Whether you realise it or not, nearly every interaction with a company will include some element of self-service as part of the customer journey.
However, years ago, chatbots and other early self-serve options weren’t as smooth or sophisticated as they are today, making them obvious bottlenecks and giving them a bad reputation.
Technology has moved on, and with it, each new generation of customers has grown into the tech landscape of their time, searching for answers using the channels they use in their daily lives.
Modern customers now have access to an unprecedented amount of information but are incredibly comfortable quickly finding the information they need from digital sources.
How this translates into the world of eCommerce and customer service is at the heart of why self-service has exploded.
Customers are looking to expend the least effort possible in their service interactions. And, they expect brands to make this kind of low-effort customer service a reality. To make it painless for them to find what they’re looking for via the channels that they are most comfortable using.
That’s what self-service is all about: empowering customers to find the answers they need on their own — escalating to human interaction only if needed.
As businesses compete for customers in an age where skilled employees are becoming harder to find, they are turning to these digital solutions to handle more complex problems, reduce costs, and improve outcomes.
Although the adoption of self-service isn’t a new idea, the technologies that encompass self-service have rapidly evolved and will continue to do so to keep pace with the value customers put on getting a satisfying customer experience.
They want to help themselves quickly, easily and with as little fuss as possible. This growing desire for convenience has given rise to a new generation of self-service channels:
Chatbots & Intelligent Virtual Assistants
Experiential: Augmented Reality
The cool thing about a community is there’s often no larger source of knowledge about your product than your customer base. Customers use products in all sorts of unexpected ways and have experience with all kinds of use cases and scenarios. People can search for conversations where others have already worked through the problem. If they can’t find an answer, they can ask the community a new question and have topic experts answer.
Knowledge Base (Help Articles)
A knowledge base is a central hub for your help articles and marketing materials. All that adds up to a searchable library of information about your product or services. It acts as one source of truth by ensuring customers and reps rely on a consistent source of information. It also ensures customers don’t receive different information from a contact centre, an agent on chat or any other touch point.
Chatbots & Intelligent Virtual Assistants
Chatbots are perfect for managing simple tasks and offer low-intelligence functions that address a singular need. When it comes to solving straightforward customer issues, there is no way a human agent can compete with the speed and convenience of a chatbot.
Think of IVA’s as highly advanced chatbots which introduce Conversational AI to address enterprise scale needs. IVAs are also the better option if the tasks users are trying to complete are multi-step or complex.
Experiential: Augmented Reality
Although it’s not often thought of in this context, tools like augmented reality allow users to visually self-solve any problems. This could be analysing faulty equipment, getting guided repairs or exploring a product in more detail.
Voice Self-Service leverages advances in speech-to-text and natural language processing to understand spoken commands. The tech works best for call-and-action responses. In other words, when the primary goal is to deliver a singular, definitive action or answer.
Nearly everyone has this technology in their pocket, and their low-friction user experience makes them applicable for many situations and a compelling addition to any company’s self-service toolkit.
You likely already have one or more of these tools in your customer service toolkit. But how do we start to think about self-service more intelligently?
The answer begins with moving away from an approach where individual solutions or teams are isolated, solve only singular needs and lack the connected intelligence of the entire customer journey.
We connect the dots, and we get people, processes and technology all working together.
Connectivity is at the core of a successful, intelligent self-service model, helping to bridge the communication gap that has previously existed between customers and companies.
A simple example of this gap is being asked to repeat information again and again as we bounce around touchpoints during the customer journey: in a search box, in a chatbot, on a phone routing system, to a human, to a different human. All of which began as isolated journeys where we had to start from the beginning each time. And when we finally reach a solution, we’re often left feeling even more frustrated with the company for making us jump through so many hoops.
By taking a more holistic and strategic approach to self-service, we can create a seamless experience by understanding the context behind an action and, thus, shorten the journey. For example, we can see if a customer has read help articles, made a community thread or interacted with the chatbot. We can then share this customer intelligence with agents, which means we can avoid presenting those suggestions as solutions when they speak to a human or bot.
Every self-service interaction also holds a wealth of information, so when we connect the dots, we can use this data to leverage artificial intelligence and make the next interaction even better.
We can use AI to anticipate their needs and direct them to the most likely resource—the one where other users solved the same problem. Rather than making the visitor go to where the solution is, we bring it to them. Likewise, we can connect search queries to journeys that had to be resolved by a human and prevent them from getting lost in self-service pathways.
Better yet, AI-powered intelligent self-service can see the beginnings of a customer self-service opportunity almost anywhere, from a search bar query to a lingering moment in a community thread. You can then better fine-tune dead ends or unanswered problems or guide customers to difficult to find answers.
For example, most companies have experimented with a low-function chatbot, but because it’s not connected to the wider self-service suite or CRM, it can only answer what it’s programmed to answer. That’s if it’s not just used as a triage tool for a human chat.
By connecting your self-service touchpoints, we can use AI to create a more intelligent strategy, compounding the usefulness of each tool. Instead, we have a chatbot that can surface knowledge articles or community threads where there is a verified solution. Likewise, we can have a unified search to highlight community posts or help articles.
This is how we make Self-Service ‘’intelligent’’.
Intelligent self-service has drastically improved since its early inception, with huge benefits that contribute to improved customer service and the wider goals of your overall business strategy. Below, we have highlighted the key benefits that implementing ISS provides.
Keeping Up With Expectations
Data shows that nearly 70% of customers actually prefer self-service. Equally, generational attitudes towards ISS and the use of artificial intelligence have changed, as Gen Zers and Millennials are increasingly more tech-savvy. Because of this, expectations have soared.
We’re living in an age of instant gratification, where time to resolution is critical. This is where having an intelligent self-service model on your side to smooth things out is invaluable. By creating better customer experiences, we can open the door to brand growth and enhanced reputations, replacing lengthy call times and closed doors for customers.
However, when customers do connect with a human rep, reps have all the data needed to delight the customer.
Customers are also moving away from calling. They want the choice of simple and easy self-service channels to engage with you on their terms, depending on the context of the situation. For example, a customer interacting with their bank might prefer to call, but if they’re sitting on a busy bus, this might make them uncomfortable. Customers expect brands to give them a choice and give their loyalty to the ones that do.
Can Scale Customer Service Quickly
If you adopt a human-only approach, growing your customer service capabilities quickly is difficult. It takes time to train customer service reps, and it takes even longer for them to acquire the institutional knowledge to solve support tickets in the first instance.
Unfortunately, you can’t integrate with information that’s locked away inside someone’s head (at least, not yet anyway).
Having a knowledge base will help, but you are also restricted by the cost of having a growing team of reps and limited by the time it takes to solve each individual problem.
Meanwhile, with intelligent self-service, consumers don’t need to wait for others to finish their conversation. You can handle thousands of customer queries simultaneously without a drop in quality by answering queries directly or by linking to verified resources.
Intelligent self-service is customer service built to scale.
If you’re not sold, consider the economic value when you scale out your operations. According to Forrester, a chat with a human customer support rep can cost $6-$12 per interaction. Meanwhile, an automated interaction can cost as little as 25 cents.
A community is also a powerful way to deflect support tickets.
Our customer—Nordic Semiconductor—uses their community as a way for customers to ask for specialist advice on development projects and to improve their knowledge of Nordic products. With 160,000 registered users and more than 140,000 questions logged, it’s one of the best examples of using a community for support. In fact, 66% of support requests are now directed at community members.
That’s a significant shift in burden away from support tickets. Customer service agents can then focus on more complex issues that require a higher level of expertise or empathy.
Creating satisfied customers who remain customers long-term is how you maximize their lifetime value. This begins by creating customer journey’s with them in mind.
Faster Resolution Times
Customers are generally looking for one thing – a resolution to a problem in the quickest time possible. And if you can create a seamless user experience, no one cares if their problem is resolved by a human, bot or webpage.
Customers quickly get frustrated with companies that don’t make it easy for them to self-solve problems, so why not provide them with the tools?
Not only do they want speedy solutions, but they also want choice. The choice to engage on their terms, on the channel that best suits their current needs. An intelligent self-service approach to customer service delivers this convenience.
In an increasingly competitive market, every customer is up for grabs—and great customer service can be a strong differentiator. Dissatisfied customers rarely give a company a second chance. They hold grudges, spread negative feedback and jump ship without hesitation.
Yet customer service departments are being put under greater pressure to do more with less. Intelligent self-service can relieve much of the burden without sacrificing customer service quality. In fact, it improves it by getting us to our goals quickly and giving customers control.
No user experience will ever be perfect for all customers in all situations, but you can give them the option to choose the experience that suits their current needs.
Ultimately, it’s not so much about the technology. It’s about the exceptional customer experience you can create.
Find out more about how to create convenient customer interactions with our free webinar: “Intelligent Self-Service: The Age Of Convenience”. Download below: