The first leg of the visa application journey usually starts online. With users connecting from literally all around the world, creating a compelling customer experience, adapted to all customer categories, is somewhat of a challenge. Here is how we go about it at TLScontact.
As time goes by, more and more people are becoming “computer literate”, and filling in online forms is increasingly part of our daily life. That does not mean, of course, that all websites and forms have equal value. Creating a seamless experience is a permanent challenge and requires the will to question the way we handle every little step of the process.
Ockham’s Razor Applied to Visas
As a rule, there is no global customer experience. So, when trying to optimise customer experience (CX), the first question that comes to mind must be: “which customers?” In the context of visa applications, there are several ways to characterise the target audience: by visa type, by travel purpose, by country of residence, by age… To rationalise the process, we started by using a very simple measure: volumes. Indeed, prioritising improvements according to how many people will benefit from them is a sound strategy for a first phase. Once you have identified the largest groups of users, the next question is mapping their journey: when and how they connect to the application website, what they are trying to achieve, and, of course, what pain points they encounter. This discovery phase can be quite long, but will deliver a solid basis for carrying out analysis.
Of Mice and Clicks: Assessing the Experience
Nowadays, there are many analytics and behavioural analysis tools available to measure how users interact with a website or app. They provide us with anonymised, quantitative data to understand what our customers do when they interact with the site, where they look, and what they do if they experience difficulties along the way. This allows us to identify when the process goes smoothly and when the users get “stuck” and tells us where to direct efforts to improve user experience.
To complement these quantitative measurements, we also carry out qualitative assessments on a quarterly basis. On top of that, TLScontact has introduced the Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) programme developed by TP Knowledge Services, a sister company from the Teleperformance Group. EFM allows us to send out questionnaires to a large sample of consenting customers applying for a visa at one of our centres and gather their feedback. The results encompass digital and physical interactions, but the digital part has proven invaluable in providing us with qualitative feedback on the online journey.
The Mobile Surprise
One of the results of our qualitative and quantitative research has been particularly striking. Like most companies, we were already convinced that implementing responsive design for all our pages and forms – making them adaptable to all screen types and sizes – was paramount. We also knew from studies carried out in specific markets, for example on the African and Indian continents, that mobile phones were more readily used than computers in certain parts of the world. However, we still found it surprising that, on average, 60% of our website usage is on mobile devices. It is even more striking when you know that people are most of the time visiting our website not only to look at visa information, but also to complete visa application forms and purchase additional services. This has, of course, led us to prioritise work on the mobile experience.
However, that has not been our sole focus. Over the past three years, we have carried out a number of improvements. Some of them have focused on our web interface, improving navigation and the way we present information. We have, for example, carried out a complete redesign of the static pages on all our client websites in order to make them clearer and more user-friendly. We have also launched a dynamic self-help page that helps our customers to find more rapidly the information they are looking for. Other improvements have focused on accessibility, in accordance with the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
As part of our efforts, we are also looking beyond the mere “technical” to focus on content. We are convinced that the way we display content can make a real difference. Most of the time, legal information about the visa application process is, well … legal. In other words, it is often lengthy and not very practical, not to say overwhelming, for someone looking for specific information about his or her own situation. There is a fine line here: our role is to provide information to applicants, not advice regarding their specific situation. We have to make sure that our efforts to make the information more accessible maintain that necessary neutrality.
But we know we can improve the way we deliver information and make navigating it easier, for example by delivering bite-sized and well-targeted information at the right moment in the online journey. This is a compelling challenge for us, as it is both technical and informational. We have already progressed in this area and look forward to doing more to improve online guidance for visa customers in the months ahead.
Of course, these achievements do not mean that we have completed our job and can now pat ourselves on the back and relax. Improving CX is always an ongoing project. We are only at the beginning of the journey. We are still conducting regular studies on quality and focusing on the feedback continuously gathered by EFM to identify new areas for improvement and lead new projects to make the online journey – and its interaction with the offline part – smoother for visa applicants.
Article written by Ana Cristina Leitão,
Technology Product Manager