"Self-Escalation" and the Demise of First-Contact Resolution

Customer Strategy
Customer Service
"Self-service is the equivalent of outsourcing tier-one service to customers. So if they 'escalate' by calling your contact center, the service had better be great...

"Self-service is the equivalent of outsourcing tier-one service to customers. So if they 'escalate' by calling your contact center, the service had better be great," Strativity Group founder Lior Arussy said emphatically during his presentation at a networking event the company co-hosted with Godiva at the chocolatier's New York headquarters.

This situation raises two issues, which came up earlier this week during a conversation with NICE Systems CMO Benny Einhorn at the company's Interactions 2012 customer conference.
The first is exactly what Arussy alluded to: Customers serving themselves--online and in the IVR--are often attempting to resolve tier-one, and sometimes tier-two, service and support issues. If they don't succeed, they often "self-escalate" to live agent support. As Einhorn pointed out, these customers have tried and failed to self-service, so it's likely that when they call the contact center (or request a chat) to help resolve the issue, they've already invested a great deal of time on the problem and they may be frustrated. Additionally, unless the company's systems are connected--and the customers are known by signing in or some other identification method--it's also likely that the customers know more about the situation at hand than the agents they speak with, Einhorn said. This has all the makings of a potentially poor experience.

Companies need to be prepared to handle this "self-escalation." Connected technologies can help, but supporting processes are vital, as is agent coaching. Once agents determine that the call is basically a follow-up from an unsuccessful attempt at self-service, their approach should reflect that.

The second issue is the impact on customer service metrics. "First-contact resolution is becoming extinct," Einhorn asserted. In other words, whenever customers unsuccessfully self-serve and escalate to another channel, that's already a second contact for those customers. Sometimes companies know that and can track it; other times they don't. That can wreak havoc with the effectiveness of measuring first-contact resolution and related satisfaction measures. Organizations must adapt to this situation, as well. They need to rethink how they gather and link issue-resolution data across channels and by customer. No easy feat, indeed.

Is your company prepared to redefine service tiers based on the growing adoption of self-service? Or are you already ahead of the curve?