Helping Customers Help Themselves: The Benefits of Self-Service

Delivering excellent customer service has increasingly become a complex notion in our modern times. Customers have many channels through which to engage with brands, but this can be overwhelming and even harmful to business when omnichannel practices are not optimized for a great experience. Some customers may prefer speaking to a live agent for the reassurance of getting a problem solved, yet the process is often time-consuming. Customers want to save time but still feel empowered in the process while receiving quality, personalized service with options at their disposal. So how can brands deliver all these qualities at once? Self-service just may be the key.

Customer self-service continues to be the leading strategy in customer communication

Also known as automated service or automation, self-service continues to shine as a winning strategy in customer service, with brands across various industries finding myriad ways to deliver quicker, more efficient service for greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Indeed, a Forrester study found that 72% of customers prefer to use self-service rather than phone or email support, suggesting that time and convenience are greatly valued by customers. What’s more, self-service greatly reduces costs for contact centers, shifting expenses to more critical tasks and increasing live agent productivity in the process.For example, intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) are commonly used in the reservation process by the airline and hotel industries. According to Opus Research, Hyatt Hotels saw a 94% savings on fully automated interactions and an increase in ROI from 2011 to the present of between 125% to 150%. Other brands as diverse as ING Netherlands, Copa Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Pitney Bowes also use IVAs with the goal of streamlining processes, saving time and costs, and increasing customer satisfaction. Other technologies such as visual IVR menus are equally critical to self-service, as they enable customers to benefit from faster service on their mobile devices at reduced costs to the companies that offer them. For example, Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks both offer apps that enable customers to place orders quickly without the need to interact with a live person.Brands can take various approaches when it comes to optimizing self-service options. For one, optimizing for mobile devices is critical to matching the increasing rise in smartphone use and growing demand for customer service on the go. The IDC reported that this year, there are more people accessing the web using a mobile device than a computer, while eMarketer states that nearly five billion people worldwide are now using smartphones. IVR options are therefore important, with such features as click-to-chat to enable customers to connect with customer service agents rapidly. In addition, buttons with easy access to order tracking and confirmation, shopping carts, and frequently asked questions are all ideal ways to enable self-service. Companies may also take a proactive approach by monitoring customers’ behavior on their websites. Tracking to see which content attracts the most attention and how much time is being spent on each page can be combined with previously gained customer purchase history to prompt live chat invitations. Companies may also offer video tutorials if the customer is looking at a frequently asked questions page—another valuable tool for self-service.Brands should also take care not to abandon customers in the process. It’s likely that customers may need or desire agent assistance at some point during a self-service interaction, so agents should be trained to help customers finish a service or checkout process when needed. Agents also need to be ready to jump in and train customers in navigating self-service options to better ensure that self-service remains a winning option the next time the customer needs support. Self-service channels also need to be regularly updated to reflect company updates such as new products or services, recalls, sales, and other valuable information the customer should know. Lastly, it’s always important to know how customers feel about their experiences. Just as a company might send out a post-contact feedback survey, it’s important to ask customers’ opinions on their self-service experiences to constantly improve the processes.Self-service may optimize the customer experience by saving customers time and empowering them with the information and tools they need when they need it. Companies are likewise poised to save time, trim costs, and strengthen their brands for greater customer loyalty. 

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