Over the last few decades, organizations have evolved tremendously in how they deliver products and services to customers. Not long ago, there were only a handful of ways to interact with an organization: visit its brick-and-mortar location (in fact, we used to simply call this a “location, ” without the need for a modifier), call it, or, once the web emerged, visit its website. One-on-one interactions between service representatives and customers were a large part of the relationship. However, as technologies advanced, many of our interactions with businesses moved online. We can now do just about anything on the web — from opening a checking account to buying our weekly groceries, without ever speaking to an actual person. Independence from customer service is often the goal for many of us (and for organizations as well): we want easy, convenient, and fast business transactions in the comfort of our own home or in the palms of our hands.

虽然是基于Web的customer journeysmay seem simpler than the journeys of the past, they can actually be quite complex. Today’s customers interact with organizations across various devices and digital channels. Therefore, to deliver a seamless and uninterruptedomnichannel user experience, companies must have a rich understanding of their users’ behaviors and needs. When they succeed in doing so, web-based customer journeys work well and are ideal for both parties, but in many cases there is a breaking point that requires users to contact the organization for support.

We conducted twodiary studies要了解客户如何使用各种渠道与组织互动以及组织如何提供成功的Omnichannel客户体验。我们要求人们报告他们与组织的每一个互动,因为他们完成了购买保险,开立支票账户,或者大笔购买。其中大多数都可以作为中等复杂任务的特征:不是一个快速的问题,而且也不是一个可怕的复杂问题。

在我们分析的45个独特的客户旅程中,64%包括至少一个用户启动的直接联系组织,and some of these involved multiple contacts. The web is a mission-critical channel for organizations to conduct business, so it is alarming to see that只有三分之一的客户旅程可以在线完成,而无需客户联系本组织以获得支持。This means a 2/3 failure rate for a self-service goal such as decreasing call-center costs or improving customer satisfaction.


When we analyzed the data from our diary studies, we noticed that people contacted companies for one of four reasons:

  • Service Problems.These occur when the outcome of an interaction with a company is not as expected. Examples include:
    • One user had opened a Citibank credit card and he was supposed to receive $300 in return after completing a certain number of transactions in a three-month period. When that payment didn’t come, he contacted Citibank to resolve the issue.
    • 当他们的商品抵达或有缺陷时,其他一些用户联系了零售店。
  • 路障。由于各种原因,用户无法在其选择频道上完成任务(例如,他们遇到错误或不支持任务),并且必须切换到不同的通道以完成任务以完成任务以完成任务。在这些情况下,只有非常激励的客户坚持不懈。许多不是品牌忠诚放弃并放弃他们的任务,支持更好的竞争对手的经验。例如:
    • One user needed to add another item to his online grocery order just after he had submitted it, but the website did not support changing the order. He called the store to make the update.
    • 一个用户试图在线报名参加查理施沃布检查帐户,但在申请过程中收到了不可克服的错误。她通过在线聊天致电,并拨打电话。
  • Missing or confusing information.许多用户在我们的研究中有信息需求were not met at specific points in their journey, because the site content was ambiguous or absent. In some cases, customers contacted the organizations for reassurance and confirmation that they were interpreting complex information correctly before proceeding. Some examples:
    • One user who was looking to get a home-equity loan on the USAA website found a note indicating that the home-equity loan product had been suspended. She called USAA to ask how long it was suspended.
    • 购买巢穴恒温器的用户已经研究了通过网站和社交媒体提供的两种型号,但决定致电巢技术员来帮助他理解其需求最适合哪种型号,因为网站和其他渠道的信息没有详细说明足够的。(需要比较和对比选项is key for web usability, but often poorly supported.)
    • A Singapore user shopping for travel insurance on DBS Bank’s site could not figure out from the policy description whether it covered lost luggage or only delayed bags. He indicated he would call DBS to clarify the information.
  • Perception of complexity.In a relatively small number of cases, users simply preferred to complete tasks by working one-on-one with a representative, because they felt that the task was too complex for the digital channels available to them. (This is an example of a limitation imposed by通信渠道的容量:当用户认为他们需要通过窄容量通道传输太多信息时,它们通常会切换到更高容量的一数字或内人)。在这些情况下,任务可能已在线支持,但用户选择不使用这些渠道。这是一个例子:
    • One user who was shopping for car insurance visited the websites for Farmer’s Insurance and Good Sam Insurance, but instead of researching and getting a quote online, she chose to call and discuss her options with agents from both companies.


piechart- breakdownissues
Pie chart breakdown of the reasons for contacting customer service for 29 of the 45 tasks studied.

The most common method of contacting customer service was by telephone (18 out of 29 tasks). Email was the second most common method for reaching out for support (9 out of 29 tasks), followed by online chat (2 out of 29 tasks) and social media(1 out of 29 tasks).

piechart - contactchannels
Pie chart breakdown of the methods used for contacting customer service.

An important conclusion from our data is that most of the timecontacting customer service reflects a failure in the user experience。即使在人们选择不从一开始就与在线界面有关时,用户体验差的期望是该决定背后的原因。

Any time customers’ online tasks are interrupted and they are forced to contact an organization, other unnecessary touchpoints are added to their journeys. Interruptions and channel switching (from digital to human, or otherwise) degrade the customer experience. Over time, they negatively impact key metrics like customer satisfaction and loyalty, and ultimately your business’ bottom line.

Minimize the Need for Customer Service

If a user contacts customer service, it means your online channels have failed to address that user’s needs. Aim to eliminate the customers’ need to contact your organization. Not because you don’t want to support your customers, but because you want your customers to be empowered to complete their tasks however they find convenient. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to sit on hold to talk with a support representative, no matter how nice that person might be.

这两个key components to minimizing the need for customer service are:

1.了解客户旅程。Step away from the features and functionality you provide on each channel and take a moment to understand the context around how users move through your solutions to complete tasks. What triggers them to go to your website? Is it a monthly newsletter, a promotional mailer, a link in a social post, or an advertisement? What are the stages they go through as they engage with your products? Each of these contexts may be associated with different user expectations. Identify:

  • Customers’ expectations for each of these contexts
  • Customers’ information needs at every step of their journeys
  • Devices or channels that customers choose in each of these different contexts and at different stages
  • Likely transitions from one channel to another and users’ expectations around these transitions
当她在手机上浏览Air Asia的Facebook页面时,一名学习参与者在3月份在新西兰飞往新西兰的贸易。她被带到桌面页面,其中包含各种目的地和时间段的详尽优惠。她试图在列表顶部使用过滤器来定位新西兰交易,一点成功。她解释说:“这将我带到了全面的促销活动,但如果它可以让我只是在3月份的那个促销活动中会更好。”

2. Designing for the journey.Organizations must shift their mindset from individual-channel solutions toward one overarching solution that spans multiple channels and stays intact regardless of how a customer chooses to engage.

Design channel and device solutions that align with channels’ roles in the customer journey and with context of use and users’ expectations. Support transitions between channels: every time a user must change channels during a task, there is an opportunity for failure (as shown above in the Air Asia Example), often resulting in the need to contact customer service.


An important part of designing for the customer journey is tounderstand and eliminate common reasons for contact.Work closely with your customer-support team to identify the most common complaints and questions received. Do not ignore any method of contact, be it telephone, email, online chat, or social media. Then focus your attention on addressing the root problem that has led to these common issues. Understand information needs throughout the user journey and make sure that they are addressed properly, either by reworking confusing content or by creating new content. Identify and eliminate roadblocks and laborious channel transitions for key customer journeys.

Make Customer Service Easily Accessible

A simple way to minimize customer calls is to not provide a phone number or other contact information. Don’t do it.Reducing the need for customer service does NOT mean eliminating customer service。In fact, since you can’t possibly plan and design for every situation in which someone may want to speak with a representative, make it easy for your customers to contact your organization at any step in the journey. Some of the most frustrated users in our research were those who needed to contact an organization and could not do so. Some companies’ contact information was inexistent or very difficult to find, so people thought that the company was trying to avoid being contacted entirely. In these situations, customers resorted to Google or social channels to find contact information for the organization. And the organization lost their trust — a one-way ticket to the sand below thetrust pyramidthat had probably taken the company’s brand team years to build.

So, in the spirit of eliminating roadblocks and streamlining channel transitions, provide a clear path for customers to contact your organization.

DBS bank includes a path toward multiple contact options in the right rail of its complex travel-insurance product page.

Make transitions to a contact channel seamless.If you provide a path to contact, make this transition as effortless as possible. Take advantage of technology and device capabilities to do so. Whenever your organization sends a customer to another channel, ask yourself what the next step will be and how you can make it easier.

Left: The UPS My Choice iPhone app lets customers enter a delivery address in order to receive delivery-status notifications. However, when UPS doesn’t recognize the entry as a residential address, it simply presents a roadblock, with an error message that basically says “Figure it out own your own.” Right: Southwest Airlines’ iPhone app does not support booking to international destinations. Instead of presenting the user with a roadblock, it provides the error message along with pathways to two possible channels where users can resolve the issue. Theguidelines for good error messagesare 35 years old, yet only one of these two companies complied.

提供联系客户服务的多种选项。Every customer issue has its own unique circumstances, context, and level of urgency, so don’t force all of your users down the same path to contact your organization. Provide people with the flexibility and level of information they need in order to choose the contact channel best suited for their situation.

One participant in our study had a simple question for his auto maker, Nissan. He chose to chat with a Nissan support agent via Nissan’s mobile website because he was riding the bus on his way home from work and it would have been difficult to have a phone conversation on the noisy bus. If Nissan had only provided a customer-service hotline number, he would have had to wait until he got home from work and navigate his way through a call tree to get a very simple question answered.

Customer service through many channels: phone, social media, email, and chat
Overstock.com gives its users several options to contact customer care. It also provides helpful context about the response time on each channel to set expectations and help people choose the right option for their personal situation.


We often design for the happy path through our products and services and we don’t necessarily plan for direct customer contact to be part of their journey, but customers often still need one-on-one support to overcome issues. Understanding the common reasons why customers make contact and addressing the underlying problems in your omnichannel solutions will reduce the need for customer contact and create an omnichannel ecosystem that allows users to self-serve without interruptions and roadblocks. In situations where customers do need to reach out through a contact channel, provide options to do so and make those transitions as effortless as possible.

We discuss how to research customer journey and more concrete tips for minimizing the need for customer service in our full-day courseOmnichannel Journeys and Customer Experience