ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Expert's Angle: The Intelligent Self-Service Imperative for Call Centers

Automated multichannel self-service is hot – so popular that use of options such as Web, email and chat to access care has doubled in recent years, according to newly released research by Convergys Corporation.

But companies that don’t go the extra mile to ensure intelligent self-service face double trouble. Too often, their communications with customers vary by channel, creating a confusing and disjointed corporate approach to the customer experience that frustrates and turns off the customer and creating inefficiencies that increase the cost to serve.

Companies in this fix typically are hostage to an old-school “inside-out” approach to serving customers dictated by a corporate internal structure. In this stove-piped, IT-archaic world, policies spring up without thought to integration between channels. Inconsistent policy implementation leads to mixed messages across channels. Confusion reigns and loyalty plummets.

It’s critical for companies to step up their game by offering an interaction that fosters loyalty, increases sales and helps reduce the cost to serve. The solution: intelligent self-service that ensures a consistent and seamless experience across all channels. 

Intelligent Self-Service Defined

An intelligent self-service approach to care uses predictive analytics and rules-based “dynamic decisioning engines” to leverage the vast amounts of data every company maintains on its customers.  Too often, such data is an overlooked asset trapped in the back office.

By pulling this data from billing, operations and other sources, intelligent self-service provides a complete real-time snapshot of the customer interaction.  A rules-based dynamic decisioning engine applies policies, predetermined by the company, to deliver an appropriate, tailored and relevant experience for each customer in a given scenario – ranging from proactive trouble-shooting on a service need to seizing the opportunity to cross-sell/upsell new offers based on known customer preferences and recent buying patterns.  Companies can further enhance the intelligent self-service interaction by leveraging natural language speech technologies that “humanize” the interaction.

Intelligent Self-Service: Every Contact Channel, Every Action

Consistency Across All Channels

  • Web
  • Mobile Device
  • E-mail
  • IVR
  • Retail/Kiosk/ATM
  • TV/Set-top box
  • Contact Center Agent


Through Different Interactions

  • Call to Customer Service
  • Shipment Verification and Tracking
  • Prescription Refill
  • Account Information
  • Loan Modification or Application
  • Funds Transfer
  • Flight Information

Because intelligent self-service is uniformly integrated across all channels, the customer experience is consistent and seamless at any moment in time, whether the customer comes in via Web, email, chat, IVR or live agent – or transfers between channels during a single interaction.  The remarkable aspect: Each transaction occurs in real-time.  Multiply this capability by billions of simultaneous “smart” transactions for millions of customers and that’s the power of intelligent self-service.

The end result for the customer is a fast, accurate interaction that not only meets, but also actually anticipates needs -- is personalized to the individual, and is uniform across all channels.  Smart service is smart business for the company, too.  It improves accuracy and response time, drives customer satisfaction and loyalty, opens up new revenue streams and reduces operational costs by increasing call containment.  Ultimately intelligent self-service drives more value into each interaction and delivers real return on investment to the company.

What if the customer opts for a live agent?  Intelligent decisioning is embedded in the desktop applications, prompting agents to take the best action based on the customer’s unique circumstances, thus improving agent performance and driving down call handling times and associated costs.

A chieving Intelligent Self-Service in the Contact Center

  1. Leverage Knowledge Trapped in Back-Office Systems
  2. Harness Real-Time Knowledge and Dynamic Decisioning
  3. Embrace Analytics To Predict, Optimize and Identify Opportunities
  4. Move Intelligence “Upstream” in the Customer Experience Lifecycle

Intelligent Self-Service: Effective for Any Business

All industries stand to benefit from delivering intelligent self-service.  Here are a few creative ways that different industries use it today:

Communications: If a payment is late, a pro-active notice is sent to the customer with a reminder. When a customer calls in about a service disruption, the system can offer an immediate credit, then move on to cross-sell a pay-per-view product inferred by known preferences, or a new package based on the customer’s minutes of usage.

Financial Services: A customer contacts his or her bank to check recent deposits. The intelligent self-service solution recognizes that the customer calls in each Friday about their paycheck, and automatically provides the customer’s balance and recent transactions.  The system then might notify the customer of a maturing certificate of deposit that is up for renewal, or offer overdraft protection, a companion savings account or credit cards. 

Health Care: A customer calling in to an insurance payor can hear their deductible balance.  Using intelligent self-service will identify the customer and determine that they might need to hear or see an offer for a prescription-by-mail service, or for a generic medication alternative.

Retail: A customer receives a proactive confirmation that a recent purchase has been shipped.  If the customer wants to make another purchase, this time at a store, the intelligent self-service solution provides details on the nearest outlet location – and takes the opportunity to alert the customer to current in-store or online offers similar to this or other recent purchases.

Technology: A customer with an expired technology service agreement calls in to the company about an unrelated request.  Before being connected to a help desk, the intelligent self-service solution routes the caller to account services to complete a renewal transaction.

Transportation:  A frequent flyer calls the airline 45 minutes prior to departure.  The intelligent self-service solution recognizes the customer is within one hour of flight and hasn’t yet checked in. The intelligent self-service solution bypasses the automated menu and sends the customer directly to an agent for flight changes.

In each of these instances, the customer experience is identical regardless of the channel the customer uses – or changes to – during the transaction.

Get Smart About Managing the Customer Experience

Is intelligent self-service a “nice to do” or a “must have” capability?  That depends on whether a company wants to manage and optimize the customer experience or fall back on the alternative: allowing mixed messages and inconsistent experiences across diverse channels to hold sway over the company’s performance.

In today’s marketplace, where every customer counts, being smart about your business begins and ends with intelligence applied to each customer interaction, inbound or outbound, and in all channels.  Intelligent self-service meets and surpasses this objective by ensuring message consistency through each channel, quick time to market, a superior personalized customer experience, and higher sales. Intelligent self-service is not an option – it is the new customer experience imperative.

Jo Ann Parris runs solution and product marketing for the Multichannel Automation Solutions portfolio at Convergys. www.convergys.com