Self-service used to get a bit of a bad rap. Oh, how the tables do turn.
Groans of “Can I just talk to a human please…?” have become prayers of “Can I just sort this myself?”
“I don’t want to deal with robots” has sea changed to “Tell me there’s a way to do this online?”
Wails of “This isn’t like it used to be!” have calmed to sighs of “I don’t know how I used to do it like that”
As contact centres, our concern is no longer convincing our customer to self-serve, but enabling them to do so at every opportunity. It turns out, it’s become radically popular. In fact, 81% of customers try and sort an issue themselves before reaching out to a live agent, according to Harvard Business Review. Meanwhile, many customers will abandon a transaction entirely rather than risk being put on hold. And currently, according to Forrester, 37% of consumers would prefer to stay indoors to satisfy their needs. But besides the ‘new normal’, we’ve intuitively self-served for years. How do you select your cinema seats? Check your library fines? Or renew your prescriptions? Chances are at least one of those is an established online habit.
To retain our current customers and attract new ones, we’ve got to help them hustle. Our self-service options should be better, faster and stronger than ever before.
What does great self-service look like?
We live in a complicated world. Self-service is about making things simpler.
For this reason, self-service is often not about investing in fancy kit or complex software. It’s about stripping down the structures we already have, in a way that empowers our customers to complete processes. This means simplifying customer journeys, working to remove friction and drop-out rates. All the while, building in the opportunity for the customer to self-serve at the right moment. It’s like offering them a front door key, just as they arrive at the threshold. We’re not giving them heavy bundles of wrong keys to walk around with all day (self-service without any tools for autonomy), or fluffy keyrings getting in the way at the crucial moment (confusing and conflicting customer journeys) – we’re just empowering them with quick and timely solutions.
Identifying how our customers can self-serve is the first step to picking this ‘key’ moment. The self-serving action might be enabling a customer to update their bank details online, book house viewings with an online calendar, or if you’re Oral B, letting them map their own dental health while brushing their teeth. Seriously, there’s an app for that.
Self-service is an antidote for time-poor people (everyone). According to a recent Zendesk report, speed is the top priority for 90% of customers. Which means they’re looking for swift and straightforward processes, not slow ones. These processes require us to implement streamlined structures and streamlined journeys. This means slick content.
Once we’ve identified how our customers can self-serve, we need to offer them the most efficient tools to do so. In the case of Macy’s Department Store, this was as simple as putting shoes on shop floors. Instead of asking staff to measure their feet and find their size, customers were able to do so at their own leisure. In the contact centre world, this might look like a searchable knowledge base, where customers can solve their queries without convoluted conversations with multiple agents. Visual IVRs like knowledge bases are also often preferred to long audio automated instructions. Customers can consume visual content in their own time, without worrying about a phone bill or missing bits.
Part of empowering customers to self-serve is trusting them with information. For example, someone can do their own product research immediately, if that product’s detailed description and reviews appear on its web page. But it’s only helpful information if it’s the right information, written in a consumable way. This means scaling chunks of text down to what’s actually important, so the good stuff doesn’t get lost. When people are browsing, they want information nuggets, not meals.
4) TRUST & CONTROL
Equally, enabling a customer to track the status of things like their orders, deliveries, insurance claims, whatever – qualifies them to see a process through with confidence, clarity and certainty. When customers have an online account with a business, they immediately have a rich resource of content tailored to them. This builds a stronger business relationship than frantic phonecalls to unwitting agents, chasing the delivery of that toy zoo ordered for Evie’s birthday. Instead, the customer knows when it has been processed, packaged, and dispatched. They can even see which sorting depot the toy zebras and hippos reached at 3am that morning. Crucially, this self-service functionality helps the customer feel in control. And feeling in control means a great customer experience.
5) REAL-LIFE, REAL-TIME EXPERIENCE
There are of course instances where the real McCoy is hard to beat. Trying on clothes is a good example. To grab a dress off a rail and try it for size is already a nifty form of self-service. But the need for speed (or a global pandemic) can mean customers don’t travel to shops to do this. Online ordering was king in the pandemic; the online beauty sector saw a seismic increase of 140% during April of 2020 (netimperative.com). But instead of leaving customers to stab in the dark with what suits them, we can give them satisfaction from a distance. Things like virtual make-up applications or fitting rooms can give people a more educated look at what they’re purchasing. Internet based processes don’t need to be impersonal.
As well as real-life simulation, real-time is also an important element to self-service. Information and content need to be constantly up-to-date for our customers to navigate it autonomously. If a customer chooses the perfectly-fitting dress, orders it, and gets an email 2 days later saying it’s out of stock, they’re going to be gutted. Nay, livid, that they’ve wasted time virtually twirling around in it. A live stock count on the product page would avoid all this heartbreak.
Self-service should make everything easier for everyone, but as contact centres, the ground work can be time-consuming. For processes to be seamless, they need to be moderated and maintained, as well as implemented. This can mean updating content, streamlining journeys, and communicating self-serve signposts to our customer bases. At Adexchange we understand that contact centres can’t always afford to spend the time their customers save, curating their self-service options. But hey, we can, it’s what we do over here. Let us help you to the front door.