Published: September 10, 2014 | Comments
By now, most companies are aware that delivering top-notch customer care requires multiple service delivery channels. Organizations have now implemented numerous options for customers to get answers, whether through live-chat, speaking directly to a customer-care agent, and -- increasingly popular -- self-service. While the idea of offering self-service seems straightforward, it is important to keep in mind that, similar to your company’s other customer-care delivery services, self-service requires forethought and back-end structure if it is to work at its most efficient and productive capabilities. It shouldn’t take much convincing that self-service is an important tool, but it isn’t the only tool, and making sure it meets your needs as a business and meets the needs of your customers doesn’t happen without a roadmap.
Step One: The back-end
Deploying a self-service system requires coordination across several departments, so your first step is to make sure the back-end of your customer-service delivery options are synchronized. Resist the temptation to introduce a stand-alone self-service option that doesn’t integrate with your current platform. While a stand-alone system may be less expensive on the front end, it will be far more costly down the road if not implemented as a cohesive partner with your current delivery options.
When developing your self-service system some important points to consider are:
The Common Issues—knowing the kind of information that a majority of your customers want allows you to create a self-service platform that can easily and readily answer these topics.
How Much Information—Start with the basics, and after you’ve gained experience with your self-service center, you can offer more content that provides value to your customers. Be careful not to overload your customers with too much information or too many choices. A complicated self-service system can hurt your objectives rather than help. Remember that less can sometimes be more.
Know Your Audience—Your company may be servicing customers across multiple generations. Make sure you’re technologically relevant and provide easy alternatives for those customers who may be less comfortable or familiar with online tools.
Dead-ends with no Escape Hatch— Self-service should be offered as a customer choice. Make sure to integrate your self-service option with your other customer service channels so that the customer doesn’t get stuck in a dead-end. It should be easy and straightforward for the customer to access a higher level of service if need be without starting the whole process over from the beginning.
Step Two: The Rollout of your Self-Service System
Once you have selected and designed a self-service system to integrate into your current operations, the next step is to introduce your customers to this new service choice. Similar to other successful approaches, self-service requires time and constant monitoring and assessing. Service-delivery models need to evolve to become seamlessly integrated into your system, so don’t rush this process. To ensure your company’s success with a self-service rollout, create a plan that incorporates the following:
Phase Delivery—Resist the temptation to deploy everything at once. If you break down the implementation into phases, you will be able to go live earlier and introduce later phases as you learn about how your customers are actually using your self-service system.
Data is Your Friend—Understanding how your system is being used and where its strengths and weaknesses are will allow your system to evolve. While it’s true that there are costs associated with such analysis, you will end up saving in the long run by offering a system that satisfies your customers and cuts down on staffing.
Test Your System—Before introducing each phase of your self-service system, test it out and monitor how it’s working. Each phase may require tweaking and it’s best to test your system on a smaller population rather than your entire customer base.
Step Three—Announce, Monitor and Improve
Once you are confident that the system that you’ve carefully created and implemented is ready for a wider audience, it’s time to let your customers know. Announce your new self-service delivery option via your website and call-center. The goal is for customers to free up the amount of calls that are patched through to your call center employees or live-chat operators, so make sure your customers can easily access your new service once they are aware.
To maximize the ROI on your self-service operation it is important to continuously monitor, tweak and change your system in order to improve your investment. A successful self-service offering tends to get more use over time. To ensure your customers have a positive experience interacting with your self-service operation, collect data on how your customers use your system and the success rates of their inquiries being satisfied. Success breeds success, and when customers have a positive experience with your system, they are more likely to return to self-service before directly contacting your staffed customer-service systems. Keep in mind that as your customers can get the more basic questions or inquiries answered, the subject of your call-center calls may change. You may find they become more complicated or technical in nature. It will be important to understand how your customer service landscape is changing so that your front-line operators have the most current and relevant training. You can continue to improve your overall customer service delivery options by assessing how your systems are working together. Monitoring the data collected and enhancing your offerings will ensure your customers remain satisfied and loyal.
Introducing a self-service system as part of your overall customer care options doesn’t have to be daunting or needlessly expensive if approached in a methodical and strategic manner. Having a clear roadmap will most likely lead to the successful rollout of your self-service operation. By focusing on the behind-the-scenes structure of your self-service module, coordinating its function across your customer-service platforms, and planning seamless transitions between your platforms will ensure its long-term success. Once your system has been tested on small populations of your customer base, and you’ve made the necessary adjustments, you will have the confidence of a functioning system that meets your company’s objectives of delivering excellent customer care in the most cost-effective way. Allowing your system to evolve to meet the changing needs of your business objectives and your customer’s expectations requires oversight and the flexibility to change. Self-service is but one of the many ways to continue servicing your customers so they remain loyal and satisfied.