Customer self service

Empowering Customers Through a Self-Service Strategy

Great customer service is like great coffee: highly valued and rare! And while your favourite coffee experience may still be facilitated by a barista in the ambiance of your favourite café, you also want (and need!) great coffee at other times and in other places as well.

This is definitely while you’re toiling away at your desk at midnight with several hours to go on your report, just moments before you serve an Italian affogato to business partners at a Friday night dinner party, and on your lazy Saturday morning the next day as you revel in doing nothing more than flicking lazily through news headlines on your phone or watching highlights of the game you missed the night before.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, we understand the importance of good coffee anywhere, any time. We expect the barista-style experience even when serving ourselves (which is why it would have been judicious to buy shares in digital coffee machines!!) Barista-quality coffee at the touch of a button.

In the same way, your customers want self-service at the touch of a smart screen.

A 2021 IDC White Paper says that there has been a “pandemic-accelerated digitization of brand-buyer relationships from digital ready to digital first to digital only. Given that the effects of the pandemic continued through most of 2021 and into 2022 already [this paper was published in March ‘21], IDC expects many businesses will find their customers normalized around the convenience and safety of contactless commerce.”

According to a 2020 Corporate Insights and Initiatives (COPC) report, a significant 62% customer traffic shift was noted from human assisted channels to self-service technologies (SSTs) for routine issues. As a result of pandemic conditions over the past two years, contactless service and work from home trends are resulting in customers bypassing companies that do not provide self-service 24/7.

The following graphs show that in 2020, there was a strong uptick in customers using SST, although there was a lag in the ability to resolve these. Two years on, it stands to reason that the general population has become more tech-savvy, which results in higher resolution rates.

Source: 2020 Customer Insights and Initiatives Executive Summary

 

Source: 2020 Customer Insights and Initiatives Executive Summary

 

Like burnt coffee, businesses not deploying Knowledge across all customer-facing functions, especially SSTs, leave customers with a bitter taste in their mouths. Good self-service is key to customer experience (CX).

What is customer self-service?

This Gartner article says that ‘live’ service (reaching out to a physical person), “should be treated like a precious resource.” Instead of expecting customers to go to service agents with every problem, wherever possible empower them to find their own solutions. Not only does this free up agents time to deal with more complex issues, it provides customers with a level of service that they have come to expect.

Today’s customer self-service tools include chatbots, video tutorials, automated call services, mobile apps, corporate websites, and FAQs. However, while you need channels and escalation options, your priority should be ensuring that each of these channels are able to provide consistent, up-to-date, and accurate answers just as they would from a live agent. Integrating your knowledge management solution into every available customer service channel not only ensures consistency and a high level of service across the board, it also provides the simplest method for customers to resolve their issues in a speedy, frictionless way.

Benefits of self-service for customers and your business

Apart from the fact that customers simply expect access to self-service tools, there are several other important business benefits of self-service.

  1. Improved Customer Experience (CX)
    • Self-service greatly reduces wait time with a quick, direct way of resolving issues at any time of the night or day. Also, because others can use self-service options for simple questions, this reduces wait time for them if they need to speak to a customer service agent.
    • It empowers customers with a sense of control over their own dealings and way of dealing, even in situations where they have no choice but to interact.
    • It implies your respect for customer intelligence, which makes it more likely that customers will return and recommend you to others.
  2. Improved Employee Experience

When customer service agents have a range of reliable knowledge from which to draw correct answers to common questions or can refer customers to an app or article on the website, you empower them. With common, repetitive issues solved and a shorter backlog of the exact same issues to follow up, you free them up to focus on more high-priority, important issues. This builds confidence and employee satisfaction.

3. Lower costs for companies

Of course, empowering customers to solve their own problems rather than paying service agents to do it is always going to be cheaper for you. Then there are the benefits to your bottom line of increased customer loyalty and word of mouth recommendations. The key, however, is to go forward with a good self-service strategy that is customer centric and clear approach.

Key steps to developing a winning self-service strategy

A poorly executed self-service strategy will only result in customers contacting your service agents anyway or giving up entirely and going elsewhere. If this is the probable outcome, it would be better not to embark on developing self-service options in the first place.

You guarantee success in the following ways:

  1. Clearly define the objectives of your action plan

For this first step, it will help to narrow down exactly where your current support platforms need the most work. Why not ask your service agents to list what they find more frustrating about the current system? Which topics and questions come up most frequently? Your action plan must include a way of tracking your progress leading up to and following implementation of your strategy. The support channels you use would be based on what type of resource makes the most sense for the types of questions customers ask most often. Would it be a help page on your website, public access blogs like this one, or conversational chatbots? A good Knowledge Management solution should have full reporting suites and integrations to any channel—which greatly help in pulling together intel for new CX strategies such as implementing a new self-service offering.

2. Implement a purpose-built, self-service platform to meet your customers’ needs

The more relevant your self-service options for your target customers, the more likely they are to use them and return to you as their provider. They should be accessible from your website, viewable on any device, and easy to navigate. Visual aids such as graphical icons, screenshots describing next steps, explanatory videos, and content that is skimmable with helpful headings, subheadings and bullet points outlining processes contribute to greater accessibility for customers and makes it more convenient than contacting a live agent. To ensure consistency and accuracy, the knowledge should be drawn from the same library that agents use—this way, not only are customers able to obtain the correct answer no matter the channel on which they choose to ask their question, your organisation is employing a single source of truth. This means less maintenance of knowledge and a culture of greater trust in the system and its answers.

3. Tell your customers about it

Yes, it might be an obvious point, but it’s one that too many companies skip. They do all the hard work on an awesome resource and wonder why the numbers are not proving favourable. Did they make a mistake in investing in this way? More than likely, it’s because their customers don’t even realise! That’s right. Do you have the helpline for Telstra in your mobile contacts? Why would you go to the website to discover a different way it this is always the way you did it? This doesn’t have to cost much. With every resolved issue, a customer service agent can refer the customer to the relevant platform for their next interaction, include links to new apps and portals in emails or on live chat conversations, and remind customers of their new self-service options on the website.

Right this second, you’re at the end of a blog that you may have read in depth or skimmed in order to fill the gaps on this topic. You’re accessing knowledge in a self-service format, educating yourself, taking a look before you decide whether you might want to commit to a business partnership of some kind.

Why not go to our own Web Answers page to learn more about what we do? If you need to know more click the ‘Request Demo ‘button and lets show you what livepro can do. 

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