The reality is that most folks prefer to “do it themselves.” In many cases, long wait times for a live customer service agent deter customers from wanting to wait. Also, many transactions are not convoluted enough to warrant or justify using the skill of a live agent.
Enter self-service tools such as IVR, chat, and voice bots – which equally assist customers in pulling off small and large customer service functions. In a 2023 Gartner survey, the firm found that 63% of service and support leaders say that “improving their operations is among their most important goals for 2023.” And as customer expectations continue to rise, according to Gartner, and simple issues are resolved with self-service, service tools:
“Leaders need to ensure their service and support functions remain flexible to customer needs,” Gartner writes in a recent report; on the matter.
Further, the same report found that 63% of service and support leaders say improving company efficiency and operations are some of their most significant pursuits in 2023.
“As customer expectations continue to rise and simple issues get resolved with self-service, service leaders must ensure their service and support functions remain flexible to customer needs,” the firm likewise notes in that same report – underscoring the importance of being in sync with customers and understanding their needs.
Those same customers also have rising expectations, and among those expectations, there’s the expectation of self-service – not excluding the ability to schedule/cancel appointments, flights, reservations, and more. Doing so should all be ‘comfortable’ for customers who crave uncomplicated processes.
HubSpot notes: exceptional customer service with support reps, in this instance, self-service tools like bots – responding quickly, likely leads to repeat customers. Bots of any type can be, for the sake of customer retention – more effective as the answers they provide are often instant, detailed, and accurate.
There’s that and the fact that the product, if solid, more often than not, speaks for itself – likely leading to repeat customers too.
Self Service Portals
Typically available 24/7, self-service portals offer the availability and convenience of answers without waiting days for agents to respond to an email. Outfitted with FAQ sections and knowledge bases, which may contain things like blog posts and white papers, these sections can guide users through effectively navigating a product with relative ease.
In addition to making a paying customer feel exclusive with a private login to the portal, they are available 24/7, further possessing the potential to ensure customer service agents do not get overworked – particularly as agents encounter high doses of burnout in recent years.
All those benefits may lead to improved agent productivity and reduced customer service costs. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention reducing customer frustration and ensuring a (more) consistent experience for customers paying for a product as another clear and sizable benefit of a self-service portal.
Simple Language, Simple Search
Two additional elements that are of the utmost importance are aforementioned: simple language and search. If the engine you’ve designed for customers to search for various answers is not intuitive or easy to navigate – forget about it.
There’s no room for error in this regard, as customers are willing to go elsewhere if they have a negative customer service experience – something we have seen time-and-time-again.
A 2022 Emplifi survey of more than 2,000 consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom found that 86 percent of consumers said they would leave a brand they were once loyal to after only two to three bad customer service experiences.
Additionally, sixty-three percent of the survey’s participants confirmed they would leave a brand because of a poor customer experience. What’s even more telling is that 49 percent of the survey’s participants admitted that they had done as much: abandoning a brand they said they were once loyal to; in the past 12 months for that (very) reason.
This leads me to my next point, simple language. Don’t overcomplicate things. It is unnecessary. Use plain and simple language. Speak to people in the vernacular, how they wish to be spoken to – not in some high, hoity-toity language style.
You have nothing to prove, only clarity, and quality CX.
IVR and Forums
With call volumes having ‘skyrocketed’ during the Pandemic, contact center agents have struggled to keep up with higher-than-“normal’ call volumes.
For that reason, implement IVR, or interactive voice response. Essentially: IVR is a 24/7 receptionist, and you don’t have to pay it overtime. IVR is much more than that: however, as it lets companies conduct research regarding customer preferences, needs, and habits.
And there’s feedback – with surveys, etc. In terms of sales, IVR can help score calls before those calls get passed off to sales; IVR could help determine a “hot lead,” so to speak – setting a sales rep up for success to close a deal.
One other component of self-service that may appear outdated, but almost certainly is not – is online discussion forums. They are peer-to-peer platforms where customers answer questions posted by other customers. Sometimes, that is all it takes, as they are users of various platforms and have a unique experience.
Some of the biggest companies on the planet, including Slack, Microsoft, Cisco, and others, have forums.
The Big Picture
What is it? You might be asking yourself. According to Gartner, it is improving overall operational efficiency- something solid self-service options would enable.
That same 2023 Gartner survey found that company leadership has this in mind too. Twenty-one percent say their (most important) business goal over the next 12 months is improving operational excellence, and 28 percent want to grow their business.
Nineteen percent said they want to execute business transformations, with thirteen percent saying they want to “innovate for success.”
And these data are telling, as all, if not most (if not all) of these goals can get met with some form of self-service, and agents will have a lighter load too. In the end, the service you extend speaks volumes about your company.
And folks are looking for any reason to support or leave a brand – so extending solid CX is warranted, something self-service options (if well-executed) can only help achieve.