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3 Best Practices for Self-Service Excellence

In today’s service-driven economy, retailers and other savvy businesses recognize that one of the biggest competitive differentiators is providing a superior customer experience. A great customer experience is what causes someone to drive past their local convenience store or quick serve restaurant offering coffee for $1 and wait in line at Starbucks for a beverage three times more expensive.

Within the customer experience bucket, however, are a wide range of ideas about how to deliver this seemingly intangible offering. Among the challenges faced, self-service is the one area where many retailers still struggle. Over the past couple of years, the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has conducted multiple surveys on the topics of social media and self-service. One of the questions respondents were asked was which support channels they preferred to use when seeking help for a product problem. The largest percentage of respondents (65%) indicated self-service was their preferred channel whereas less than 20% preferred the phone or email for product support.

Assuming then that the majority of your customers want self-service, what’s the success rate of your current self-service initiatives? According to TSIA’s 2011 support benchmark study, customers found resolutions to their problems via self-service channels only 39% of the time.

A 2014 TSIA survey shows overall improvements in self-service with companies falling into three distinct categories. The top third saw an average success rate of 74%, the middle tier saw an average success rate of 54%, and the bottom third achieved only 28% success with their self-service initiatives, which is 11% lower than the overall average from three years ago.

So, why is there such disparity between the top and bottom performers? And, what are the top performers doing that those in the average and bottom third groups are not? Following are three best practices that illustrate this wide gap in service:

  1. Adopt a Mobile-First Mindset. According to the Pew Research Center’s findings, 90% of American adults have a cell phone and 58% of American adults have a smartphone. Additionally, 42% of American adults own a tablet computer. This explains why, for example, that as much as 50% of online traffic comes from mobile devices, according to research from Moxie. Self-service initiatives that aren’t focused on mobility are clearly missing the mark. A recent study from 451 Research further confirms this point, revealing that 87% of customers would prefer to use a visual IVR to help complete their requests faster and be able to seamlessly transfer to an agent if needed without having to repeat their information again. While calling customer service and speaking to a live agent will always remain important, connected customers are highly interested in newer options such as mobile self-service, mobile click-to-chat, and click-to-call – especially if it reduces/eliminates their top frustrations, which are waiting on hold, repeating information, and being transferred to multiple customer service reps.
  2. Explore Proactive Engagements. Proactive engagements anticipate customer needs and wants and prioritizes information and functionality to speed customer time-to-completion. For example, customer behavior can be monitored while customers navigate a retailer’s website, capturing the pages the user navigates to and the time spent on the pages. This data can then be coupled with customer insight from other information systems (e.g. in-store shopping habits tracked through the retailer’s loyalty program) and used to proactively reach out to customers via an invitation to chat, a special offer, or perhaps a multimedia tutorial at the time assistance is needed.
  3. Don’t Treat Your Contact Center as a Cost Center. Another important differentiator between companies with top performing self-service initiatives and those missing the mark can be seen in the contact center. Bottom-performing companies put the burden on customer service agents to navigate dozens of disconnected application during their workday, which only serves to reduce their ability to provide timely and helpful service. Those who understand the important role agents serve, on the other hand, work to simplify agents’ workspaces by removing extraneous data elements from agents’ screens, automating tasks to increase agent productivity, and making available relevant information to help personalize customer interactions. The old and outdated mindset of treating the contact center as a cost center by hiring the cheapest labor and equipping CSRs with the minimal tools to do their job is deadly in today’s economy. To be successful today, in the age of the customer, executives must recognize that they ultimately don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — their customers do.

Published in customer experience customer service IVR/Self-Service