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The DIY desire: addressing customer self-service

Published January 14, 2016

Written by: Keiron Dalton
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Keiron Dalton

Keiron Dalton is Senior Director of Customer Strategy and Innovation for Aspect Software. Keiron comes from a background in software engineering, having spent over 17 years in the IT industry, with roles ranging from technical engineer through to product management. Keiron has a keen interest and expert knowledge in innovation and thought leadership within IT, and has specialist experience in product management, product marketing, hardware/software support, project management, software testing, network, and purchasing.

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Sparked by the internet and accelerated by the spread of smart devices, consumers are more and more motivated to gather information online themselves when solving problems with a product or service. This has led to a new situation for customer contact centres – where businesses used to meter information to the public through dedicated agents, now the public at large is holding the cards.

For BPOs, this can be a strange new world to get used to. However, enabling end customers to satisfy their self-service demands can in fact drive growth for your business through an optimised, more efficient workforce and increased customer engagement.

Recent consumer research from Aspect found out more about these changes, while demonstrating just how much consumer preferences have changed when it comes to finding solutions to queries and issues. When questioned, 90 per cent of those questioned said that the offer of self-service options from customer service departments is important to them. Regarding their service option of choice, a third (33 per cent) stated that they would use a search engine to find answers to their queries, while 22 per cent said they would go directly to a company’s website. Only 11 per cent of those surveyed said they would phone a contact centre to get an answer to a question, further highlighting that for most enquiries, the voice channel is not a popular first point of call.

Self-service techniques are clearly growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why: time poor consumers want their queries answered quickly and effectively, in the channel of their choice, without needing to conduct multiple conversations. Today, customers can access highly visual information quickly and easily, which they are free to store, review and refer to again and again, at their own convenience with the same experience (i.e., solution) as traditional support channels. Voice calls have become reserved for the more complex queries that require human interaction.

It’s clear that BPOs in the customer contact industry cannot ignore this shift. In fact, enabling patrons to bypass support over the phone can go a long way in optimising your workforce productivity and employee engagement. Reserving their time for queries that are escalated to the agent will not only increase the productivity of your employees, but will also boost customer satisfaction as well. Diverting queries that can be solved independently away from the contact centre enables agents to focus on more complex interactions that may need to draw on their knowledge as subject matter experts. Through the use of analytics tools, common queries or those that need a swift answer (such as delivery timescales, or finding out flight details) can be resolved using self-service tools. Advanced analytics in real-time could also bring an agility into workflows and self-service menus, enabling the contact centre to quickly react to changing conditions or demand. A good example of this might be a water outage: customers can use social media or an SMS service from their mobile device to find out the status of a local repair job following an outage, instead of having to call up and spend time navigating telephone menus and queues.

These benefits of a multi-channel, self-service solution play a large part in the growth of a BPO’s business. Internally, agents are spending less time serving simple customer demands, boosting their cost-effectiveness through focusing on complex, intricate issues. Additionally, consistently great customer relations support a BPO’s value proposition for existing and new business. Maintaining and building upon strong customer experiences is key to ensuring that SLAs with client organisations are kept, and strengthened, while also acting as excellent proof points for future business.

The future focus of course is on developing self-service options for mobile devices. With many consumers’ lives being held on smartphones and tablets, they do also expect to be able to engage with the companies that they buy from using the multitude of channels available to them. It is important to remember that any self-service strategy succeeds only when it is fully integrated with existing contact centre operations. In this way, the critical factor of context is maintained, even if the customer has to transition from a self-service SMS service to a real, live person to resolve the issue. One of the reasons why we just prefer not to jump straight on a voice call with a company is because it is not often convenient.

The notion that it is rarely possible to resolve complex queries via any other channel except for voice calls is changing. End customers want to be able to get what they need done no matter what channel they’re using, without a break in the conversation, and these limitations are now being lifted. BPOs have an opportunity to break down these barriers, and in tandem create further revenue opportunities to grow the buoyant industry.

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