Customer support is a necessary expense. The trouble is, as businesses expand their customer base, widen their service range, and make their processes mature and sophisticated, the costs and complexity of customer service increase. To control these costs without compromising on customer experience, businesses look to leverage technology. From all-encompassing CRM products to dedicated customer service software, there are many options worth exploring. However, the leaders in the space look to take it a step further and manage customer service by deploying a customer self-service platform. Truly, the kind of cost savings that such a platform can provide to a business is too lucrative to ignore any longer for most companies.
Customer self-service, however, also means that you consciously let go of some level of control over the customer experience in terms of service. This means that you need to lay tremendous emphasis on getting your customer self-service platform spot on. How do you ensure this? Well, for starters, you’d want to take care of these essentials.
Mobile first, desktop later
It’s not a trend but a market reality that smartphones are the most important personal devices for most consumers. Web traffic from mobile devices has already overtaken the traffic from desktops. Also, for most business-to-consumer companies, most businesses-customer communications are already mobile optimized. For instance, mobile responsive emails, mobile apps, and responsive websites — you get the idea.
This naturally makes a smartphone the preferred device for a customer to initiate a service request with a business. So, digital service design must focus on mobile design first and desktop later. The era of first developing a platform for desktop browsers and operating systems and then checking how well (or how badly) they work on mobile devices is over; the right way is to reverse the trend!
Self-service doesn’t have to create a void between your company’s service capabilities and the customer. Particularly for businesses operating in markets where personal contact and relationship building is important, self-service technology can be a bit of a double-edged sword. The perfect solution is to look for self-service ennoblement technologies that:
- have ample scope for customization.
- support granular personalization options to deliver highly memorable customer experiences.
- are empowered with machine learning capabilities to remove the burden of personalization from your technical teams.
From something as simple as a web portal that adjusts its content based on the user profile of the person accessing it to an AI-powered tool that learns from user interactions and delivers highly personal digital information experiences to end users — there’s a lot for businesses to choose from.
Crucial role of benchmarking
Too many times, the general expectation around customer self-service technologies is that these are primarily meant to reduce the stress on the customer-service personnel. That is true to an extent. However, to make your business customer self-service technology investments truly return substantial value, you need to measure their performance across all your existing self-service channels.
Benchmarking will go a long way in helping you understand whether your incremental improvement efforts are delivering the desired value, and will also uncover crucial gaps in the way customers are served currently. It’s important to establish KPIs such as average reduction in agent call handling time and customer satisfaction from self-service experience. This helps you move the focus from a cost reduction perspective to a customer journey improvement perspective.
Now if you really want a customer experience that is beyond miserable just be left at sea like that couple in the movie “Open Water.” Now no one wants an experience of this magnitude because that is about as bad as it gets considering this couple was left at sea and were (spoiler alert!) eventually eaten by sharks. That would be horrific!
We briefly mentioned artificial intelligence in the last section, particularly machine learning as an approach to making customer self-service technology smart enough to deliver personalized experiences. Artificial intelligence is a broader topic, with machine learning as one of its many subsets. For customer self-service technology, the best example that can explain how AI is an important component is that of chatbots.
These natural-language processing-enabled instant messaging applications have proven their worth throughout 2016 and 2017, with many newsworthy case studies coming up. Essentially, chatbots leverage artificial intelligence technology to “get to know” end users, alter their outputs based on this, and help businesses achieve their customer self-service goals.
The key to note here is how AI empowers a self-service channel to scale up in capabilities quickly, ensuring that customers extract more sophisticated and value-adding interactions from it.
3 questions to ask yourself
If you want to quickly identify the key areas of improvement for your business’ customer self-service platform, begin by asking three questions. As you try to figure out the answers, you will find useful insights on what’s great and not so great about your self-service channels.
Is it effortlessly accessible?
A key attribute of successful self-service channels is that they’re available to customers without them having to do any significant effort. Always look to reduce the number of micro-steps that a customer has to execute, for instance, to access your self-service portal, chatbot, and app.
Is it everywhere?
The answer to this question will help you understand to what extent your business’ IT team is able to deliver a coherent, connected, and integrated customer self-service platform and experience to the consumer. An outstanding customer self-service platform becomes a habit and is important irrespective of the platform the customer is on.
Is it proactive?
Within any customer journey, there are moments wherein the customer can do with a bit of hand-holding, but wouldn’t always initiate the request for support. A proactive self-service channel is one that proactively offers help at such key moments.
Irrefutable benefits of a customer self-service platform
Customer self-service technologies have irrefutable benefits, especially for mass-market businesses. Cost savings, enhanced customer experience, 24/7 availability, and rapid improvements — all make these technologies a boon for any business. The components discussed in this guide strengthen your existing customer self-service platform ecosystem and help you extract significant customer satisfaction and business-development outcomes.
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