If you think self-service is old news, think again. A new generation of tech-savvy consumers has entered the fray with decidedly different notions about what constitutes effective communication. Mobile trumps land-line and full-screen. Text messaging trumps voice. Event-triggered notices trump customer-initiated inquiries. There’s a golden opportunity to deliver superior customer service AND bolster the bottom line with new forms of self-service.
New tools create new possibilities.
- Alerting services such as Varolii and Televox offer a “pre-emptive strike” to reduce inbound contacts. Some companies use these tools to generate alerts automatically – e.g., order/shipping status, fraud alerts. Others place notices under customer control.
- Voice user intelligence in the IVR world optimize the customer experience while they are self-serving. Business rules assess customer profile information, preferences, transaction history and real-time responses to caller prompts to anticipate needs and expedite action. A similar movement adds intelligence to the “I” in the web’s Graphical User Interface (GUI).
- Virtual assistants on the web answer questions and help visitors find their way around a site. If we look under the hood, we find a sophisticated knowledge base with a text-to-speech interface. But as users, we simply interact with Alaska Airline’s Jenn or Ikea’s Anna.
- With Web 2.0, self-service doesn’t have to be managed or controlled by the corporation. Through forums, wikis, blogs, podcasts and social networks, your customers can share their knowledge about (and enthusiasm for) your products and services with or without your participation. In fact, next generation users consider peer feedback more valuable than corporate input.
Old issues still need to be addressed.
My enthusiasm for the self-service doors that technology opens must be tempered by awareness of long-standing organizational challenges.
- The operational and organizational silos make it difficult for companies to bring self-service together. It’s time to address the issue by creating a multidisciplinary team that defines service excellence from a customer perspective and institutes plans and reporting structures to attain it.
- Self-service cannot be divorced from assisted service. CSRs need training to build their competency in self-service tools and incentives to encourage them to help customers succeed at self-service.
- Self-service needs to be treated with the same respect as assisted service. A growing population likes – or even loves – to self-serve. Self-service can mean better service, especially when informed by customer preferences and made available across a range of media.