SUPPORT PLATFORM EXPERIENCE + STRATEGY
Clients don’t view IBM as one company, especially when receiving support. Those who have multiple products have to go through separate channels and talk to multiple agents in IBM’s multi-tiered structure, which causes frustration and confusion. When a problem is escalated, support engineers want to be able to see the bigger picture of a client and have the ability to collaborate with their counterparts to solve complex problems, but their tools don’t always allow them to effectively do this.
I worked with four other designers and two product managers to research, concept, and design IBM Opel.
Partial research, UX and UI design, and UX writing.
How might we instill clients with the trust that IBM support will deliver a seamless, meaningful, and consistent experience throughout their journey across all products and channels? Instead of support being an after-thought for when things go wrong, support should be foundational and integrated into the product life cycle and experience.
To begin understanding the problem space, we held 1:1 interviews with IBM clients that had SaaS, hardware, and on-prem solutions. These clients held a variety of positions at their company: from C-suite in marketing to technical roles that engage with our products daily. We also conducted ethnographic research with IBM support engineers to understand the environment in which they are assisting clients. Through this research, we developed four key findings to inform our design decisions.
When clients contact IBM for support, there are multiple touchpoints to seek help. IBM clients typically have more than one product with us so when something goes wrong, it’s not obvious which product to contact support for in our fragmented ecosystem.
Due to our tiered support structure, a client’s ability to get help is hindered and they feel as though they know their products and environment better than IBM does.
– Hardware Enterprise Client
Support engineers collaborate frequently and find this is how they can best seek resolutions. Unfortunately, this collaboration leaves clients feeling uncertain about who is handling the issue and information gets lost in translation.
The tools and resources support engineers leverage don’t empower them to best assist a number of clients with different products and they are often missing important historical context.
– Support Engineer in Z Systems
Through research on all of IBM’s offerings, support options, client types, workshops with our stakeholders, and talking to clients and support engineers to document their current journey, the team was able to define our users’ pain points and sketch ideas that addressed their motivations.
We were tasked with transforming support for all of IBM’s products and there are hundreds of them with different siloed support experiences. We learned quickly that there was ample amounts of learning to do. At first, we felt crippled by the amount we didn’t know yet. How could we design without 100% knowing what the current experience was for all clients and support engineers? We decided that we couldn’t halt design progress and we came to the conclusion that while it was important to know the current state, our solution was to be informed by what our users needed and not purely what already existed. We had to continue research while we designed and with our new learnings, we iterated.
By providing a personalized experience to customers, support engineers are able to offer support that is specific to a customer’s technical background, product usage, and environment type. With this information documented in a readily accessible format, customers won’t need to repeat themselves when filing tickets and when talking to different tiers of support.
To ensure we are empowering our technical and non-technical customers with the means for self-resolution, relevant knowledge base documentation can be provided in a unified place. Relevancy is determined based on what product the customer has, the success of the solution for others who experienced a similar problem with a similar environment, and level of technical understanding. IBM can offer proactive support to non-technical users who have difficulty articulating the problem and pair them with a relevant support engineer, if necessary.
IBM Opel brings together support engineers who don’t work in the same domain and allows them to assign a collaborator. Over time, the platform will learn which support engineers are the most suitable to resolve certain problems based on their availability and similar tickets resolved in the past. This ensures that the right support engineers are being assigned and that the most accurate information is being passed along to ensure seamless collaboration and a quicker resolution time.
Customers can understand and know what steps IBM has taken and will be taken to reach a resolution. They can view and chat with support engineers, including collaborators, working on the ticket so they are never left in the dark. Customers can also rely on the platform for information regarding their products’ health, updates, and outages.
By taking acquired knowledge and turning it into tribal knowledge, IBM can leverage past tickets for future issues that appear to have similar symptoms and environments. Once a ticket is resolved, the steps to resolution are archived and surfaced so that unique problems can become more easily diagnosed.
We were tasked with holistically envisioning the future of support from a strategic perspective, not what can be readily delivered immediately in a flawed system. IBM is currently making strides in providing an optimal support experience based on the product roadmap that the team defined. Since, IBM has invested in the Salesforce Service Cloud in order to leverage their ticketing system, knowledge and ticket management system, and omni channel capabilities. It will allow IBM to retire many of the siloed and duplicated technologies that are in use today. Early 2019, the business invested in fully resourcing a design team dedicated to improving IBM’s support experience and they are working towards implementing the product roadmap we had developed.
Views are my own.