When it comes to reaping the full benefits of self-service, it is about planning and a well thought-out strategy. Annica Ronquist, Head of Global Customer Operations and Services at Teleopti, outlines 5 top tips for self-service success…
One of the common myths associated with self-service is that it reduces the number of calls coming into the contact center. In reality, whilst the introduction of self-service may decrease call volumes in the longer-term, it more importantly changes the reasons customers call. Routine tasks can be dealt with through automation only to be replaced by complex enquiries requiring highly skilled agents.
Imagine you’re a bank. Like most banks today, you provide self-service internet banking to your customers. If a problem occurs they will very quickly be calling through for expert answers, but in general they no longer need to call up the bank’s customer service operations for routine queries, such as the status of their account balance or the transfer of money abroad. They receive quick, correct responses that require low effort on their part. The sheer effortlessness of their experience ultimately increases their loyalty to your bank, a win-win situation for the customer and for your business. Or is it?
A new set of challenges
The truth is that self-service is a wonderful invention, making life easier for agents and customers alike but it does raise a new set of challenges. The secret lies in taking the time to introduce a well thought-out customer self-service strategy. Here are my five top tips to keep you on the right track:
1. Use the language your customers understand – My time working for the Swedish postal service taught me this very important lesson. We could see that a large proportion of customers had gone onto our website to check the delivery status of their letters and parcels but they were still calling us because they didn’t understand the language used by our ‘track and trace tool’. Changing it to something like ‘Where is my parcel?’ would have made much more sense.
The lesson is: always communicate in your customer’s language – don’t use in-house terminology or techno-speak.
2. The power of forums – Many customers feel more comfortable talking to other customers to share tips and experiences on certain products and experiences. Think of TripAdvisor, an organization that’s built its whole business around a forum – albeit on a massive scale.
Self-service is about encouraging customers to engage with each other to build customer trust. The trick is to have a dedicated moderator to keep the dialogue in the right direction and step in if anyone needs help in answering a tricky question.
3. Knowledge is power – This stands for both customers and the agents serving them. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Knowledgebases must always be kept up-to-date and easy to find. Develop a proper process that encourages employees to share, and then put into practice, their collective knowledge. Have a dedicated editor to manage the information and place it in the context of the overall customer journey rather than within a central portal.
Make sure information is relevant and rely on your agents to make it so. Not only are they the voice and face of your organization but they are the ears and eyes too. On the frontline, they are the people who are most in touch with your customers and understand what makes them tick.
4. Analyze, analyze, analyze – It’s not enough to put self-service in place and then walk away. With the right analysis and facts, you can use workforce management to schedule agents with the right skills to respond to customer enquiries. Successful self-service requires careful planning and a step-by-step approach:
– First, monitor customer experience and performance across all existing self-service channels and, if you don’t offer a self-service option, analyze how customers currently complete their tasks.
– Conduct a ‘soft launch’ with a select group of existing customers before promoting the new self-service channel to all customers – so you can judge if additional calls are received.
– Understand customer behavior by measuring call volumes long enough to establish a pattern of how many people use self-service and how many still require agent intervention.
– Use this information to estimate accurate forecasts of self-service usage in the future and develop meaningful training sessions to schedule the correctly skilled agents at the right time. This is where accurate workforce planning is essential.
5. Make technology the enabler – Give customers the opportunity to communicate in their preferred way and blend all communications channels, including self-service.
Over time, encourage the use of Web Chat, a logical extension of your self-service option and a communication method that is rapidly growing in popularity. Do your research to pre-empt the right questions and resource the channel with the appropriately skilled agents. The beauty of Web Chat is that well trained and cultivated agents can handle multiple conversations at once leading to faster response times and enhanced customer satisfaction levels.
Introduce a dedicated self-service portal for priority customers including a free Web Chat service – a real competitive differentiator because many mobile providers still charge for freephone telephone numbers.
It’s time to take control
Take the time to plan your strategy, really understand your customers and build in automated self-service capabilities around your contact center. Get self-service right and you will be rewarded with an optimized customer engagement process and reduced costs for the business at the same time. Workforce planning will become more flexible but just as essential, with agents dealing with higher value opportunities and enjoying more challenging and interesting roles.