Saturday, February 13, 2016

Successful Self-Service Strategy

When it comes to customer service, simplicity is critical. Companies can improve customer experiences primarily by limiting the amount of effort it takes for customers to find answers to their questions and accomplish their tasks. Here lies the appeal of Web self-service, which for many consumers has become the preferred communication channel.

Instantly available, 24/7 online customer self-service portals are gaining ground over conventional agent-assisted support, marking a significant shift in consumer attitudes toward the technology. And, contrary to popular belief, interest in Web self-service technologies is not just coming from younger consumers. The technology is changing the behavior of consumers of all generations. In fact, a recent study by Forrester Research found that 72% of consumers, regardless of age, prefer self-service to picking up the phone or sending an email when it comes to resolving support issues. This certainly is welcome news for organizations looking to cut customer service costs and maximize revenue.

There are several elements to consider for successful self-service strategy.

The success of Web self-service depends on the quality and quantity of the information available and the ease with which it can be accessed. Online customers are extremely impatient and information-hungry, so the material available to customers through self-service needs to be succinct and direct, even in response to queries that are not.

The self-service option has to be easy to find on the Web site. To call more attention to the portal, organizations can prominently place a link to the self-service portal on the homepage and other common support pages that feature company, product, and services information. And, since a self-service portal is an extension of a company's Web site, it should have the same look and feel as the rest of the site.

Once on the portal, 80/20 rule applies which means that you assume that 80% of site visitors are looking for about 20% of the content, so that 20% should be easy to find.

As for the content itself, it should be clear, to the point, and easy to understand. This can be achieved by including graphic elements, such as diagrams, charts, and bullet points. When doing so, make sure the graphics are optimized for the Web. If they're not, the Web site could take too long to load, which might cause some customers to abandon it for a more costly agent-assisted channel. Consider keeping content to an eighth-grade reading level, so the average 13- or 14-year-old can make sense of it.

Ensuring accessibility also means that the site should support a variety of Internet browsers, operating systems, assistive technologies for the blind, and, of course, mobile platforms. The latter is becoming more important, especially when one considers that almost a third of all Web traffic today comes from mobile devices.

To make a self-service section even more effective, it can be combined with an automated guidance system that enables site visitors to enter questions and then takes them to specific responses without forcing them to scan an entire database for the answer they need.

One such system is marketed by WalkMe, a San Francisco start-up that enables Web site owners to enhance their online self-service options with interactive on-screen step-by-step instructions displayed as pop-up balloons. The balloons can be programmed to appear automatically when the site visitor rolls his cursor over certain items or when he clicks on a help button.

Customers who can't find answers on their own in a self-help knowledge base might be inclined to call a customer service line, but they are more likely to type their question into a Google search bar, and companies have no control over the results that the Google search returns. This presents a number of problems for a company. Not only has the visitor left your site, but he can find information that you may not want him to see.

Virtual agents are another option companies can use to help customers find what they're looking for. IntelliResponse's Virtual Agent technology simplifies its Web self-service options. The software helps site visitors to find the single right answer to their questions. To keep information current and relevant, it strips outdated FAQ entries, learns over time how to group and respond to questions, and captures data about customer service queries to find precisely what customers need so your organization can fine-tune how it presents information on its Web site.

Companies can also use Web chat to help customers through the self-service maze. It's a tool that's already widely accepted by consumers and businesses alike. LiveWebAssist chat enables agents to push prepared content such as photos, graphics, or Web link, to customers on the site with a single click.

Along with chat and virtual agents, companies can use assisted browsing, or cobrowsing, to move self-service interactions along. This functionality lets the agent—or possibly the virtual agent—temporarily take control of a customer's computer screen. Not only does this improve the self-service experience, but, when interactions move to the contact center through either phone or chat, co-browsing can reduce the average handling time.

It is important to measure response time. Perhaps the most effective measure is the number of customer questions that are submitted and get a response. This can apply to those questions where the customer finds the answer on her own as well as those that are answered through a social community or by a representative of the company. Consider these elements:
  • the number of issues resolved per month through social communities. This includes the number of new questions posed to and answered by the community, the percentage of issues resolved by members of the community rather than company employees, and the number of "this article helped me" votes received.
  • the number of issues resolved every month through FAQs and company knowledge bases. This includes the number of page views that both receive per month.
  • the average cost to resolve issues through channels that involve a company employee. These include phone, email, and chat.
And then, as with any customer service channel, it's important to collect user feedback about the self-help experience. As with any other customer service channel, this can be done through customer surveys, Web analytics and search logs, customer interviews and focus groups, usability testing, and collaborative design processes.

For self-service to be done right, it should be in the interest of the customer. You do not want customers to use self-service because they are forced to. You want them to use it because it serves their needs.

Galaxy Consulting has 16 years experience in optimizing self-service on companies web sites. We can do the same for you. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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