When it was first introduced, self-service was considered an inconvenience. Today, if your company doesn’t offer fast, intuitive self-service options on a selection of digital channels, customers will be left with a bad impression of your brand. But how has self-service affected the contact centre, and how can you implement it successfully?
Understanding the self-service economy
From scanning your own groceries to monitoring your heart rate with wearable tech, the self-service economy is well and truly here. As well as improving efficiency and reducing costs, self-service has allowed organisations to better meet the skyrocketing needs and expectations of today’s customers. How? By giving them immediate accessibility, personal empowerment, and choice. It’s a win-win if implemented well.
The self-service contact centre
Self-service has impacted the contact centre hard, with mixed reactions. On one side, self-service chat or messaging interactions pose complex integration challenges, such as workforce manage mentor limitations in agent desktop applications.
However, these technologies are advancing alongside the customer’s appetite and acceptance for web self-service. In fact, Deloitte's 2017 global contact centre survey predicts the use of 'chat' self-service will grow from 6% currently to 16% by 2019. However, it should be noted that most online chat conversations still result in a phone call with an agent.
While this doesn't indicate the demise of the phone – customers still want the ability to speak to a customer service advisor on the phone at any point – they now expect the convenience of hopping online and accessing self-service via a range of digital channels.
Self-service across multiple channels
From knowledge hubs and customer forums to SMS, contact centres are transitioning from voice-only to multichannel under the new self-service model. In fact, even though 98% still use phones, 35% of all contact centre transactions are now digital.
Advances in technology are also creating the next generation of self-service channels. With the arrival of AI, chatbots and virtual agents are replacing even more interactions. This is clear in Australian contact centres, with 7% now using AI to interact with customers via chatbots, and 11% planning to adopt it in the next 12 months.
Towards omnichannel self-service
As technology changes, so do the customer’s expectations. This means the multichannel contact centre is not enough to keep customers happy. While it delivers choice, it doesn’t allow them to move seamlessly between channels. Instead, they have to start again from scratch each time – a source of endless frustration, and a driver of poor satisfaction scores.
Enter the omnichannel contact centre. Under this model, all channels – self-service, assisted, and voice – are integrated in order to deliver a more seamless, consistent customer experience. By using real-time technology to share knowledge, teams can see what stage a customer is at in any given transaction, and pick up where they left off.
Customer service as the new marketing
Self-service has pushed many functions that were firmly in the realm of marketing into the hands of the contact centre. Contact centres are no longer simply reactive telephone services. Instead, self-service has placed them at the heart of the customer experience, and managers business-wide should take note.
In fact, 85% of companies now recognise customer service in contact centres as a key differentiator. So if your business is not delivering exceptional, consistent experiences across channels, you’re at risk of falling short of customer expectations, which will ultimately leave you scrabbling to attract and retain clients.
How to help customers self-serve
So how can you deliver great service in the age of self-service? To put it another way: how can you help your customers efficiently help themselves?
Integrate your marketing/contact centre functions: As customer service is the new marketing, you need to ensure these two departments work together. Strategies and goals should align, and knowledge must be shared.
Recruit and train for multichannel expertise: Delivering exceptional assisted service and self-service means having the right skills in place. Today’s agents must be multitaskers, problem-solvers and channel/product experts capable of filling the gaps.
Commit to channel innovation: As well as adding multiple channels to your mix, you need to keep an eye on digital trends, and continually look at ways to deliver better, more personalised self-service experiences.
Invest in the right technology: Use big data analytics software to understand changing channel preferences, along with the intricacies of individual transactions. Plus, install a single-view customer platform to enable smooth omnichannel handling.
Self-service has moved customer experience into the hands of the contact centre, and it’s here that businesses must focus their attention if they want to keep up. In the future, self-service could even evolve into a ‘selfie-service’, with customers creating their own service paradigms, tailoring their own experiences, and being more creative. Your job will be to assist them.
If you’d like to learn more about Salmat’s contact centre solutions, visit our website or call us on 1300 725 628.