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

September 9, 2016

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.

Customer Expectations Drive Trends in Online Service & Support

April 8, 2015

These days, many of the touchpoints between customers and businesses happen not in person, not on the phone, but in the cloud. Never have customers had so many choices, nor businesses so many options, for communication and service.

Companies have had to step up their investment in digital customer service solutions to meet consumer demand for these choices. Here are some of the ways businesses have ventured into virtual customer service:

Support Via Web Chat

web chat customer service supportCompanies including Verizon, Home Depot, IKEA, and Bank of America have implemented chat support into their own websites and mobile apps.

In some cases, these chat lines are manned by an artificial intelligence. IKEA’s “Ask Anna” service is automated. On screen, Anna is represented by the image of a headset-wearing woman who even blinks and moves as she patiently awaits a question. The program looks for keywords and phrases in that question to deliver a prewritten response. In some ways, it’s like a slightly more interactive search engine.

Most online chat services are “live,” connecting customers to a human rep much the same way they would if they called the customer service line by phone. Customers might favor this option if they are not in a position to make a phone call or don’t want to sit and listen to menu options and hold music.

They also might need help navigating the company’s site, which is easier when a rep can just send a link to the desired page instead of directing over the phone, “Look in the upper left of your screen, select from that drop-down menu – no, the other one, below that – now log in with your password…”

Social Customer Service

Offsite, a social-savvy customer might still skip calling your 1-800 number in favor of a mention on Twitter or a direct message to your Page on Facebook. Whether or not chat support is something your company is interested in providing, these customers expect a response. The same is true of comment boxes on blogs, articles, or products.

Some companies set up separate Twitter handles just for fielding customer support, like @ExpressHelp for fashion retailer Express, or @AskADT for home security provider ADT. While there’s no guarantee that all requests will go to the appropriate channel, this tactic can keep customer complaints and issues out of the public eye by deviating them from the main account and its larger audience.

Virtual Assistance

Chat and social channels are ideal for short, simple requests. For more complex or personalized needs, virtual customer service is the next level up.

Frontier Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has introduced a virtual teller to their branch, eliminating the traditional teller line and the idea of “banker’s hours.” Customers talk to a remote teller via webcam, who can handle withdrawals and deposits, while other staff are freed up for the more involved tasks of banking.

A virtual stylist will meet you via webcam and talk to you for an hour about your pressing wardrobe questions, like how to dress for an interview out of what’s already in your closet. “E-Doctors” offered by both healthcare providers and insurers can help a patient get non-emergency medical attention without needing to make an appointment, take time off work, or leave the house.

As technology like Facetime and Skype has become common and accepted among consumers, they’ve warmed to the idea of some customer service also happening by video. It’s the 21st century, after all – we may not have hoverboards, but videophone is one dream of the future that we have made real.

 

The right mix of digital customer service solutions will be unique to each business. Introducing new things like virtual tellers or an automated chat line shouldn’t just be done for its own sake and not based on customer demand. Feedback from a Voice of the Customer program can give you key insights into the channels that are driving customer satisfaction, and those that might be turning them away.

For more information about CSP’s customer experience strategies and the programs we build to support them, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles