Improving customer experience with content design: how we joined up services in different business areas

If someone is arranging a funeral, we know that they often also need probate. Probate is the legal process of dealing with someone’s money, property and possessions after they have died.  

Co-op offers both services but they are operated by 2 different Co-op businesses: arranging a funeral is owned by Co-op Funeralcare, and applying for probate is owned by Co-op Legal Services. But the way we’re organised internally is irrelevant to customers – what matters to them is a cohesive journey and a frictionless experience. 

We wanted to join up the services to create a seamless experience that helps our customers understand what they need to do, and get what they need. 

Bringing the services closer together 

We started by understanding the existing customer experience. We spoke to people who had recently arranged a funeral, and learned that many did not:  

  • understand probate or whether they needed it  
  • know that Co-op Legal Services offered probate  
  • know that they could get the cost of the funeral covered if they used Co-op Legal Services for probate

We wanted to help people understand if they needed probate and, if they did, make it straightforward for them to get it. We also wanted to make it clear when probate wasn’t needed, to reduce stress and avoid wasting people’s time. 

And we could do this by: 

  • understanding what the existing user journeys were 
  • learning from customers and colleagues 
  • explaining probate at the points where it was most relevant 
  • making it clear what probate is and when it’s needed  
  • using clear, understandable language  

Understanding what exists  

Helen Lawson facilitated a content audit. That’s a thorough analysis of the existing content to help us identify the points where it’s relevant to talk about probate. We are a business and although making money is one of our aims, it doesn’t mean shoehorning sales opportunities into a user journey at inappropriate times. We wanted to understand where it was genuinely in the customer’s best interest to know about probate. For example, when we write about costs, we could explain how Co-op Legal Services could cover the cost of the funeral upfront if the customer uses them for probate. 

We had to be deliberate. We understand our funeral customers are often distressed and have many competing priorities. We knew we didn’t want to get in the way of them completing the task they came to do – arranging a funeral. If we did, we’d make the process more stressful and more time consuming, and we’d increase the risk of them leaving the site and going elsewhere. So, to avoid getting in our customers’ way, it was just as important to decide where not to put the content. 

It was a collaborative effort. We relied on: 

  • the knowledge of people who dealt with our Funeralcare customers 
  • the expertise of colleagues in Funeralcare and Legal Services 
  • insights from research with people who had recently arranged a funeral 
  • our skills in content, design, data and customer experience  

Designing the content  

Probate is complicated. To make it understandable, and not get in the way, we need to be clear and get to the point fast.  

We explain what probate is in clear English. 

image text says:
Co-op Legal Services could pay for the funeral from the estate
If you instruct Co-op Legal Services to carry out probate, they could cover the cost of the funeral up front. Probate is the legal process of dealing with someone’s money, property and possessions after they have died.

They get the money back from the ‘estate’ (the things that the person owned), later.

Not everyone needs probate. It’s unlikely to be needed if the person who died:

did not own a house in their sole name
had less than £20,000 in the bank
Probate can be complicated. There are usually legal and financial matters to sort out and it can take months to finish everything that's needed.

Check if you need probate

We knew we couldn’t assume that our customers had any prior knowledge of the subject matter. Many may never have had to deal with a funeral before, and even if they have, that might not have involved dealing with probate. If we use complex terminology without explaining it, we risk overwhelming, frustrating, and alienating people. So where we could, we used clear English, to make it easier and quicker for people to understand. Where we had to use legal terminology, we explained it in understandable terms. Doing this makes us more inclusive. 

We explained when probate might not be needed.  

We did this to help get relevant information to people quickly– so that the people who don’t need probate don’t waste their time calling us. And the people who do need it, are directed to call us – that means we get the right help, to the right people. It saves our customers, and us, time. 

We also did some other things across the Funeralcare journey: 

  • broke up the text with more sub-headings and into smaller paragraphs which are easier for people to read  
  • used bullets for lists so people can scan them more easily 
  • linked out rather than duplicated content – reducing content maintenance costs as it only has to be kept up to date in one place 
  • moved relevant actions up the page, so we can help people earlier in their journey, without overwhelming them with content  
  • included links to the bereavement notification service, which is a free service for people who arrange a funeral with us, so especially relevant to our audience 

It worked 

As a result of the content changes on the webpages, 35% of all Funeralcare traffic now check if they need probate as part of their journey. 

The most effective services are those which are focused on the customer’s needs and those which are not bound by departmental silos. By focusing on making the customer’s experience better, across whatever channels and departments that involves, we can create services that help people, increase loyalty and make our business more successful. 

Joanne Schofield

Lead content designer