Michael Touna B&H Case Study

The UX Behind Customer Service

B&H Photo is well known for three things – its low prices, its knowledgeable staff, and its customer service. Professional photographers and video professionals see it as a must stop when visiting New York. It’s knowledgeable staff is second to none. But quality seems to get lost once we go to the website (bhphotovideo.com). The goal of this project was to provide a better customer service experience and have access to the same knowledgeable staff.

Old Help Center
Newly redesigned Help Center

My Design Process

For this project we used mostly Waterfall with some sprints of Lean UX. All aspects were supported by user research, analytics, competitive analysis, user testing, and other methods.

The tools used were Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch, Zeplin, Invision, Usertesting.com, Evernote, Fullstory.com, Google Analytics, and Jira.


I wanted to start with just how often people were using our Help Center. The numbers were very low. And they didn’t stay long. I got the numbers break down on what was being clicked and surprisingly some of the lowest clicked links like Education Section (0.2%) was near the top and things like Contact Us was hidden under a collapsible menu. This gave me my first clue of some of the issues.

Analytics of user clicks


To understand the mindset of customer service better, I spoke with the director customer service and read through over 500 live chats. I then spoke with actually B&H customers to get a better feeling why they need help.

Different ways customers get help
Journey from purchase to return


The next step was to interview sales and see how they interacted with people coming into the store. It was a very different interaction than over the phone. Because the sales staff dealt with over 10,000 people coming into the store each day, they had a very good idea what most people were looking for. In their heads, they had built their own persona of the average users. Most people were either shopping based on a particular project (sell items on Ebay), professional needs (I need a second camera that can do...), or higher-end causal shooting (I want better pictures of my family). Even though each person’s situation is unique, it helps the Sales member to better target their advice. For example, giving too much technical lingo to a causal shooter would be confusing. And the opposite is true, if they didn’t talk in the proper jargon with the professional, the customer may question the knownledge of the sales associate. I kept this in mind when building the new Help Center.

Three user persona

UX Game Plan

Based on the job stories and my understanding of the core desires of the users, I developed a few scenarios with a series of tasks: Returning an item, Finding out about international shipping, Getting Expert Advice, and Getting an Order Status Update.

I first decided to have users go to the old Help Center (using usertesting.com) and preform these job tasks. I watched where they navigated to and noted their reactions. We asked them if they ever returned something online and had a bad or good experience. I figured that a bad experience would be memorable and a good experience would be forgotten. I found that assumption to be correct. Users were more than glad to talk about how badly a certain company messed up their return.

I identified the pain points and combined that with all my other research and used affinity mapping to group the main points into similar categories.

Defining and Solving Problems

New B&H Help Center Upon all this knowledge, insights, and research, I built wireframes and prototypes. The stakeholders were involved through out the entire process so everyone felt invested in the project. Also, the Help Center touched every department at B&H, so their input was essential. The prototypes were tested several times along the way. Sometimes for placement of items or even just word choices. We looked to solve all the big and little problems along the way. Here are the main pain points we looked out for:

Discoverability: I wanted to expose all the options, but at the same time not overwhelm the user with to many choices. So I developed a multi-tier hierarchy. The top 5 most requested things lived large with icons (I designed in Adobe Illustrator) on top. Then the lesser options lived on bottom with smaller icons. And then finally everything was exposed in a footer like design with just text links.

Top 5 navigated points
Second and third tier navigation

Quicker Answers: The 500 live chats and interviews with customer service gave me the info I needed to develop the 125 questions in the FAQ section (new to the Help Center). Customer Service than answered all the questions. We also added a HELP ME section, which is quick links to most requested activities (new to the Help Center as well.)

Shorter and More Relevant Text: Users didn’t want to read long copy to get one answer, so ALL the copy was rewritten to make it simpler and easier to digest in small bits. For more complex text, like the privacy policy, we broke it up and added headline to make it more scannable.

Getting Expert Advice: An entirely new section was added to the website, The Expert’s Page. It features experts of every department for product advice. It’s been a huge success for B&H. We’ve even had companies of products we sell call us to ask us questions about how their own products work with other systems.

B&H Experts' page

Follow up after launch

It was important to follow up after the launch to see what was working well and what was still confusing to users. We watched Fullstory.com to see how customers were navigating, and we read feedback left by customers. One example we found was that international customers were getting lost. Even though we organized everything international customers would need neatly under one tab, they were navigating to the other sections looking for their info. For example, an international customer wanting to know about Shipping was going to the Shipping section instead of the international section. So we added an International link in every section that leads them to the proper section inside the International section.


Customer Service and Expert Advice is what makes B&H succeed in a market dominated by other national retailers. B&H competes for those wanting more knowledge and the ability to get answers to their questions. The old Help Center did not reflect this. The newly updated Help Center and Expert’s Page better implements this philosophy. Even small changes like exposing everything in a Help Center Footer made a huge impact.

Unlike other pages, we want users to get their answers and leave the Help Center as quickly as possible. Watching Fullstory.com, we saw that users found their answers much quicker and got back to shopping. Anytime we saw a number of user getting lost, we updated the experience to make it easier to find.

Phase 2 is being worked on now. That includes Help Center videos and more personalized info.

Created By
Michael Touna

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