The pandemic has changed how brands interact with customers. From banking to retail, issues which were formerly sorted face-to-face now rely on digital support as our lives have become more socially-distant. According to Gartner, by 2022 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service, and perhaps more importantly, 88% of customers world-wide expect companies to have a self-service portal.
The message is clear – self-service is now an expectation, and for firms wanting to provide a slick customer experience, it’s a not a nice to have, it’s a necessity. But undergoing digitalisation and doing it well isn’t without its challenges. For those companies who haven’t yet implemented digital-first solutions, it requires a deep understanding of your customer needs. Without that understanding, companies can expect disjointed experiences and dissatisfied users. Also, digitalisation needs to be sensitively handled in industries such as financial services where firms have a duty of care to customers, on top of significant regulatory obligations. Despite the challenges though, there are several enticing reasons why self-service could help firms financially and operationally – here are our thoughts.
1. It’s less intrusive
Embarrassment or fear of addressing a sensitive issue can lead to some customers burying their heads in the sand. When it comes to scenarios such as a customer falling into debt, this avoidance can have serious consequences and the situation has the potential to escalate quickly. Self-service gets around part of this problem by avoiding the embarrassment often associated with human interaction – especially when it comes to talking about the intimate details of the customer’s personal finances. Self-service is less intrusive, and lets users input their own information, making changes to their account instead of divulging information to another human. No matter how sympathetic the agent, having to admit a problem can be a major barrier for some, so the provision of a human-free experience will appeal to many.
2. Users are in control
Emotions can influence our responses to situations, and for many, the feeling of being in control can really help to reduce anxiety or stress. Whilst self-service won’t instantly fix the particular situation users find themselves in, it can help them feel like they’re regaining control. By self-serving, the account management actions can be done at a time and a place that suits the customer, and also lets them set their own pace. Self-service works well for customers who are time-poor, who work shifts, and who are regularly on the road. Self-service tools can be used from anywhere, and at any time on any internet connected device.
3. Resources can be diverted to where they are most needed
Being able to respond to customers quickly is no easy task. In our ‘always-on’ society, time is precious, so having to wait for help can be frustrating. Providing an instant self-serve solution means customers can get on with their day. Such functionality also ensures businesses can direct resource to where it’s most needed – such as more complicated cases which need more consultancy or a human touch. This means highly specialised experts can be used to support the most vulnerable customers, and those who need the most personalised help.
4. It provides scale
Customer activity is rarely static. Catering to peaks and troughs in demand can put a strain on resource and customer satisfaction. Self-service helps to smooth out levels of demand so it’s easier to plan resource levels appropriately. This always-on feature enables the service to scale up and down when it’s required. Of course, it’s not a replacement for the human touch, but it does mean in times of increased demand, customers can serve their own needs in the first instance – avoiding cases falling through the cracks and ensuring agents don’t become overwhelmed through sheer volume of calls.
5. It reduces costs – but only if done properly
Whilst cost savings should never be the primary driver for its implementation, self-service provision does offer the chance to reduce operating costs and drive true digitalisation and automation. However, this relies on the tool being built with users at its centre, not just to take the weight off contact centres. If the platform is not designed well, people will be forced to call, email or visit a branch, thereby rendering the effort void. Spending the time to understand customer journeys will help ensure any platform is intuitive and will drive return on investment. By making good use of personalisation, segmentation and predictive modelling, an automated self-serve approach will deliver a customer centric experience and therefore slick journeys for customers. Not only will this support retention and business growth, but also help keep a handle on overheads in the short and long term.
Self-service has the potential to provide benefits across the board, for both internal and external stakeholders. However, for it to operate successfully, it can’t be a rushed job – user adoption needs to be considered from the start to make sure uptake is high. If customers are not using the tool to its expected or fullest potential, you understand why and continuously improve each self-serve journey. A poor experience will alienate customers and drive them back to contact centres, or worse, to not address the issue at all. Leading with customer experience in mind will help create a tool that not only provides a great, frictionless journey, but also frees up the business to help transform other areas, helping to drive efficiencies and ROI.