Today, mobile devices provide access to information and services for almost every need, which continues to change customer behavior by driving the desire for self-service opportunities. This can be summarized by the "I know what I want and I want it now" expectation from customers. They want to be empowered to get things done on their own and at their convenience.
There are countless tasks already being accomplished through self-help mechanisms. Examples range from depositing a check on a mobile device, receiving updates about an electrical outage via text, comparing insurance coverage and filing a claim online, or setting up auto-pay for a gym membership renewal directly from your bank account.
As daily tasks become more automated and accessible from mobile devices, naturally customers expect more. They want companies to anticipate their needs by delivering information and services without having to ask for it. The rise of the Internet of Things is contributing to the need for proactive customer outreach. Through cloud-connected devices and sensors, advance notifications can be sent to customers when their car needs an oil change, a dishwasher part has reached its life expectancy, or when it's time for annual furnace maintenance. These pre-emptive notifications allow customers to truly help themselves in a timely fashion.
In addition, we'll see further adoption of speech recognition technology in new self-service applications. An intelligent virtual agent or chat bot, for example, can recognize patterns or trends in customer interactions and reply using canned responses. These virtual agents can also detect when an interaction is escalating and respond appropriately by alerting a human to intervene in real-time.
Virtual agents are made possible through artificial intelligence. Once a company can make sense of data and behavior through artificial intelligence, it can begin to have more intuitive and robust interactions with customers. For example, a company may be alerted to an issue and receive basic background information before they speak to a customer. This capability greatly improves the customer experience and aids in cultivating real loyalty for businesses.
The trend in DIY customer service is largely driven by digital natives who grew up during the era of Facebook and mobile devices. However, it's starting to permeate many other demographics with customers of all ages and education-levels demanding simple, frictionless experiences, as well as expanded choices for interacting with a business, such as via Web chat and SMS. As a result, organizations of all sizes and types are significantly increasing investments in customer engagement technology, with a strong preference for allowing customers to serve themselves.
As companies look to develop more DIY customer touch points, here are seven best practices for optimizing your self-service model:
- Map the journey for each customer segment to understand how different types are interacting across the various touch points.
- Create a seamless omnichannel experience from one channel to the next by integrating DIY and agent-assisted channels, allowing friction-less movement across channels.
- Define channel-specific business goals and look for routine and repetitive interaction types that can be moved to self-service channels.
- Empower agents with a consolidated view of the customer across all channels by bringing together multiple data sources.
- Examine your IVR often! You should check your IVR call flows on a regular basis and adjust them based on market fluctuations and business needs.
- Empower customers to interact with the company on any channel they choose, whenever they want. Both the self-service and 'Contact Us' options should be simple and clearly visible on your website and mobile app.
- Use cloud-based services to deploy new technologies or features quickly and benefit from the added flexibility.
Offering customers self-service options is no longer a choice - it's become a requirement to stay competitive. By giving customers more control through self-service technology and proactive automated touch-points, companies can reduce operational costs. But the real benefit is an increase in overall customer loyalty and satisfaction.