Self-service for better Customer Service

“Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem”. – Alan Weiss

As the market changes, customers get busier and competition becomes more fierce time available seems to be getting lesser. Harried and on the go customers are therefore veering to the direction of finding solutions and service on their own before getting in touch with the company for help. This fast emerging trend is helping customers get what they want faster and also whenever they want. For companies it spells major cost savings in the realm of customer service. Most companies are willing to match steps with the customers and are pro-actively finding newer and varied ways for customers to help themselves through a plethora of self-service methods. Customers are able to have better experiences by getting what they need in accordance with their time. Every organization must understand that online customer self-service not only improves customer satisfaction but also reduces costs and time. Great experiences via the self-service portal will make customers come back and do more business with your company. This portal reduces the burden on your contact centres allowing them more time to resolve more complex issues and focus on strengthening relationships with customers rather than answering a host of queries.

For example the introduction of ATMs is a great example of self-service allowing customers to withdraw cash at any hour. This method has also cut down on the long queues in banks of customers waiting to make transactions.

From the trend it seems that the younger generation are more hurried and are the ones who are more drawn towards self-service solutions. With technology improving at a rapid pace, it is becoming simpler for organizations to provide self-service resolutions to enable customers to receive answers and what they want when they want. However, this also means that customers that seek self-service are also expecting a high degree of efficiency in this service by means of speed and accuracy. If the self-service mechanism does not serve its purpose, customers are bound to contact companies whose systems work better. Despite there being no live agent or human contact in such interactions, a very large percentage of customers are demonstrating a preference for self-service – its fast and hassle free for customers and cost effective for companies. The other benefit for companies is that they can acquire huge amounts of data about a customer using the self-service allowing them to pitch related products and services to the customers.

There are a number of self-service software and technologies that companies can look at based on their needs and the make-up of the customer base.

– Smart device applications allow customers to navigate through a number of tasks while on the move. Paying bills, transferring funds, checking balances, accessing online stores, making purchases and many such activities that otherwise they would need to allocate a separate time slot for.

– Accessing the website of the company with a self-service page allowing them to get answers through the FAQs or troubleshooting steps.

– Navigating the internet to access a host of information and get answers to some questions

– Kiosks and standees are strategic locations – metro stations, airports, railway stations, malls and such – through which customers can conduct some activities like buying soft drinks and snacks, recharging their phone, paying phone and internet bills and many others.

With so much technology at their fingertips is it any wonder then that at least 72% of customers (according to the Forrester Report) would rather use the self-service portion than taking the trouble to email or call the company. The downside for companies is that at least 20% of customers who use this self-service are disappointed by not being able to locate what they are looking for or receive the appropriate solution. This creates a lot of frustration and such customers are most probably going to post their negative experience online for all to see. To save the company from this negative publicity steps must be taken to create amazing self-service experiences ensuring that customers view your company as having wow customer service.

– Ensure that the knowledge and information base is always fresh, current and relevant. Information has an expiry and will get stale and hence making the necessary changes and updating the information is of prime importance. There is no use of a knowledge base if it is out-dated and redundant for customers. Customers would then be forced to use other methods of gaining information rather than using the self-service section which they started out in the first place.

– Make sure that you r customer support is aligned to the information on the company website. In the event that after using the self-service base the customer still connects with the agents, they must receive answers that are in concurrence with the information on the site. The aim is to delight the customers through speedy and efficient resolution.

– Get instant feedback from customers by providing a rating tool at the end of the self-service portal. A collation of this feedback will let your company know whether the information being provided is helpful to customers, whether the customer support representatives are matching a certain standard of efficiency and if not the inadequacies must be removed.

– Remember to add customer testimonials on these self-service portals. These comments add value to the service being provided especially if there is a first user. Customers tend to believe these comments more than a company’s statements on their great service.

– The self-service portal must be fun and cheery and easily negotiable. Most answers should be just a click away and customers must be able to get in to portal and out of it with ease. If the self-service portal is efficient and the solutions easily available, customers will love you and keep coming back to you and also recommend you to others.

– Keep a portion available for customers to leave queries. These must be answered within the timeline specified on the self-service portal – usually 24 hours. By maintaining the timelines and providing the support asked for, companies will find that customers are able to trust them more and thus use their service more often.

– Self-service portals must be standard across all the communication channels such that customers can resolve their issues using the most convenient one for them.

– The self-service portal would do exceedingly well if there was a portion dedicated to a discussion forum. Allowing customers to discuss and share interactions with each other is a robust form of support. This would also be the place where your company can make product launch announcements, sale and discount news and any other relevant tit-bits that the customers are likely to find useful.

– Most customers that use the self-service portals already have login ids to the various social media sites. Linking your portal such that they can login using any of those ids reduces customer effort and saves time for them. It is quite cumbersome to create a special id for a retail online store for example and the no one wants the hassle of remembering another password. Allow your customers this leeway and see them return to your site for support!

Whatever the approach your company decides to use, the truth is that customers are looking for and expecting distinctive, reliable, useful and relevant self-service experiences that they can trust and repeatedly use. The fact is that customers are ready and willing to help themselves. However, they have made it amply clear that the experience must be effortless, smooth and efficient and the information on the site must be reliable and updated. Companies would be able to forge ahead of competition by pro-actively addressing any concerns and also keep the self-service portal up and running effectively.

Remember however that merely offering this self-service will not suffice or get customers to actually make use of it. Your company must focus on making it easy for them to know about it, access it and negotiate through it. It must be a rewarding and satisfying experience for more and more customers to use it. As word spreads of its efficiency more customers are drawn and there are no secrets of what more customers bring!

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