What Many Executives Are Still Getting Wrong About Self-Service

The following is a guest blog written by: Jennifer MacIntosh, VP Customer Experience at Coveo,
Learn more about Coveo by visiting their website.

Self-service is no longer optional.

In the past, if you had self-service, it was a cost-cutting measure. It was a way to ensure that you could reserve your most difficult questions for your contact center agents and keep the repetitive, simple answers on a support site or corporate website. Don’t waste valuable agent time answering that call when that content can live on your website.

Now, the conversation has shifted. Trust me – or anyone who has had to spend time on the phone with a contact center agent to change a password. You don’t want to waste your agents’ time, but more importantly, you don’t want to waste your customers’ time. Your customers now expect more from their experience. One survey confirmed that 2 out of 3 customers preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative and 9 out of 10 would use a knowledge base if it met their needs.

A self-service experience that doesn’t have the right content or poorly understands customers’ needs is the same as a poorly trained customer service rep. Your customers expect efficient and personalized answers on your website, community, portal, wherever the answer they need is. Self-service is no longer a cost-cutting measure; it’s a way to increase engagement with customers and generate revenue.

How does self-service generate revenue? Every time you interact with customers, it’s part of their overall customer experience. And brands that have invested in these experiences generate more revenue, have higher retention rates and more. According to Bain and Company, these organizations see their revenues rise four to eight percent above the market. To get there, organizations need to take a look at their self-service experience.

What are the characteristics of a good customer experience?
    • Effortless. The best predictor of self-service success is how much effort it requires of the customer. Great self-service connects the customer with the answer they need fast, with the minimal number of clicks and steps required. The very best self-service requires almost zero effort, because it is delivered seamlessly in the course of the customer’s normal activities.
    • Everywhere. Successful self-service is everywhere your customer is. It is never more than a single-click away, each and every moment of the customer experience. It is delivered seamlessly through your product/app, on your sites, communities and portals and on every device your customers use.
    • Personal. Great self-service is only possible when each customer is treated as the individual they are. Effortless self-service automatically takes into account all of the information your organization has about them, such as: profile info and geolocation, products and services purchased, support entitlements and history as well as community and website activity.
    • Proactive. Recommending help to customers at key moments in their journey is essential. Effortless self-service proactively delivers helpful knowledge automatically at key moments in the customer journey, such as when they use specific features of your product, view certain pages on your community or site, or start to create a new support case or ticket. Doing this at scale requires artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand and automatically apply the insights from your usage data.

When I present this in front of some of my fellow customer service leaders, I get a lot of pushback. Yes, but what about the baby boomers? Surely, they prefer to make calls? I’m sorry to say, but the data does not support that argument. Everyone – no matter the generation – uses Google, Amazon, social media and this is raising the bar for better digital experiences.

Plus – do these generational divides really matter? I recently watched a TED Talk from Leah Georges “Do Generational Stereotypes Hold Us Back?” and I am convinced that we’re doing our customers and employees a disservice if we assume that their preferences are overwhelmingly determined by their age. Let’s not assume anything about our customers and use the data that we do have from their individual behavior, preferences and activity to guide our decision-making for the support and self-service we provide.

For me, I have been evangelizing self-service for close to 20 years now. We’re just now starting to see some organizations really lead with their customer experience (and a huge part of that is self-service) as their main differentiator. These organizations are just going to leave the rest in the dust because they view their self-service for what it is: a value-add, not a cost-subtract. Where does your organization land?

I recently discussed this topic and participated in a webinar with Execs in the Know titled “Building an Intelligent Self-Service Journey Map” where we helped organizations identify the steps to take to lead with self-service. We also shared a blueprint for self-service journey maps as a follow-up and it’s a great way to start thinking about the self-service journey of your customers. You can download it here.

In summary, as you start on your own self-service transformation, you need to shift your mindset about self-service as a tactic to save on operating costs to a strategy that can play a key role in your customer experience…and generate more revenue for your organization. Don’t let outdated ideas about customer expectations get in the way of that!