A service should always provide an easy route for users to speak to a human if they need to.
What this means in practice
There is always a way for your user to contact a human being if they need to, that method of contact is not obscured of hidden in any way.
You’ve achieved this when
A user with a complex or difficult to serve need can contact a human decision maker quickly and easily to resolve their issue. The person they speak to is empowered to help them and provides support that is consistent with the rest of the service.
How to do it
Consider how much contact your users need to have with you. Services that are:
Tied to the physical world
Will all need more human-contact that those that aren’t. Make sure that this human contact is:
Accessible when it’s needed
Human decision-makers are often needed to make complex decisions, but sometimes those decisions are time critical. Getting in contact with a human needs to be fast
Incorporating human decision-makers into your service is vital, as we’ve seen. But it has to be used proportionally to the needs of your users and the service at hand. Too much contact and your service can disproportionately favour a small group of users over a wider selection, or prove to be unsustainable. Too few and your service is likely to not meet the most complex needs of users
Empowered to make decisions
Possibly more important than the ability to be readily accessed is the ability of the people providing your service to make empowered decisions about the right thing to do in a given situation. This means removing organisational boundaries and ensuring that they are experts and multi-skilled
Consistent with the rest of the service
It’s important that the way the humans providing your service work is consistent with the other channels your service is provided with, and with other humans also providing that service.