Missy Yarbrough
Product Designer

Let's make support experiences less hectic and more helpful for everyone involved.

The relatively small support teams are expected to address the needs of thousands and potentially millions of cloud customers. Meanwhile, users are left hanging for resolution.

Opportunity
What are some quick wins to better the usability of the current IBM Cloud Support ecosystem?

Outcome

The designs for the MVP have been handed off to the development team for work to start during the last week of May 2020 with anticipated production release at the end of June 2020. Analytics has been built into the Support Center for continued observation of user behavior and trends. 

Team

  • Offering Manager: Amit Patel

  • Project Manager: Jackie Ferguson

  • Development Manager: Chong Lee

  • Development: Hao Guo + Huy Doan

  • Content Designer: Kent Hall

  • Researcher: Mallory Anderson

  • Designers: Mina Adame + Missy Yarbrough

Primary Skills Utilized

  • wireframes + sketching

  • information architecture

  • heuristic evaluation

  • user research support

  • prototyping

What’s the current support experience like?

IBM Cloud users across all account types struggle to receive the support they need in order to be successful in their everyday roles. Sadly, it is not an uncommon story to hear about the phantom support case that received no response for months at end, leaving users in frustration at the profound quiet.

The current relation with our users can be related to the notably-digital trend of “ghosting” 👻 in which users are lured with fascinating concepts and yet curiosities and cries for assistance fall flat with agonizing silence. Needless to say, this lack of attention leads to a dire state of a rather strained relationship in which our users are understandably considering an escape plan to eject from this dismal experience.

Unbeknownst to our beloved users are the frenzied activities that are happening behind the scenes. Overwhelmed support engineers are faced with hundreds of unanswered support cases with the daily expectation that they’ll continue to grow. There are only so many hours, minutes, and seconds in the day that can be utilized. 

Gather Previous Research and Revalidate

Because of the extensive history our design colleagues have had with the IBM Cloud Support team since 2016, we revisited previous assets including Usabilla feedback and Medallia data to see what had changed.

+ Addition of a chatbot scoped to address billing and account-related issues
+ Consolidated IaaS and PaaS teams to support a unified IBM Cloud experience
+ FAQ library
- No unauthenticated support experience
- Overwhelming amount of email notifications (that eventually register as spam)

Reviewing the history enabled a conversation with our dedicated researcher to initiate an end-to-end usability evaluation for the entire IBM Cloud ecosystem that will progress throughout the remainder of 2020.

Evaluating Based on Usability Heuristics 

In order to define a baseline understanding of the state of the IBM Cloud Support ecosystem, our squad denoted existing bugs of the existing production state of 10 different use case scenarios. Moreover, we included notes highlighting improvements based on Jakob Nielsen's 10 general principles for interaction design.

Support Center for IBM Cloud

Identified Bug Severities

  • Level 4 Severity x 4: Critical/Imperative fixes this before product can be released

  • Level 3 Severity x 21: Major usability problem that are important to fix and should be issued high priority

  • Level 2 Severity x 18: Minor usability problem that should be given a lower priority

  • Level 1 Severity x 35: Cosmetic problem only that need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project

Support Center for IBM Cloud

Low Fidelity Assessment

By visualizing each page with their listed respective functionalities, I was able to assess the as-is landscape, identify key differences, and suggest catered views between the free vs. paid support user.

Free support user flow
Free support users should consume self-help materials before creating a case. Organize the functionalities of the Support Center to support this objective.

Paid support user flow
Lots of money is devoted to dedicated premier support services. Organize the Support Center to reflect urgent tasks such as Most Recent Cases and Open a Case first.

Support Center for IBM Cloud

Align with the Business Needs

We targeted the following areas in alignment with our OM's goals for the immediate quarterly release cycle:

  • Case agent message feedback tool

  • Assessment of the end-to-end flow of a case creation

  • Enhancing the case description functionality

  • Improving case routing

Iterations + Feedback

By rendering quick low-fidelity flows, their visualizations made it much easier to navigate conversations around our design explorations/potential proposals to stakeholders and IBM Cloud Support users.

MVP

Create a case

  • Find answers to technical issues

  • Attaching a resource to a case

  • Bulk attaching resources to a case

  • Carbon V10 visual enhancements

  • Case description templates

  • Watson insights (recommendations)

  • Visual hierarchy and restructure

  • Non technical self help answers

Manage cases

  • Case agent message feedback tool on Manage Case page

  • Usability improvements

Reflections

What did I learn?

When meeting chaos for the first time, collect as much information as you can gather. This investigation helped uncover behavior patterns, potential ideas, or reusable concepts that were applied to the resulting strategic design decisions. We managed to reduce churn and initiate/revalidate user research efforts while juggling an adjacent priority.

Being human hurts at times, but it doesn't hurt to be human. While the team's dynamic was a little rocky at first, we worked through it by addressing the core concerns upfront and proposing actionable responses.