Customer Self-Service Plan

“The handful of companies that respond promptly and accurately to customer emails increase trust in their brand, bolster customer satisfaction, and boost sales both online and offline.” – Call Center Industry Report, Benchmark Portal

We have discussed that the human touch, in business is and will seemingly continue to be a crucial part of the customers and company’s lives. Having said this, both customers and companies are realizing the importance of investing in customer self-service in order to improve the speed and efficiency of customer service. The prediction is that at least two-thirds of customer interactions would be able to function smoothly through customer self-service – that is without a customer service person, in the years to come. This would be true for any industry and business.

There was a time when even to find out one’s account balance, a customer would call to speak to a live customer service person and this was one of the services that was a given. Now however, customers on the go, would much rather access an IVR system and get the required information whenever and wherever they want. As an activity, it is manageable without human intervention and customers are happy so long as this customer self-service option works smoothly and without problems. Customer self-service and service through representatives, is all about convenience and reduced effort for customers. Customer self-service though cannot be a standalone strategy but rather a part of a well thought out and implemented business strategy of the company.

While customers may be happy using the customer self-service options, it is important to them that this service is available to them all the time and through all the channels of communication available. These options must be consistently good all across and have value for customers. The information available via these customer self-service options must be updated, relevant and consistently good, if they are to find favour with the customers as a viable alternative to human interactions for the most basic service. Customers seem to be moving towards wanting more easy and efficient customer self-service options and companies are responding accordingly. Research revealed that at least 60% of the companies are seriously considering more customer self-service options in a bid to match the demands of their customers.

According to experts, customer self-service options would be successful only if the information and knowledge available through them is consistently good and managed efficiently. Customers are happy with customer self-service options so long as there is consistency, accuracy and uniformity across all channels. These are the major pain areas for customers and when these areas are unmanaged, happy customers turn into frustrated and complaining customers and will ensure that others know about their poor service experiences. There is no point investing in technology that affords customer self-service options if they do not serve the purpose for which they were intended. Companies must continually review and monitor these self-service options to check – for the kind of content available, whether the self-service options are easy to navigate and use and the frequency with which customers use these options. Regular feedback from customers as to the efficacy of these customer self-service options is also essential for companies. Putting together customer self-service options without ensuring that they work towards customer satisfaction and retention is a sure shot way to invite customer ire and sooner than later force them to leave.

As companies become global, their customer base will grow and be scattered around the world and customer self-service options would be a great way to serve them despite time differences, language problems and other limiting conditions. A survey suggests that by the end of the next year – 2016 – the cost of customer service will become prohibitive for at least 80% of companies that do not invest in customer self-service options. This will obviously translate to lowered revenue and profits.

We have in the past discussed about troubleshooting as a customer self-service option. With easy diagrams and systematic worded guidance, online troubleshooting that works smoothly is a great option for customers that prefer to self-serve. Companies could also look at complementing the customer self-service options with assisted service to ensure a complete and satisfying customer service experience. The fact is that customers know what they want and while they may not want to wait to get it, they are willing to pay more if the service provided by a company makes their life easier.

Customer self-service options should mandatorily include systems that allow customers to provide feedback easily and without much effort. Customers need to know that their opinion matters to the company that they are doing business with and if this mechanism is missing or is inefficient, customers lose patience and trust in the company and would much rather do business with a company that allows them to express their views and provide feedback, that could be both bad and good.

Companies must ensure that their websites and social media sites strongly reflect the values and vision of the company. There must be a provision where customers can find answers to their queries and get help without the need for a human interaction. Clearly laid out FAQs, interactive DIY videos, mobile friendly assistance and other such options that work efficiently and consistently and have updated content, prove to highly effective customer self-service options.

Most customers do not have the time or are unwilling to repeat their requests – and they should not need to. If your company has put customer self-service options in place, it would be a good idea to regularly test these options and ensure that the technology employed is working smoothly. The last thing a harried customer wants is to wait even to self-serve, especially if your company has messed up. Impatient customers often become angry and can very easily post negative comments about a company that could be difficult to defend or manage. Ensure that the customer self-service tools and options simplify your customer’s life, reduce the amount of time and effort they spend before receiving service and leave with a feeling that their queries / problems have been sorted out to their satisfaction. It is hard as it is to gain customers, why make it tougher for your company?

Like with all customer service strategies, thinking proactively from the customer’s point of view, will ensure that your company is able to anticipate any issues or problems your customer is likely to face while using the customer self-service tools. Doing so will ensure that your company is able to fix these ‘bugs’ before the customer faces them. Seamless and smooth self-service will get your company additional brownie points for customer service and may even encourage your customers to let others know.

Putting together customer self-service options does not mean that your customer service representatives should not be trained and ready to manage any situations that could arise. If a customer does reach out to a live agent, ensure that the information they provide is consistent with what the customer may have received in the self-service mode and through other channels. You do not want your customers believing that inefficient and dumb people are running the company. Your customer service helplines must be easy to reach and the person answering the phone must be well trained and knowledgeable enough to answer basic questions and queries.

An increasing number of businesses are incorporating customer self-service in their customer service strategy and are able to increase engagement through enhanced customer experiences and from their perspective, reduce costs of operation and headcount.

 

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