Is the future of customer service self-service?

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Is the future of customer service self-service? Maybe not exclusively but Premier Technologies’ partner Aspect Software certainly believes it to be growing in importance, and has engaged Forrester Research to confirm this viewpoint.

 

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Forrester’s findings are summarised in its report Improve Customer Experience With Better Self-Service. Forrester surveyed manager and client support/services professionals in the United States who are responsible for customer experience, customer service, or contact centre operations and have insight into the decision-making around self-service strategy within their companies.

It concluded: “Making self-service effortless is key to enhanc[ing] the customer experience to keep customers satisfied with and loyal to a brand, which ultimately results in market differentiation and competitive edge. … Customers have become increasingly impatient with poor service.

They simply want an accurate, relevant and complete answer to their question upon first contact.”

Forrester’s research has confirmed this. Its survey of over 7000 online adults in the US led Forrester to conclude: “seventy seven percent of consumers believe that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide a good customer experience [and] 55 percent of consumers admit that they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.”

Maxing out self service options will clearly improve customer satisfaction, but self service can never cater for every possible situation, and when customers want to escalate their interaction to a live operator they create a whole new set of demands that are much more difficult to meet.

“Customers … expect to escalate self-service interactions seamlessly to an agent interaction without having to restart the conversation, repeat steps, or repeat information that has already been communicated,” Forrester says. “Sixty nine percent of customers said they would like to move from channel to channel without having to repeat their situation every time.”

Those customers are likely to be disappointed.

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Forrester found that only five percent of companies are able to provide consistent cross-channel experiences, and only three percent are able to provide a seamless handoff between channels, regardless of whether the handoff is offline-to-online or online-to-offline.

These shortcomings are costing companies, big time. Forrester’s data shows that 75 percent of consumers move to another channel when online customer service fails, and Forrester estimates that unnecessary costs to online retailers due to channel escalation are $US22 million on average.

In addition, it says, “There is an increase in customer defection and brand erosion due to negative social sentiment.”

The bottom line: there is ample scope for companies to “get it right”, differentiate themselves from their competitors and forge ahead in the market.

Forrester’s concluding advice is: “Companies must not only increase the breadth of their self-service channels but also increase the depth of these channels. They can do so by maturing the best practices of these channels, better using CRM and transactional data to personalise transactions, and improving the consistency of their experience when switching channels.”

Premier Technologies will soon be releasing its Customer Experience Portal, built on Aspect Software’s industry leading CXP Pro platform. The Premier Customer Experience Portal will streamline the process for designing and deploying consumer self-service applications across multiple channels like voice, text, mobile web, social networks like Twitter and Facebook and smartphone applications.

Consumers love it because they can access information via the channel they want, pivot across channels and retain the context of the conversation, including the point at which they choose to speak with a customer service agent.

 

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