At one time, self-service meant forcing customers to perform tasks on their own without the information and support they needed. From banking to booking reservations, people were easily frustrated by complex processes and a lack of reliable human assistance. Today, savvy companies offer self-service as a means of empowering customers to help themselves with confidence and minimal effort. A global study entitled “The Self-Service Economy” found that 70% of customers expect a self-service option for handling commercial questions and complaints, highlighting the importance of automation for great customer experiences. Here are five ways to optimize self-service practices and empower your customers in the process.
IVR menus are essential tools for self-service, as they can help customers obtain quick answers on the go. Visual IVR menus in particular enable customers to find the information they need by tapping through visual prompts on their mobile devices. When customers wish to speak to an agent, they may be swiftly routed to the most qualified person. However, IVR menus must be tested regularly to make sure customers are being routed efficiently and that information is truly up to date. For example, product recalls, sales events, and increased demand for customer service during peak seasons are all good reasons to update your IVR menus.
Self-service should always be integrated with your omnichannel strategy. For example, if a customer needs agent support after watching a video tutorial on your website or ordering a product through your messaging app, he must be able to do so seamlessly. Too often, customers are asked to repeat information when connecting with an agent, demonstrating a lack of integration and communication across channels. Agents should have rapid access to customer data in order to assist them efficiently.
A proactive attitude is essential to optimizing automated service and reducing the need for human assistance. For example, your brand may send text, app, or email notifications to customers when orders have been processed or shipped. Ideally, these notifications should be sent on customers’ preferred channels and give customers the option to respond when needed. Other strategies include providing detailed answers to common questions on the brand website, such as offering a list of frequently asked questions or informative videos.
Assisting customers in the middle of a process differs from helping them at the outset. Indeed, agents should not make long introductions or ask customers to explain their needs. Instead, they should introduce themselves briefly and proceed to the next step of the customer’s case as seamlessly as possible, already armed with all the information they need. The agent may serve two functions in this context—aiding the customer in finding an immediate answer, and helping the customer better navigate self-service options so that he can find solutions independently.
Just as you might ask customers to rate your overall service, be sure to ask them how you might improve self-service options. Are their needs being met? Are there certain channels that need better integration? Are agents sufficiently trained? Customers are often more than happy to share their opinions, as their feedback will only lead to better experiences with your brand. Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of relationships with companies without any human interaction. Self-service is therefore not just a means of empowering customers but an integral part of the future of customer experience.
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