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How to conquer your customers' self-service scepticism


Gartner research has revealed that many customers either abandon or circumvent self-service, despite nearly half of businesses making significant investment in self-service technology. 

1st Feb 2023

For service organisations, assisted-service contacts make up one of its highest costs. Customer service and support (CSS) leaders are often tasked with reducing assisted contact volumes, but how that is best achieved will vary based on the situation. By directing customers towards self-service, customer experience and CSS leaders can reduce cost-per-resolution and reduce the number of cases that assisted-service must resolve, reducing the time it takes to deal with each case.

Gartner’s 2022 State of the Customer Survey found that less than a quarter of customers will start on a self-service channel when trying to resolve a support issue. They’ll often start with a call to the company, even for issues that they see as easy to resolve. Overall, this results in increased cost-per-resolution. 

In response to this, 42% of organisations have made significant investments in technology and people to improve their self-service capabilities, according to Gartner research.

Despite many customers beginning their service journey online, they often either abandon or circumvent self-service upon reaching the website. This self-service fallout is the result of customers either deliberately seeking assisted service or simply resorting to assisted service when they are unable to locate a relevant self-service solution for their issue. 

To address this challenge, CSS leaders must guide customers to self-service solutions first and only introduce assisted service at the appropriate moment in the customer journey. In order to improve the effectiveness of their self-service offering, CSS leaders should take the following three actions.

1. Focus on low-effort tactics

Low-effort tactics allow CSS leaders to score quick wins that help provide the initial momentum to their overall strategy. Examples include:

  • Onboarding customers into digital to increase digital adoption. Capture customer channel preferences to derive communication strategy for improving self-service and provide push service apps to customers to complete basic steps and increase adoption.
  • Simplifying authentication by deploying biometrics, one-time pins, or honouring mobile device methods to reduce friction on self-service while maintaining account security. Ensure that end users can authorise the channel app to accept the authentication from the same device rather than have a separate authentication method.
  • Optimising external search via company-owned pages. These should dominate the first page of results. Partner with marketing to develop an SEO strategy that lands customers on the right self-service content when entering from a search engine. 

2. Enhance self-service containment by performing medium effort tactics

Next, focus on improving self-service containment using medium-effort strategies. These strategies will enable and encourage customers to proactively use self-service as their first option to customer service. This starts with effortlessly guiding the customer to the best-fit service channel for their issue through effective site navigation, as well as:

  • Implementing proactive outbound messaging. Identify the top customer contact reasons and implement proactive outbound messaging with self-service guidelines using all existing organisational messaging channels such as text, email and app notifications. Get ahead of future customer issues and needs and provide self-service guidance.
  • Deploying virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and chatbotsAudit existing capabilities and resources to determine if the organisation has the necessary inputs to successfully create and sustain VCAs and chatbots. Identify which use case fits the needs of the business by determining the type of work and level of interactivity necessary to meet customers’ requirements. Prepare yourself to apply chatbot solutions by learning the different types of chatbots and determining the one you need for your business. After all, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for roughly a quarter of organisations within the next five years.
  • Ensuring seamless information flow across channels. 87% of customers who attempt to self-serve end up switching to an assisted channel to resolve their issue, according to research by Gartner. Self-service channels must ensure progression to assisted-service channels as needed instead of functioning as traps. Transfer customer information from self-service to assisted channels seamlessly to build their confidence and deliver a contextualised experience seamlessly across all channels.

3. Assess existing resources and technologies using high-effort tactics

Finally, assess your existing capabilities to ensure the organisation is well-equipped to sustain its self-service and digital containment strategy in the longer run. Do this by:

  • Prioritising Voice of the Customer and analyticsUse text, digital, sentiment and predictive analytics to adjust actions in real-time and improve customer satisfaction and experience. Rework post transaction survey questions to deliver valuable insights and enhance site and app search by leveraging semantic analytics and natural language processing capabilities.
  • Developing new knowledge management processes. Develop internal knowledge management processes and ensure knowledge is consistently captured, created, utilised and improved by implementing a continuous process loop. Increase information consistency and ease-of-access by consolidating customer-facing and agent-facing knowledge bases.
  • Deploying robotic process automation (RPA). Use RPA to automate selected use cases by considering volume, scope, complexity and stability of current customer service operations. Using RPA, contact customers proactively through email or SMS with the relevant information to encourage them to use self-service. Pay special attention to capabilities that promote customer trust through improved accuracy, and customer empathy through improved responsiveness.

By following these steps, CSS leaders can improve customer self-service adoption, reducing the cost of service issue resolution and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the service organisation.



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