Self-Service: The Next Step in Customer Service for Contact Centers

Written by KOVA Corp

When customer service executives and thought leaders in the customer service space talk about the future of their industry these days, they almost invariably say the same thing: the future of customer service is self-service.

Many companies have already bought into this idea wholeheartedly, and started offering things like detailed FAQ pages on their websites, or self-service menu options for contact center callers. These are great places to start, but what are the next steps?

Understanding the priorities of today’s customers

In a survey conducted by Steven Van Belleghem with SSI, 90 percent of respondents said that speed was the most important issue when trying to resolve an issue with a company. This was second only to having their problem taken seriously by the customer service agent, which was selected as most important by 92 percent of respondents.

In a certain sense, this is nothing new. Contact centers have long worked hard to decrease their call handle times and increase their first-call resolution rates. But in today’s digital, omnichannel world where agents are handling emails, texts, and live chats in addition to phone calls, resolving things quickly becomes more complex.

According to that same survey, 39 percent of respondents who contact a company via email expect a reply within four hours. For those who use social media to contact a company, that rate goes up to 55 percent.

The takeaway here is that today’s definition of “speed” is different from what it was even two or three years ago. In addition, any move toward self-service must work toward allowing customers to resolve their issues as quickly as possible - meaning that contact centers must make relevant information easy to find and understand, as well as know which issues will still require the help of a live agent. (To read more about this topic, read our post “Getting Customer Self-Service Right.”)

Self-service should be part of the entire customer journey

Self-service is often discussed in the context of resolving customer issues, but it should be a part of the entire customer journey.

Contact centers should do their best to integrate self-service options into everything from initial service inquiries, to product or service purchase, to post-sales follow-ups and issue resolution. Customers want to be able to access information about the product they’re interested in, fill out necessary forms or applications, and make the actual purchase on their own.

These options must be easy to locate on a company’s website, as well as easy to complete. Doing so will help you push your customer service further ahead of the pack, and closer to the self-service model of the future.

Where customer service is headed

The consensus among experts, according to Verint’s Executive Perspective “The Future of Self-Service,” is that the ultimate customer service model of the future is the virtual personal assistant. Think of the iPhone’s Siri or Windows’ Cortana - these are initial versions of virtual personal assistants, able to read your calendar, send you reminders, scan your email, and more.

Speech recognition technology is the key to making these personal assistants useful, so as it continues to get better, so too will our personal assistants.

So how does this affect contact centers? Well, speech recognition is already an important part of the data-driven contact center, as speech analytics technology can offer incredible insight into the customer experience.

Another vital element of tomorrow’s self-service model is data. With the vast amounts of data that speech and text analytics will offer - not to mention the data-collecting abilities of software solutions like workforce management solutions, workforce optimization suites, and more - the contact center that isn’t putting this data to good use will quickly fall behind.

If KOVA can help you learn more about whether one of these solutions might be right for your contact center, contact us.

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