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Self-Service and the Multichannel Contact Center: Research Findings

If you build it, they will come. When it comes to customer service, particularly self-service and the multichannel contact center, that statement is likely to be false. Most contact centers today handle at least one and probably a few (if not all) types of contact channels other than phone: IVR (interactive voice response), email, chat, Web calls, self-service interactions. The question is this: Are today’s contact centers handling the multichannel and self-service environment well?

This excerpt is from the ICMI research report "Self-Service and the Multichannel Contact Center."

In October 2010, 404 contact center professionals working in centers of all sizes and shapes around the globe participated in the study, sharing critical information about their centers’ customer self-service operations. The survey sought to find out how well contact centers were meeting their customers’ needs, as well as their own.

Here are some of the major findings from the study:

  • More than three quarters of respondents (79.5%) indicated that their customer care operations provide customers self-service opportunities.

  • Taking into account the respondent data on the success of self-service in reducing operating costs and increasing customer satisfaction, we can confidently posit that at least some of the trouble in meeting service level goals can be attributed to the failure of self-service strategies to truly address and meet customer needs.

  • For the most part, contact centers are planning to spend more on customer self-service technologies. Those contact centers planning to spend from $100,000 to more than $50 million are up compared to actual spends in this range during 2009 and 2010.

  • The main drivers respondents cited for implementing a self-service strategy for customers were operating cost reductions (83.4%) and meeting customer demand for service options (74.3%).

  • In terms of maturity, there are definite leaders among the self-service channels offered by respondents’ centers, having been deployed for six or more years: inbound IVR (50.8%), public FAQ pages (42.1%) and Web forms/ displays (39.8%).

  • When asked to rate the success of their customer self-service channels, respondents gave most channels mediocre scores (three out of a scale of one to five).

  • Of those centers using inbound IVR for self-service, less than one quarter (23.7%) say they’ve recognized cost reductions of 11-25%. Another 22% said inbound IVR provided less than 10% in cost reductions.

  • Several centers reported double-digit improvements, from 11% to more than 51% increases, in customer retention attributed to self-service strategies.

  • More than one fifth (20.5%) of respondents said they do not measure completion rates for IVR-only calls.

  • 64% of respondents don’t know if or when a customer has tried to self-serve but then opted for a live rep.

  • More than three quarters (79.8%) of survey participants said they train their agents to give detailed information/instructions on self-service channels to customers.

  • Among the tools contact centers use to support Web self-service channels, in particular, leaders emerged: issue tracking (53%), knowledge management (44.6%), service management tools (42.3%).

  • While customers are considered in most centers’ self-service development (51.1% use analysis of call types and customer activity and 50.6% model offerings on customer behavior and call types to agents), more focus on a customer-centric self-service strategy could help alleviate abandonment rates and customer dissatisfaction, as well as increase ROI on self-service investments.

  • Troubling is the fact that nearly half (43.6%) of respondents don’t measure customer feedback on their centers’ self-service channels.

  • Many survey participants appear to be following some good practices in agent recruitment and hiring for the multichannel environment, with more than half (64.4%) of respondents using the Web (online career sites, company website, etc.) more for recruitment and screening applicants early for the skills needed for multiple contact channels.

  • Of those centers that report having a WFM system, many do not have accounting in their system for channels other than telephone.