Contact Center Self Service as a Customer Satisfying Experience
Illustration by Jon Testa

Contact centers exist to support customers who need to access information or complete transactions. Companies can reduce costs by addressing those needs, partially if not wholly, with self-service technology. Above the obvious bottomline impact, self-service can be a customer-satisfying strategy. There are a host of circumstances where customers really don’t want to talk to someone.

Here a are a few thoughts to inform your self-service strategy.

Self-service is more than Interactive Voice Response (IVR). That channel tends to be top of mind when considering self-service because of the focus on, and predominance of, the phone channel. IVR is necessary in some verticals and should always be designed well, ideally including dyamic menus. Yet we encourage centers to think more broadly about self-service offerings. They need to be atuned to the channels their demographic wants lest they miss out on important opportunities.

Web self-service is generally provided via web portals, where users access their accounts via secure logins. Such access can help customers access a broad range of information as well as process a wide array of transactions on par with an agent. While this capability has become relatively commonplace, centers should not overlook the corporate website and the role it can play in self-service. For example, in utilities and airlines, information about outages or flight status can be all a customer needs to satisfy their information needs. Updates on the corporate website avoid the need for logging in. Moreover, some customers may not otherwise need on-line access and would gladly reduce the number of userID/password combinations they maintain. Your web portal and corporate websites should adapt seamlessly to all screen sizes and devices.

Banks, airlines, retail, and other verticals are making transactions and information through mobile apps easier and easier. Mobile apps deliver greater functionality than a website designed for a mobile device. They offer web portal services while capitalizing on smart phone capabilities such as location services and camera. Mobile apps are especially valuable for companies that interact frequently with their customers. Consider leveraging capabilities such as speech recognition (e.g., iPhone’s Siri) or visual IVR which replicates your IVR prompts through choices within the mobile app to facilitate reaching an agent for assisted service.

Proactive outbound communication is another avenue for eliminating the need for interaction with your agents. Automated outbound communication vai recorded messages, email, or SMS (texting) can inform customers about planned or unplanned service interruptions, appointment reminders, past-due bills, delays in travel arrangements, and so forth. These messages can provide bridges to self-service or assisted service at the customers’ option. Working in concert with your customers, you can define triggers that initiate outbound communication with the right information at the right time in the right channel.

In addition to the list above, other channels, such as email, chat, and SMS/Text, backed up with knowledge bases and business rules, can become self-service using automated responses. Virtual assistants on websites can play the same role, providing a “human-like” response.

Each center must determine which tools make the most sense for their customers and which capabilities should be presented in each channel. All self-service channels should be subject to evaluation based on the following criteria:

  • Low level of effort in accessing valuable information and services
  • Credible identification and verification that allows access without becoming cumbersome
  • Appropriate data control and security to satisfy your compliance needs while instilling customer confidence
  • Satistfying customer expecations for market innovation

Self-service can have a huge, positive financial impact. But in order to realize that potential, customers have to use the tools you offer.