Blog - Call Center Outsourcing

Self-Service – A Positive or Negative for Customer Experience

09/26/2013

Self-service options are standard in today’s contact center environment. It’s typical to dial support and receive a phone tree or access support online and find FAQs, community forums and how-to manuals. In spite of the longevity of self-service options, there is still debate regarding the positive aspects of this type of service. Companies poke fun at self-service via commercials; e.g., Ally Bank® and Discover®, and it’s easy to find opinions against this option. However, there is a positive to self-service beyond the cost savings for the contact center. Truth is, many customers prefer this option.

Customers’ opinions of self-service can be aligned with their generation. Those used to telephoning and speaking to an agent, a/k/a Baby Boomers and older, are certainly less likely to accept phone trees and online options. However, the younger generations having grown up with technology find it faster and easier to utilize self-service. There are many customers that prefer the ease and convenience of self-service options, wishing only to communicate with an agent for difficult or more complicated transactions.

The Lens of the Customer

An obvious factor to self-service approval is the mindset of the customer. This speaks to the target for your product or service and how you best serve them. However, it also brings forth points that require addressing within the contact center. After all, the customer’s experience will be based on their preconceived notion of what they expected – and how you fulfilled those expectations. There are several ways to ensure that self-service and good customer experience are synonymous, including:

  1. Give Good Self-Service – make sure that all materials are readily available. If a phone tree is involved, make the options easy and minimize the number. No one wants to sit through 9 options. If the self-service materials are online, keep the information clear, concise and downloadable when appropriate. The clearer and easier the self-service options, the happier the customer.
  2. Communicate, then communicate again – when implementing or changing self-service options, make sure that your agents are well-trained and the customers are told. Then tell them again. It is difficult to over communicate when explaining new self-serve options.
  3. Use Phone Tree Etiquette – whether implementing a new IVR or changing an existing one, customers will often want to bypass. Train the agents to be prepared for the calls, and the associated frustration with the change. The more they can explain the benefits to the customer, the better. For example, it’s better to speak directly to the department that can resolve your issue, than to be transferred multiple times. Set the customer’s expectations appropriate and remain consistent.
  4. Improve Agent Knowledge – when you remove the basic transactions from the contact center, the agents are expected to be well-versed in the more difficult and hard to explain transactions. The channel is not relevant here. The customers do not care if they use Twitter or email or a call – they want answers. The agents must be able to deliver the answers quickly to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.
  5. Vary the Self-Service Options – make good use of the varied ways to distribute information. Use webinars, PDFs and videos. When appropriate, ensure you have help features available and accessible when the customer is using the product. FAQs and community forums are also a good way to boost self-service options, keeping the customer happier.
  6. Ask for Feedback – customers want to provide their opinions, so give them an easy way to do so. Feedback buttons within all appropriate self-serve channels let you gather data. Occasional surveys provide excellent feedback, particularly when rolling out new or changing self-service options. Finally, don’t forget to ask the agents. They will find out plenty from customers who attempted to utilize self-service and could not.

 Self-service is valuable to customers when they can access good information quickly and easily. To create a solid self-service plan requires strategic thought and execution, rather than allowing it to develop organically. A well thought-out self-service plan will enhance a contact center strategy, giving agents’ opportunities to grow and improving customer experiences.

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