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What are the UX pros and cons of using the same application or software for both internal users (e.g. customer service reps) and external users (i.e. customers) versus using specialized software for each?

I'm working with a financial company that has moved to a unified customer service application, where common tasks include paying bills, updating addresses, reviewing transaction history, etc. Both call center reps and customers see the same thing on their screens.

One UX benefit is that, if reps and customers are logged in at the same time, reps know exactly what customers are seeing and can instruct them more easily.

But a bigger issue seems to be that call center reps use the app for hours every day -- and become experts in the app and the industry -- whereas customers use it maybe once a month and often know little about the industry. The more user research we conduct, the more we see that the needs of the two groups differ.

I've had trouble finding case studies, best practices or UX experts on this topic. Can you point me in the right direction?

  • Is this a UX question or a more general question? – Mayo Jun 9 '15 at 20:25
  • In a design perspective or a general one – downrep_nation Jun 9 '15 at 21:11
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IF you are conducting user research on this topic that tells you the two user groups need different interfaces, I think you have your answer.

FWIW, I design professional tools that differ from the consumer experience. As you said, people like Customer Support agents quickly become experts in the software they use, and thus might prefer high performance over 'delightful' UI, and often rely on keyboard navigation as much as possible. In our professional interface, we have a button that will open the consumer interface in a new tab, allowing the professional to see what the consumer sees when that is neededf

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The use cases, as you point out, differ a lot.

The user/customer's goals will be to understand the application, feel secure, don't feel constrained by the system and maybe most important: don't need to fear that they'll cause unrecoverable damage.

The support agent however has other goals. They want to be efficient, have multi user overview, see MORE account history, perform actions possibly unavailable to the end user, perform batch actions, etc.

The agent should already be familiar with the end user experience, without having to perform their job through it.

Ultimately it comes down to the two user groups (customer and support agent) differ to such a degree that designing a solution in an area such as this that suits both is a rough and possibly detrimental way to go.

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This is more like an open question..

As you mentioned, "But a bigger issue seems to be that call center reps use the app for hours every day -- and become experts in the app and the industry". To create a product or service that meets all needs? Tools, aids, short cuts but they need to fit the user type. For instance, so does an expert need an online help FAQ type tool? NO! Experts need quick aids or what Cooper calls wizards to get them along. The beginner uses FAQs or other online help tools to learn.

One light bulb moment on page 186: "... beginners quickly desire to discard these embarrassing reminders of their ignorance." How true! Who wants to look uneducated about a topic? When a beginner has advanced along the learning continuum, what does s/he become? An intermediate.

I think you may want to revisit your design and find the right adjustment of options suitable for your expert users while you want to avoid adding complexity into the UI.

I hope this helps a bit..

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