Increase Customer Satisfaction through Self-Service

“If you offer some sort of live service (phone or live chat), it’s paramount that you get customers to a live person in 2 minutes or less. Otherwise it creates frustration that can lead to a seriously unhappy customer”. – Source: Harris Interactive

We all know that for customers to remain with a company, they should be happy or at least satisfied. To this end it is interesting to note that companies are aiming for higher customer satisfaction through self-service. It bodes well since it does not leave customers hanging or waiting around for the support team of companies to ‘rescue’ them. There have been far too many incidences and reports of customer frustration and bad experiences to recount – from seemingly never-ending hold times, to accent and language issues, poor product and customer knowledge of the customer service agents and other such incidences. Self-service has reduced these to some extent as it puts the control of ‘service’ in the hands of the customer – the customer is in the ‘driver’s seat’.  To properly implement and regularly monitor customer satisfaction through self-service, companies must be seriously customer focused and have an innate culture if putting their customer’s interests before their own. Those companies that have implemented self-service support have reported increases in repeat business, customer loyalty and as a result a ‘towering reputation’ that has dwarfed many a competitor.

It is not surprising that customers want control and expect to remain empowered. The power of the internet has given them the influence they need. They are able to look for answers, information and keep themselves abreast with the latest happenings and news. Search engines are their ‘trusted friends’ and they are not hesitant anymore to first search for answers on their own before they actually approach your customer service. This is a paradigm shift in the thought process and overall mind-set of customers. Also customers are not bound or limited to using one communication channel and are connecting with companies and others using any or all of them. True, customers still connect with companies – maybe even more frequently and smart companies are rising to the challenge by continually raising the levels of their customer service thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

Whether customers call or not, they are demanding and expecting to have continuous access the knowledge base of your company that would be useful to them. They want a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are properly answered and easily accessed, additional information in the form of blogs, forums, online discussions and other content that they could use. A study revealed that 91% of the people that took the study said that they would most definitely use the online resources of the company if it was well-articulated and customized to their requirements. Another study showed that 75% of the people who took the survey agreed that self-service was a highly convenient method to address customer service issues and around 67% said that they would much rather use self-service than make the effort of calling the company’s representatives.

If customer satisfaction through self-service is almost guaranteed, then it would be correct to assume that companies that do not offer this service, are missing out on a major customer service realm and they could find themselves at the receiving end of customer frustration.  We have oft repeated that customer expectations have changed and evolved over the years and only companies that have been able to keep pace with those expectations and also move ahead of them are the ones that have become stronger. For the others, their customers are most likely a dissatisfied and frustrated lot eager to switch to a more proficient company.

The reality is that customers have little or no patience to deal with tedious interactions involving service. IVR menus are frustrating and vexing, hold times are laboriously long while trying to even get connected with an agent and very often land up with speaking to a highly incompetent and apathetic one. They would much rather use some kind of self-service to get a resolution for their problem.

There have been several surveys and studies conducted to assess the efficacy and also customer preference for self service. One survey revealed that people who used the help / FAQs portion of a company’s website increased to 76% by 2014 as opposed to 67% in 2012. By contrast, telephone communication had remained constant at 73% usage. In addition, other self-service tools also saw a rise of 10% (virtual agents and online community discussion forums) and so did self-help via the mobile phones. This shift towards self-service has been witnessed across the entire cross-section of users and usage has increased across all age groups in the years 2012 to 2014. Online chat service has risen from 30% in 2009 to 58% in 2014.

There is another detailed report from a customer service reviews company (Software Advice™) that mentions the following key findings.

Frequently asked questions, online knowledge bases and interactive voice response phone systems are the most commonly implemented self-service channels.

First-level resolution rate, average time to answer and call abandonment rate are the metrics most improved by implementing self-service.

 Implementing self-service both lowers the quantity and improves the outcomes of customer calls requiring Tier One service.

There is no denying that customers have become and will continue to remain more self-reliant and are happier to seek answers and resolutions in their own time and in the manner they deem most appropriate. Customer satisfaction through self-service is here to stay as these self-help portals have made it relatively convenient for customers to access information and get answers round the clock instead of waiting for the company to respond or start the day’s operations.

Having mentioned all this, the reality also is that implementing self-service portals and continually keeping them current and efficient can be highly cumbersome and intimidating for any business, especially the smaller ones but those that need to grow rapidly in order to increase their revenue. However, the benefits of self-service are there for all to see and also for both customers and companies.

Reduction in costs is quite an obvious benefit. Companies would need a very large number of people to service their customers if there was no self-service.  They would much rather save costs on people by introducing self-service through which customers can have faster access to the information they need. Even though, self-service portals require an investment, this would still be less than hiring a band of employees – salaries, bonuses, leave days, attrition, training costs and still may not achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction.  Companies also save on communication costs via the phone especially when frustrated customers hang up and expect to receive a call back, reduced numbers of first call resolutions and the huge costs of customer dissatisfaction. Customers would not only take their business to a competitor but also influence their friends and associates to do the same. In addition, further business prospects could be reduced if customers were to post comments via social media and or spread negative word of mouth.

Studies reveal that by using self-service technology there is – a 33.3% rise in efficiency, 17.7% reduction in costs, 15.6% increase in customer satisfaction, 15.6% reduction in the number of requests for support and help and about 3.1% increase in profitability.

If companies can start now and keep up the momentum of their self-service support they will be able to reach the levels of customer service that customers expect and deserve. Improving customer satisfaction through self-service will increase your company’s influence and enhance its ability to keep pace with the increasing demands of customers.

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