Task-centered support

In the past I’ve written about focusing on the particular task a customer is stuck on. Reading The Design of Everyday Things reminded me of that mindset. Donald Norman writes:

In their work, designers often become expert with the device they are designing. Users are often expert at the task they are trying to perform with the device.

Norman’s description is apt, I think. It got me thinking about the role of support, too. In many ways the support experience starts when a customer’s ability to complete a task breaks down.

A product is more than the sum of its menus and settings. A product is ‘Hello World’, not the code which generates that. A lot of what defines support is how you take someone from being stuck to finishing whatever it is they wanted to do.

People are unlikely to poke through every setting just because they are there. You do that when you are mastering a device, not when you are completing a task.

Nerds are great at digging through the layers of a product. Customers are unlikely to be nerds. Rather than understand an entire system they want to get something done. Less time with a product means more time for their project.

Next time a customer writes in and is stuck, try to stop yourself from wondering what about the product they missed. Instead, think about what task they are trying to complete. Think about how your product helps them get there. Your customers will thank you.