave them pieces of the interface as individual paper cards and asked them to rearrange their cards according to what they thought would help them the most.
By the end of the exercise, we heard first hand from our customer support team (who are extensive users of Freshdesk) on what they felt had to be changed, and why. We received inputs on the arrangement of tools, icons that didn’t make sense, and other suggestions that helped us when we revamped the UI.
In any business, the customer support team can be found trying to reduce the number of how-to questions they receive so they can focus on helping customers with complex problems. A UX writer wants to improve the product’s usability through words, which in turn reduces the number of L1 tickets. So when two teams with the same goal come together, the outcome is twice as delightful – improved UX writing and a definite reduction in L1 tickets.
Does your UX team collaborate with your support team? Let us know in the comments below.