- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- September 8, 2021
The use of automated attendants to replace a human call center agent or cashier was viewed simply as a cost-cutting measure. But today’s customers, empowered by the growing ubiquity of smartphones, voice-based digital assistants, and an endless array of digital applications, often relish the ability to connect with a product, brand, or service without needing to speak or interact with a human at all. For some tasks, it is more convenient and easier to deal with a machine than a human.
However, gone are the days when companies could deploy basic, decision tree-based phone attendant systems or one-size-fits-all online FAQs. Today’s customers expect self-service tools that are easy to use, available 24/7, context-aware, and, in many cases, personalized specifically for them based on the action they are taking, their past interactions, or the input they provide in real time.
These tools should be deployed in force to ensure that long wait or hold times are eliminated, which are a key source of customer frustrations. They also need to be designed so that the experiences and interactions mimic those found across other channels, including in-person, via live agents, and online, which can be achieved by incorporating similar verbiage, terminology, and processes for achieving specific tasks.
Clearly, there is a growing appetite for self-service options. Microsoft’s 2020 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 86% of customers expect a self-service option, and 66% started their journey with a self-service option instead of immediately engaging with an agent.
But there is a difference between offering an automated tool or two and effectively delivering on the promise of a self-service CX. To provide the level of convenience consumers expect from today’s brands, businesses must optimize their self-service solutions, making them both more dependable and more mobile-friendly to enhance the CX.
Some of the other key elements of a self-service option include:
- The ability to access a self-service portal via multiple channels, including the web, voice, mobile site, mobile app, chat, or social media site
- The ability to access past interactions (including customer service tickets) via the self-service platform
- The ability to quickly access and find information in a context-sensitive FAQ or knowledge base
- The ability to complete basic tasks (such as updating account information, paying bills, choosing or changing service options, initiating product returns, etc.)
- The ability to pause or stop a session, and then return to the same place later, without needing to reenter information
- The ability to escalate an issue quickly and easily to a live agent that can see the previous steps taken by the customer using the self-service tools
The adoption of a comprehensive self-service solution can drive cost savings and operational efficiencies. Providing customers with easy-to-use tools can improve the CX by saving them the time, effort, and frustration of needing to interact with agents for routine matters. It also frees up live agents to focus on more complex issues or higher-value interactions.
Customers who have grown up with digital technology view self-service tools as a welcome alternative to traditional customer service channels. This is particularly important to young consumers, such as Millennials and Gen Zers, who expect the convenience of self-service tools.
However, self-service tools need to be monitored and frequently optimized, as any changes in customer behavior or interactions that impact how the self-service tools are being used may impact the overall effectiveness of the self-service platform. Similarly, periodic reviews should be conducted to ensure that live agents are able to jump into action should a customer experience a delay or difficulty in completing a task. Implementing self-service tools and options can serve both the customer and the company. While some company types may be better suited to self-service, those that ensure any self-service tools are frequently reviewed, analyzed, and optimized are likely to see CX improvements and operational gains.
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