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Self-Service Customer Support: How Companies Help Customers Help Themselves

Customer self-service continues to rise in popularity as companies adapt to customers’ demand for convenience and independence. Customer service experts agree that self-service is one of the biggest developments for 2016.

In 2015, Microsoft’s annual Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report surveyed 4,000 consumers. When asked what they expected from customer service, 90% of those consumers stated the importance of self-service options. 2015 was also the first year that respondents in the Forrester Consumer Survey reportedly used the FAQ pages on a company’s website more often than talking to an agent over the phone.

Online support: FAQ and Search

post-it-1547588_1280The Forrester study shows that online information is a great example of an area where self-service is booming. 72% of consumers call self-service support a fast and easy way to handle support issues. Examples of successful online methods include the use of dynamic Frequently Asked Questions forms: support forms that respond to the specific needs of each customer, rather than stating a list of fixed answers.

Design and content go hand-in-hand. You can support customer self-service by simply moving the Search box on your website, and optimizing content for frequent customer searches. While 92% of people use search engines to find solutions, over two-thirds of them say they get frustrated with the placement of search bars on company websites, or can’t find the information they need and call customer service after all. Online support systems can be economical, but they need to be smart and flexible in order to work.

Self-service banking

Although online services have affected customers’ need to physically visit branches, a significant number of customers still visit their bank regularly. While most simple transactions can be completed online, more complex transactions almost always take place in branches. In order to cater to a variety of service demands, most modern banks are now shifting to the concept of full-service locations that integrate digital and personal customer service.

Some banks, including Chase, have experimented with self-service kiosks at their branches. These kiosks can handle many of the same transactions as an ATM, with additional capabilities like issuing cashier’s checks and debit cards, printing statements, and transferring funds between accounts. Not only does this free up tellers to perform higher-value tasks, it also gives banks the opportunity to cross-sell their products and services.

Self-service kiosks began gaining attention in 2015, so it’s still early to tell whether customers are showing a distinct preference for kiosks over human tellers. But it seems likely that some degree of in-branch self-service that’s more sophisticated than a traditional ATM will be part of the banking customer experience in the future.

Call centers are another service touchpoint with potential for automation. Alongside call center employees, some banks are using interactive voice response (IVR). This system allows customers to “talk to” an automated menu of options and guide themselves to a solution. Much like kiosks, this frees up call center reps to handle the more complex callers, and increases the bank’s capacity to take a high volume of calls at once. IVR systems have grown more sophisticated, too, enough to greet customers by name and better understand what customers are asking on the first try, even when they stray from the expected script.

Retail self-service checkouts

One of the most common and visible examples of the changing nature of customer service is self-service checkout lanes at retailers; from big DIY stores like IKEA to supermarkets and drugstores.  To customers, the appeal of the self-service checkout is the option to move at their own pace and zip to the end of the line. To retailers, these lanes also help reduce the cost of staff.

However, self-service checkouts come with their own set of challenges. Theft is a big issue, for example: a recent study by the University of Leicester found that self-service checkouts criminalized normally-honest shoppers, who “resort to theft because it is so easy and the technology so frustrating.”

Help your customers help themselves

Self-service customer support provides companies with exciting opportunities, but it can’t be done half-heartedly, and it’s not a matter of set-and-forget. In order to realize its full potential, self-service solutions need to integrate smoothly with other customer service channels. As they are implemented, it’s essential to continue monitoring your customers’ experience by collecting feedback. Help your customers help themselves. In the end, it will help you.




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