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Debunking the web self-service myths - Part 2

6th May 2014
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Despite the omni-channel world we now live in, there are still those who consider web self-service to be a second-rate customer support channel. In this four-part blog series, we will be addressing some of the most common myths surrounding web self-service.

Part 1: reviewed the myth: “It’s fobbing customers off with a second-rate support channel.”
Part 2: “It’s all about cutting jobs in the contact centre.”

Successful implementation of web self-service software can lead to a significant reduction in the number of inbound enquiries an organisation receives, with ContactBabel reporting that virtual web-service agents can deflect 25% of calls and 50% of e-mails. This can lead to a belief, that the main driver behind offering customers online self-service, is to help the organisation to cut the number of agents needed in it’s contact centre.

However, our own recent Synthetix Client Survey showed that the opposite of this is actually true. When asked to rank the six key drivers for the adoption of online customer service by priority:

• 75% of respondents ranked raising customer satisfaction in their top two
• 63% of respondents ranked deflecting avoidable contact / reducing abandonment rates in their top two

The main influencing factors for the vast majority of clients, were to improve customer satisfaction levels by helping customers to self-serve information quickly themselves, and to deflect the volume of common inbound calls and e-mail enquiries, that could be easily answered online.

Perhaps more revealing, is the fact that reducing contact centre costs and cutting staff levels, proved to be very low on the list of priorities for those surveyed:

• 50% of respondents didn't consider reducing contact centre costs to be a driver in adopting online customer service
• Only 37% of respondents considered rationalising contact centre costs through staff cuts to be a factor

Indeed, even the 37% that did consider rationalising contact centre costs through staff cuts to be a contributing driver, all of those still ranked it either low or bottom by priority and felt that persuading more customers to use self-service would actually result in staff being redistributed rather than cut.

The majority of questions asked via intelligent FAQ knowledge-bases are often repetitively asked questions, which can be answered quickly and easily via self-service tools. The result of this is that the contact centre agents are freed up to be routed more complex enquiries and sales leads, which by nature require more of an agents time and are more rewarding to handle.

The deflection in the volume of the more mundane routine calls, can lead to a change in the type of calls an agent receives, resulting in them being trained to handle more technical issues. This in turn can result in a more challenging role, leading to better job satisfaction for the agent and quicker query resolution for the customer.

A good web self-service strategy will have a central knowledge-base of information at it’s core, shared out across all channels, allowing customers to access the same answers across all touch-points. Agents should also be able to access the same knowledge-base internally, ensuring the information they give customers is consistent.

An internal agent knowledge-base, constantly up-dated with the latest information and documents on products and services, has been proven to improve agents response times and reduce training times. From the agents’ perspective, they have quick and easy access to all of the information they require in one place, helping them to increase FCR rates. This in turn improves customer satisfaction levels and reduces costs by improving efficiency - a win-win situation for both the customer and the organisation surely? The recent ContactBabel report however shows that only 45% of agents surveyed have access to a searchable knowledge-base.

It is important to highlight that a well-managed content strategy is also key to the success of the knowledge-base and constantly reviewing customer analytics / feedback mechanisms to up-date the database is vital. A knowledge-base is only as good as the information within it and the agent is only as good as the knowledge they’re given.

In part 3 of this series, we will be addressing the myth: “web self-service is just for support, not for customer conversion.”

Other content you may be interested in:
• Debunking the web self-service myths: Part 1
• ContactBabel report – Inner Circle Guide to Self-Service

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