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Go Self-Serve Yourself!

From the Knowledge Centre

In this month's Coffee Break blog, Echo’s Head of Sales & Marketing Chris Cullen drops by to discuss the growing trend for customer self-service and whether a “digital by default” approach really gives every customer the level of service they increasingly expect………..

In today’s modern world time is precious. With escalating demands on our limited time, the need for speed and convenience is now at the forefront of our everyday lives and our interactions with the organisations we choose to purchase products and services from.

It is of little wonder then, that we find ourselves immersed in the age of “digital by default”, whereby companies are increasingly offering us the ability to self-serve, the automation of service processes and enabling us to interact with them online 24/7.

Be it purchasing a product online, paying for our parking charges or booking a holiday, we are increasingly being driven to serve ourselves. The advantage for both consumers and companies can be obvious; self-service not only reduces the cost to serve, it also offers us choices in how and when we choose to interact with them.

But, what happens when something goes wrong? Or a customer does not want to self-serve? Or when self-serve actually increases customer effort rather than offering the speed and convenience benefits it set out to achieve? Pushing headlong into a strategy of “digital by default” without careful consideration and planning can actually generate the wrong customer experience. It can even portray a “sort yourself out, we don’t care” attitude, all of which can hinder any aspirations to build those all-important sustained and trusted customer relationships……….

No assumptions. No regrets

Just because the technology is readily available to automate processes, offer multi-channel customer service and enable your customers to self-serve does not mean you should automatically apply the technology, assume customers want it and then drive them down this route. It is imperative to first gain insight about the priorities, needs and preferences of both your existing and target customers. Different customer segments may have a diverse range of attitudes towards interacting with your organisation, and failure to research and recognise this may just lead to annoyance and frustration for customers. It might sound simple but you can only give customers the channels they want, when you’ve asked what is wanted in the first place.

Effort and appropriateness
Self-serve works best when it removes the hassle of an interaction, is convenient and reduces the customer effort required. Losing sight of this, and deploying technology simply to reduce call volumes and associated costs, can lead to an experience that is neither appropriate nor low effort for the customer. We live in a world today where we are increasingly expected to deal with our own problems, and no longer have open access to teams of people to do it for us, but be aware that if self-serve makes it harder for a customer to manage their interaction with you, frustration will increase and satisfaction levels will fall – convenience must be convenient!

Adopt a fall-back position
Companies must remain easily accessible for those times when a customer faces an issue whilst self-serving or where they are simply resistant to self-service. Opting not to advertise a call centre number in the hope of reducing call traffic, can not only lead to a bad experience for those customers who have a problem, but it may also play a part in the growing UK trend of complaint escalation. Customers who do not want to self-serve and those who require a human interaction must be accommodated. Yes, there may be an educational role for staff to play in promoting the advantages of self-serve for next time, but ultimately if a customer wants that human interaction then let them have it.

The customer service advisor of the future
As self-service increasingly facilitates those simple transactions where customers interact in this way for speed and convenience, the need to have empowered and trained advisors who can handle more complex enquiries and back up self-serve when it goes wrong becomes more evident. Their role in the future will be less around signposting and more about having a solid understanding of the business and the products and services it sells.

Customers will expect staff to provide the answers they need or can’t get via self-service or to seamless transfer them to someone who can. Equipping people with the right skills and competencies to handle this and the increasing need for “unscripted” responses will be key. Failing to invest in this area will be a sure route to customer service ruin.

Self-service certainly has its advantages and deployed in the right manner this always-on access to your organisation can increase customer satisfaction levels by making interactions quick and easy. But make sure you don’t leave your customers feeling it’s all about saving money and reducing your cost to serve – they must perceive it as a benefit to themselves.

Competent and helpful contact centre advisors will still be a vital part of any customer service strategy today and in the future, helping customers when needed and giving those great experiences where technology cannot serve or is not desired to do so.

Get it wrong and whilst saving cost in the short term you’ll lose customers in the long term. Get it right and you’ll create the right multi-channel customer experience that keeps customers loyal and leads to true long term value.


Follow this link to find out more about outsourcing your customer contact and engagement
Here's the link to our latest research: customer service: what customers really want in a world full of contact channels

About the author

Chris Cullen

Head of Acquisitions, Sales & Marketing, Chris has worked in the outsourcing and agency sector for over 20 years successfully developing and delivering programmes for a variety of organisations.

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