Why Isn’t The Customer Experience Visual By Default?

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Did you see Oppenheimer when it was at theaters last year? Christopher Nolan’s latest movie tells the story of how the American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer led the race to develop atomic weapons during the Second World War and then spent the rest of his life regretting his creation.

The movie was just over three hours long and many complained that this was too long to be seated in a dark theater without snacks or bathroom visits. It’s no surprise that streaming channels are so popular when you can take a break just by hitting the pause button.

But think about these complaints. The entire life of one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century was compressed into three hours and people are saying that it’s too long? If you listen to the audio version of the book Nolan’s movie was based on then that takes almost 27 hours from start to finish. If you can spare an hour a day to listen to the audiobook then it will take a month to complete – it’s about a quarter of a million words.

The simplicity and directness of visual communication is obvious when you contrast these different channels for storytelling. How does this play out in the relationship between customers and brands?

Sometimes it is clear that brands do understand the value of visual communication. Look at the Dell Support channel on YouTube. If you just bought a new Dell product and you are struggling to get it working then they have unboxing videos that show products being unboxed and setup – it’s a step-by-step visual guide to what the customer needs to do.

That’s great if they have recorded a video for the product you need help with, but what if there is no online information and you need live help with a complex form or a product that doesn’t work as expected?

Let’s take an example. Your new internet router doesn’t work. You call the tech support line and the agent starts asking about the settings applied to your router and which cables have been inserted into which ports. It’s quite a complex situation to describe in words on a phone call and it’s easy for a customer to get confused when describing a product they may not be very familiar with – especially a technical product. Imagine how much easier this type of problem would be if the customer could use their phone to show the agent exactly how the cables are plugged into your router. A frustrating 45-minute conversation might be reduced to 2-minutes as the agent says ‘just move that orange cable, it’s in the wrong socket!’

What about when you don’t understand your latest cellphone bill and you go on the app to get more details, but the bill is filled with jargon, payments for various streaming services, payments for roaming charges, and some payments you just don’t even understand? You can sit on the phone and ask an agent about your data plan and latest bill, but it would be a lot easier if you could just point to all the items you don’t understand and say ‘what’s this?’

Or how about all those times when you have started completing an online form that has so many options it gets confusing. It might be for the IRS or it might be a mortgage application – it’s like they took some old paper-based forms and just created the online version. Calling the helpline means describing all the various parts of the form you have completed and where you still have questions. What if you could just share the form in real-time and point to any place you have a question?

Why isn’t customer service more visual?

Consumers have become used to a free helpline as their primary channel to service whenever something goes wrong. Social media has emerged as an alternative over the past decade, but if you need help right now then you are not going to post a question on Instagram and then sit waiting for a response.

Over half of customer service interactions are still voice calls and about a third are live responses to text messages. Live and immediate interaction is essential when a customer needs help, but voice calls and text messages don’t have any visual element. If you have a problem with that form then you are going to sit there describing how page 5, paragraph 3, question 2, option 1 is a bit confusing.

The ability for the agent to see what the customer is talking about and for the customer to know that they can share exactly what they are seeing is transformative. This is the difference between talking about a problem at length, because it is hard to describe, and just showing it. The advertising industry figured this out more than a century ago.

The difference between a cinematic experience and a quarter of a million words of text is obvious. Why isn’t the customer experience already more visual?

Let me know what you think about a more visual customer experience. Feel free to leave a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn.


CC Photo by Corina Rainer

Dianne McCoubrey
I'm based in Ontario, Canada and focused on CX and BPO technology. My current position is the Vice President of Global Business Development for Grypp Corp Ltd. Grypp is a digital experience solutions company focused on providing visual customer engagement technology to contact centers, globally. i have a background in technology sales, particularly in transformative retail technologies.

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