Sarah Stealey Reed
Published: August 08, 2013 | Comments
How often do you select self-service? Are you a consumer that tries to first go-it-alone for support, or do you jump right in and hit ‘zero’ for that human touch? Do you give your customers the choice of selecting between self-service or live interactions? Or do you make the choices for them?
iPad or Human? iPad, please.
If you are spending any time in LaGuardia (LGA) airport’s Delta terminal, you don’t have much choice in the matter. They’ve selected self-service for you.
The entire D terminal is now outfitted with iPads. I mean, apart from the restrooms, (trust me, I checked), iPads are everywhere. There are charging stations at every turn, the standard airport seats have all been replaced with “stations”, and each restaurant comes equipped with an iPad for every second seat or so.
Here in the Delta terminal, the iPad really has replaced most needs for human interaction. Take the restaurants and counter service for example. You sit down and are immediately greeted by a friendly and intuitive iPad touch screen. From here you place your food and drink order, complete with any special requests, and then swipe your credit card. While waiting for your order, you can scan and select your flight from the options listed so that the iPad keeps you proactively updated with gate or departure time changes. You can also order gifts and other goods from the shops in the immediate vicinity. The only thing self-service doesn’t do here is actually deliver your order to you. It’s quick, it’s efficient, it’s proactive, and for the most part, it takes away the human error.
One of my favorite touches? When your flight is 30 minutes out, the iPad will once again proactively ask if you want to order anything else. And when I ignored her, she didn’t even look disgruntled. Nice.
The Community Weighs In
When ICMI and USAN surveyed the contact center community on customer engagement in April 2013, over 81% of respondents said that self-service was now a competitive differentiator. Over 84% also said that it was a necessary channel for their contact center to support.
It’s clear that self-service communication channels are essential for companies looking to reduce overhead costs, and provide innovative options for customers. This is indeed the case for the respondents of the survey, as 45.1% chose “decrease volume to other customer service channels” and “lower cost” (44.3%) as the two primary reasons they are motivated to implement advanced self-service options. Other priorities include improving customer satisfaction (36.6%), increasing customer loyalty (34.4%) and quickening response rates to customers (34.4%).
Delta and LGA are certainly betting on all of the above with their major technology investment into self-service. I can attest that the experience for me was certainly successful. In fact, it made the interactions I did have with the live staff even better. The employees in the terminal seemed less stressed, more productive, and much happier about their jobs and purpose.
It’s important to note, that even with all the self-service provided for me, I did feel that there were human escalation points available. As ICMI often says, it’s very important, no matter what the channel, for a customer to be able to seamlessly transition over to a live agent, when needed. Not only does it improve that immediate customer experience, but it also positively impacts the perceived significance of the agent. When agents are used less for the mundane and simple, and more for the complex and higher-value, they feel more utilized and valuable.
Teaching Customers to Help Themselves
Any company that has implemented self-service knows that it can be challenging to move customers from live help to the new automated channel. Customers oftentimes need to be trained to help themselves. Last night in our first ICMI Tweetchat to promote our upcoming Call Center Demo, we posed the question – Can self-service actually be taught to customers?
All of the customer service leaders and contact center professionals involved in the conversation agreed, that yes, customers can and should be taught GRACEFULLY about self-service options. As one of the participants said, “It’s about guidance. Give customers what they need. Anticipate. Show them why it’s easier, and they will go there first next time.”
Again Delta and LGA have done that. They have clearly and precisely anticipated the core need of every airline customer…the need for power. By promoting their iPads that double as charging stations, they incent even the less technologically savvy customers to touch that self-service screen. Power up here and then let me teach you about all the other things that self-service can do for you. Genius.
You can learn more about self-service and the emerging channels by checking out the complete research report and best practices guide, Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center: Leveraging the Emerging Channels, which is now available for purchase from our website. You can also download the complimentary whitepaper Six Best Practices for Optimizing Multichannel Support.