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Say a user has a request for service on equipment.

The person that will handle this might likely be someone who is either not familiar with the technology or even how to use the equipment. For example, a secretary who was told to get someone to fix commercial equipment in the warehouse.

Many tech support forms expect the user to just know what they will need to type in. But she might not know the serial number or even where to find it, the name of the equipment, etc.

So I am thinking to have a guided set of screens in a carousel that show an image on the left with a form on the right to actually put it in. This way they can step out, get the info, and come right back.

Any other things to consider when designing for tech support requests?

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Yes, going on the assumption that you are actually working with physical warehouse equipment that needs servicing (which is completely different to an end user stuck with a printer at home) then I would have the following approach:

1) Reduce the amount of information required to a bare minimum. The first screen should simply be "Enter the serial number" (which should be in an obvious place - if not show a few pictures of where you could find it). Then, if your database is up to scratch, there is little need for a custom to enter anything but a serial number. From that, you should be able to find the model number, service history etc.

2) The next screen should allow the user to confirm that the user details (that you extract from the above DB) are correct (i.e. business name, address). If not, then they've either mistyped the serial number (in theory shouldn't be easy to do if there is a self-checking hash within the serial number) or the equipment has been sold on to another party in which case you're starting to get into other territory (in my experience, such equipment that is used in a warehouse has things like maintenance contracts etc.).

3) You need to understand who is going to provide the error report. The secretary may submit it, but is she really going to go down to the warehouse and find the details. I'm guessing not, it would most likely be passed on over the phone by a warehouse worker. You're not likely to get a description such as "the lower lift of the forklift (model XYZ) is not moving through its travel distance correctly - sounds like slipping clutch", but are more likely to say "it has stopped working" or at most "it won't lift properly".

You should (depending on your equipment) be able to provide an interactive picture of the equipment allowing for selection of the part that would appear to be at fault then some common issues with such parts for easy selection.

Any custom text should be able kept to one line at most - it's the customers job to tell you of a problem, not to tell you all about it.


To be honest, rather than make the process simpler, I strongly look at if you could get rid of the process completely. The best customer experience is one that involves as little contact with such a department as possible.

All that should be required is a phone call (or e-mail, simple text box) from the customer saying little more than "equipment XYZ isn't doing ABC anymore at business DEF". That's all the customer involvement that should be required. Your engineers should be prepared for the most common issues with that piece of equipment.

My brother works for a car manufacturer and time and time again the same companies win the contracts (Dell, Epson, Hitachi, Kuka). They could save an awful lot of money if they went for the cheaper options but they don't because those companies offer fantastic service contracts where all that is required is a phone call to the relevant company saying the business name and the equipment that's faulty (that includes the larger industrial robots provided by companies such as Hitachi or Kuka). The customer shouldn't have to help diagnose the problem - that's the job of the engineer when he arrives (always within 24 hours).

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Wow this was super helpful, thank you. Has me thinking in so many new directions, "They could save an awful lot of money if they went for the cheaper options but they don't because those companies offer fantastic service contracts where all that is required is a phone call to the relevant company saying the business name and the equipment that's faulty " –  JGallardo Jan 24 '13 at 17:07
    
I'm pleased you got something out of it. :) Best of luck. –  R4D4 Jan 24 '13 at 18:55
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