My Roles: Human Factors Engineering Lead
Skills Applied: Ethnographic research, Usability Testing, Interviewing, Surveying, Persona Development and Design, User Scenarios, Card Sorting and Information Architecture Design, Task / Process Mapping, Conceptual Mock-ups
Support Insights was a multi-pronged initiative to understand employee IT support, as well as the experiences of the call agents who served employees. High ticket call volume, low customer survey satisfaction scores, and a variety of mounting evidence indicated challenges for both employees and call center agents. The results were the implementation of a new service management platform for service agents as well as a new and improved portal for employees seeking IT help. Both relied heavily on the insights of the research I led.
Improve Agent and Employee Experiences
A new enterprise-level IT service management platform deployment was on the horizon, with evidence that existing support processes and capabilities were not meeting the needs of employees seeking IT help, nor best serving the agents providing IT services. I worked as a lead human factors engineer on two separate cross-disciplinary teams, with one focused on improving agent experiences and the other dedicated to designing and delivering better IT employee support.
Agent Experience Process
Find Results from the Source
To best understand the experiences of IT call center agents, the project funded ethnographic research to fully gather the context of their work. Another human factors colleague and I traveled to a call center hub location in Costa Rica to meet with various types of call agents and better understand their different roles and supporting functions. Our time with the agents included a combination of observational and interview techniques to best understand their roles, while enabling them to still simultaneously support incoming help requests.
Understand the Full Experience
Complex Issues with Complex Work Areas
We additionally conducted guerilla usability testing of agents who were already using a pilot version of the new service management tool, to better understand their usage patterns and experiences. With the call center operating in 12 hour shifts, we worked long days to try and gather as much research as possible during our one week stay.
Consolidate Findings for the Cross-Disciplinary Team
Once we returned the states we compiled our work into a formal report which detailed our findings, recommendations, and documented agent personas, scenarios, and task / process maps. Our deliverables provided the cross-disciplinary team a deep understanding of the support agents and were highly utilized reference points throughout the new service management platform development and deployment.
Employee Experience Process
Multiple Methods to Understand Unique User Needs
As human factors lead on another project, I followed a triangulated approach utilizing various UX research methods including usability testing, surveying, and interviews to understand and design for employee IT support experiences. I ensured that the research involved employees from diverse employee segments (e.g., lab-based hardware engineers versus on-the-go sales) and geographies, as initial insights indicated different users had unique support needs.
Create Understanding with Actionable Research
The learnings were documented in the form of high level segment scenarios and actionable recommendations that I then translated into conceptual mock-ups that addressed key user pain points and enabled more integrated support experiences.
Agent Opportunities and Improvement Areas
Capture Agent Experiences
For support agents, we learned they were using a staggering number of unintegrated, slow and difficult to use tools to do their work. It was not uncommon for agents to have multiple screens and applications open at a time, resourcing and entering information from several sources. This led to an incredible amount of unnecessary manual data entry and cross-duplication. Furthermore, we learned about a number of operational consistencies between different service desk hubs (by country, service area, and support tiers).
Competing Agent Rewards Systems
All of this was further confounded by somewhat competing success metrics as agents were incentivized for both fast resolution times and post support survey scores (i.e., they needed to be friendly and engaging with employees, while simultaneously efficiently resolving issues in a timely manner as well). Agents, however, were not rewarded for the quality and consistency of any documentation or notes regarding the issue and resolution, making it difficult to associate patterns for future problem management and aid the next agent facing a similar issue.
Document the As-Is Process and To-Be Opportunities
Our research highlighted the fact that while the new service management platform would help to better organize and streamline agents’ work, there were many operational and business processes that needed to be addressed to provide better integration, agent hand-offs, and optimal knowledge transfer.
Employee Opportunities and Improvement Areas
Enable employees to get back to work as soon as possible
By researching the IT support experiences, several improvement opportunities were identified from an employee perspective as well. Employees’ main goals were to receive any necessary support as quickly and easily as possible so they could get back to their day jobs as soon as possible. Similar to the support agents, employees were interacting with several support sites and modes of help (e.g., chat, phone, ticket submission, search for help) oftentimes leading to disjointed experiences where employees were oftentimes left wondering about the status of their tickets or linked with the incorrect service desk for a particular problem, requiring timely agent transfers.
Use Research to Design for Employee User Needs
Research also suggested that many employees did not want to contact or interact with support agents at all, preferring to solve problems on their own through knowledge articles and training documentation. However, much of such help-related content was hard to find with complicated menu’ing systems and inconsistent search capability.
Overall the research concluded that the support portal was organized from more of an agent or IT perspective, versus that of employees. This provided research, design, and necessary justification for a future project focused on a complete IT support portal redesign.
Set the Foundation for Future Success
The user experience findings and deliverables provided the necessary groundwork to develop and deliver better agent and employee solutions. The work led to the justification needed to support the funding of integrated tool capabilities and business process changes to facilitate operational consistencies and optimal knowledge transfer.
Deliver Improved Agent and Employee Support Solutions
The results were faster resolution times and higher customer satisfaction scores on behalf of the agents providing support. Furthermore, agents were additionally reporting higher job satisfaction ratings as well. For employees, the support portal redesign resulted in a 67% increase in self-help as they were better able to resolve easier problems on their own, an activity that the majority of employees indicated they preferred to do as opposed to contacting agent support. Additionally employee support satisfaction scores increased by 58%.