Omni-Channel Customer Engagement Article

Self-Service Solutions Are Worth Your Agents' Weight in Gold

June 14, 2016

When self-service first debuted in the contact center, it was usually because the company that put it in place was desperately hoping that customers wouldn’t call. Let’s face it: calls with live agents are expensive, and they’re often for basic requests. But the earliest self-service technology such as the interactive voice response system (IVR) and FAQ pages on websites didn’t do a lot for customers except, perhaps, to frustrate them and make them more determined to speak to a live agent.

Self-service is a great idea. Customers like being able to resolve their own issues. A study conducted by Salesforce found that 72 percent of consumers surveyed consider self-service support a fast and easy way to handle issues. Companies welcome it because it takes pressure of the live voice channel. But there’s a huge difference between good self-service and bad self-service. Good self-service is designed to be highly usable, personalized and easy and intuitive. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) a barrier to customers who want to speak with a live agent.

Companies today need to design self-service solutions that customers actually want to use. In a recent blog post, Aspect’s (News - Alert) Kelly Burke invokes the old adage about teaching a man to fish so he can eat for a lifetime. Properly designed self-service solutions empower customers to resolve issues independently. They’re worth the investment, since they will lower costs for the contact center and the organization as a whole, and free live agents to handle more complex customer issues.

“When customers take advantage of self-service solutions such as interactive voice response (IVR) or interactive text response (ITR), two key indicators of contact center success are impacted: the cost per interaction is reduced with every inquiry fielded through self-service; and the ratio of agents to customers is also improved, enabling managers to streamline personnel to avoid overstaffing and excess overtime,” wrote Burke.

The goal today is omnichannel customer engagement, and self-service can help customers achieve it. Customers don’t generally want to have to switch channels in mid-transaction (from an IVR to a live agent, for example)…they do it because they have to. The self-service option hasn’t found them the answers they need. To build better self-service media, companies need to look at it from the customer’s perspective and map the customer journey from problem or issue backwards toward a satisfactory resolution. By exploring the customer journey and taking steps to improve it, companies can eliminate the traditional pitfalls of self-service (too many irrelevant menu choices in the IVR, for example, or a lack of integration with knowledge bases that will help customers get real answers).

At the same time, a great self-service campaign can save a company money in so many ways, according to Burke.

“Not only will self-service contact center solutions satisfy a growing number of customers, but they will help to optimize your personnel,” she wrote. “More available agents will give you the opportunity to provide more thorough support to customers who truly require an agent’s attention. This will lead to higher rates of resolution, a more satisfying customer experience and, ultimately, a more attractive brand image.”

So ask yourself why you’re offering customer self-service options today: is it to resolve customers issues in a speedy and satisfactory way, or is it to keep customers away from your live agents?

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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