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At your convenience: self-service is revamped and here to stay

Self Service

After being rapidly adopted as a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, self-service is here to stay. What options are now available and viable, and how do customers feel about doing the heavy lifting themselves?

To paraphrase an old adage – if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing yourself, especially if the alternative is having to wait to get something done.

But a cohesive and convenient self-service experience depends on more than just implementing an automated tool or two in your tech stack. Businesses must make their self-service channels dependable and mobile-friendly, reducing the load on contact centres to solve problems.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made self-service technologies invaluable for managing the skyrocketing number of customer support queries during the crisis, and it’s set to continue, as 56% of telcos say enhancing the customer experience is a priority for 2022.

In the UK, CSPs are in fact cited as offering among the worst customer service, according to the Institute of Customer Service. Customers might have once tolerated bad experiences – a long wait for an unhelpful response here, a dud solution there – but in 2022, there won’t be any leeway for service providers that don’t meet expectations, pandemic or no pandemic.

Way back in 2011, Gartner predicted that customers would manage 85% of their relationship with a brand “without interacting with a human.” Now, as the technology catches up and circumstances force these changes on businesses, the customer experience improvements that increasingly became the norm during the heights of the pandemic are here to stay.

Brands are now renewing their focus towards customer experience, a key differentiator for customers, who are willing to pay more if it guarantees them a better experience. And with low barriers to switching and a highly competitive telecoms market, if consumers aren’t happy with what they’re getting, they’re not afraid to go elsewhere.

As we’ve recently discussed, when it comes to digital customer experiences, telcos can learn a lot from the successful attitudes and practices that other industries have adopted; if you’ve enjoyed ordering via an app at pubs and restaurants, or used self-checkout tills at supermarkets, then you’re aware of the ease and instant gratification of these services.

The 2020 NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark reported that 43% of surveyed businesses prefer to offer self-service channels, a 15 point increase against 2019. Mobile apps in particular are a growth area, with 56% of businesses now employing a self-service component in their proprietary apps, up eight points from 2019.

This is lightening the load on customer contact centres, which struggled with a lack of preparedness to deal with the switch to remote working and a rotating band of self-isolating or sick staff during the pandemic.

Having effective self-service channels encourages customers to find answers themselves, meaning that your contact centre is not overwhelmed, and there’s no need to hire even more support staff at additional cost.

Self-service enables 24/7 online management of all account details and services for a fast, convenient and seamless omnichannel experience. As telecom services are mostly consumed via phones, it also makes sense to deliver support online via native mobile apps whenever possible, providing another access-point for customers to resolve issues, pay their bills, make upgrades and more.

When the customer needs further help, chatbots and digital assistants can provide instant responses to customer queries, acting as a first port of call when speaking to a human service agent may not be necessary, and communicating in any language, working in any time zone, and supporting any customer demographic regardless of technical literacy.

Moreover, by using machine learning (ML) to identify behavioural patterns from sets of previous data, they can drastically reduce call centre queues by automating simple tasks such as appointment scheduling and delivering canned answers to common queries. Taken one step further, sentiment analysis can be implemented to parse messages with more complex content, recognising everything from the type of message to the emotional state of any correspondence.

However, it’s not time to mothball the contact centre just yet – while self-service tools can be incredibly adept at addressing customers’ basic needs, they may struggle with more complex tasks, and are much better suited to complementing the abilities of humans, rather than replacing them outright.

While businesses continue to implement AI-powered solutions in their support arsenals, actually getting customers to engage with chatbots may be an uphill struggle, with 69% still preferring to speak to a human rather than a machine. So it’s vital to give customers the option to speak with a representative if self-service isn’t cutting it in a given instance – this can be more expensive, but will ultimately save many customers from much exasperation.

Offering self-service need not be such a tech-intensive procedure, though. Something as simple as self-service guides, knowledge bases or user-driven support forums can empower your customers to seek out their own solutions; according to Zendesk, 91% of customers are willing to make use of a knowledge base if they know it’ll help.

Nevertheless, self-service isn't a set and forget it thing either; every interaction produces quantified data points and insights for further fine-tuning and finessing of your customer experience.

By offering self-service options, and the choice of how to connect with your business in a way that suits them, you empower your customers to find answers for themselves, reducing business overheads without compromising on the quality of service delivered.

Get in touch today to find out how Cerillion Self Service and Mobile App can enhance your customer experience.

About the author

Adam Hughes


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