Navigational Systems Defined by Customer Experience Staff

Updated · Feb 11, 2002

By Mary Brodie

Web sites frequently are the main interaction medium between users — such as customers, partners, press — and a company. However, users cannot achieve their goals at a company site without navigation systems that are targeted to mirror their offline processes. The company needs to present not only the process to the user intuitively, but needs to consider how they want the user to experience the interaction. This experience is derived from brand values as well as business strategy.

When developing a navigation system at a site, the company and the design team needs to consider:

  • What are the high level goals of the system?
  • Who are the initial target users?
  • What is their profile?
  • How do they work offline?
  • How will the system contribute to the financial profit/gains of a company?

Business and brand goals defined
Before designing a site, the business goals need to be defined. As part of a team that was tasked to design an online Customer Service Representative (CSR) system to support an insurance site, we designed a flow option that included all client features and requirements. We completed our task to develop the system; however, we did not complete our task to develop the accompanying interface navigation that would best support the customer service reps or the users that would call — or rather, the customer experience.

Determining user needs and goals
There are many industry practices that we could have used to define how the users could interact with the system — use cases, usability tests, focus groups — after defining their identities. In this case, we knew the users — the customer service reps and management. However, there was an additional set of users that we needed to consider — the callers who would need the support.

By working with up to five product managers as well as the customer support director, we identified their customers. The broad range of insurance products — from credit insurance to cargo insurance and inspection services — produced a large audience of users. We needed to develop a system that would allow the flexibility for that varied audience from shipping/receiving, finance, and other departments within a company to supporting insurance brokers and business partners. Due to time constraints, we needed to move forward with determining user needs without conducting a usability study. To do this, we based our design upon job descriptions and generalized assumptions of their daily tasks and goals.

From this analysis, we determined that most of the callers would be looking to get information about a policy that they filed. In most cases, the callers would not know about policies in other areas of the organization. For example, a caller for shipping insurance would most likely be from shipping or possibly accounting and not be interested in a policy bought in another area of the organization for IT support.

We also made some assumptions about the information that a caller may not have available when making the call. We considered scenarios where a user could have partial information about a policy — not the number, but possibly the cargo covered. We also considered scenarios where the user may have a question about a policy and may not be at his or her desk, which would limit the amount of policy information available. To support the customer experience defined by the company and brand, we needed to enable these types of scenarios to be possible and seamlessly resolved through the interface.

Determine general task flow
Our design mapped closely to the call center script that was to be used by the reps. By developing call script drafts, we better understood the types of information that a customer service rep or manager would need to complete his or her job. We also were able to determine gaps in the process, where offline intervention or support may be needed in the process, and verify the goals of the company.

Mapping user goals to task flow
From the call script and the user profiles, we determined that all users would minimally have their identity information available for the call. After that information was confirmed, the users could have a number of policy combinations that required support. This required personalization.

We considered implementing a product-driven approach to support the diverse users, encouraging the customer service reps to request from the user a product name for which that they wanted support. However, when considering the user group diversity and the possibility that the user did not have a policy number readily available or was away from that type of information, we decided that we should present the customer service reps with only the policies associated with that individual caller.

We figured that this would make the call move more quickly because the customer service rep could discuss with the user the policies associated with them. The user would receive more personalized, directed service that would more strongly support the brand and customer experience.

Developing supporting content
Without content to guide the customer service reps along the process to provide outstanding support to the caller, the experience would have lost value. As much as possible, we included “scripts” in the process to verify information the user presented or direct the customer service rep to ask questions in parallel to the defined call flow. We proposed to include an online help manual for new customer service reps to handle more difficult questions or clients. This would have also strengthened the brand, enabling the reps to address problems and concerns with care and prompt attention.

Resolving navigation
Essentially, the application mapped directly to the call center script and call flow that the company defined. However, by considering the various user needs throughout the process and what they may require as assistance to get high quality service, we had to make adjustments to the interface for how that information was presented for each user. The end product was intuitive for the customer service rep and caller and it met the company goals. It also provided a vehicle to extend their brand and customer experience into the service organization and onto the customer.

Since 1995, Mary Brodie has worked with companies to translate their offline processes to the Web. She has led user interface projects with international, multi-disciplinary virtual teams in the business, design, engineering, and QA areas. Currently she is working in a virtual design collaborative called HybridR1 to produce experience media that impact customer decisions. Mary attended MIT and Harvard University, and received her BA and MA in English/Writing from Simmons College in Boston. Her home page is at and she can be reached at [email protected].

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