The Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Self-Service

A picture of a a do and don't sign


Our panel of experts share their thoughts on how to (and how not to) implement a successful self-service strategy.

The Do’s

DO: Map Out Customer Journeys Before Implementing Self-Service

Too many businesses still have a digital by default mindset to customer service. Often, they try to move their customer interaction channels to digital in one fell swoop. It is an approach that will never work.

Some products and services lend themselves to being sold digitally and some do not, while some customers want to interact digitally and some prefer a traditional phone or even a face-to-face meeting.

Avoid falling into the trap of trying to make everything digital and then wondering why the overall customer experience remains poor.

Organisations must, therefore, avoid falling into the trap of trying to make everything digital and then wondering why the overall customer experience remains poor. Instead, they should put in place a digital by design approach focused around the customer journey.

They might need to understand, for example, what are the top five journeys that drive revenues, reduce costs, or ensure regulatory compliance.

Once the business has mapped out these optimal journeys, it can start to think about how to reduce the steps involved to make the process shorter, faster, easier, and more efficient.

DO: Make Sure You Have an Escalation Path Built In

Self-service has many benefits in terms of resolving customer queries quickly and efficiently with as little effort on the customer’s part as possible. In line with this, many businesses find that the vast majority of engagements can be handled in one simple attempt.

Jeremy Payne

It is crucial, however, that they also have in place the ability to simply escalate and hand off any call to a human if there is any sort of issue with the self-service process.

Also, it is key that, as part of that process, relevant contextual information about the customer and their failed self-service interaction, as well as their previous engagement history, is transferred over to the advisor.

Thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

DO: Set a Customer-Focused Goal for Self-Service, Not an Operational One

Aiming “to reduce inbound customer contact” as a self-service goal is doomed to fail from the outset because it’s focused on the needs of the business rather than the customer.

Instead, focus on “providing a better customer experience” with self-service and you should, by default, decrease the need for the customer to make inbound enquiries via another channel.

Focus on “providing a better customer experience” with self-service and you should, by default, decrease the need for the customer to make inbound enquiries via another channel.

If the customer does still need to transfer to a human advisor to solve their issue, self-service should be completely integrated with all the information gathered from the self-service interactions and the customer’s history, so it’s available instantly to the advisor.

Being able to take up the query immediately and being skilled in the area concerned is essential – there should be no gaps in service.

Yet, just in case there are, be sure to offer a way for customers to feedback on their experience, to give you valuable insights and measure business success by integrating advanced reporting with self-service.

DO: Keep It Simple, Useful and Personalised

Customers don’t want to have to expend a great deal of effort and they expect self-service to be relevant to them.

A thumbnail picture of Ken Reid

Ken Reid

So, if the options available are too basic to answer their needs, they’ll contact you – or a competitor – another way. But if it’s too complicated, the same will happen.

If you can deliver helpful knowledge at the right time – say by using AI and a knowledge base to pop up the information they require, they won’t need further help.

Thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions

DO: Create a Team of Self-Service Ambassadors

Self-service is not going to be as popular as it could be if your advisors are not 100% behind it. This highlights the importance of taking the time to promote the benefits of self-service, both inside and outside the organisation.

When a customer bounces from self-service and into the contact centre, teach advisors how to turn negatives into positives. Make this an opportunity to turn unhappy customers into happy ones.

Find ways of rewarding customers for using self-service and continually fine-tune the application to make it even better.

Also, use this as the ideal opportunity to ensure that the customer understands the various ways to self-serve, along with the benefits, for the next time they call.

Finally, always design your self-service offering with customers’ specific needs in mind.  Find ways to reward customers for using self-service and continually fine-tune the application to make it even better.

DO: Consider Speech Recognition

You can use speech recognition technology to make the self-service experience more engaging, with the IVR.

Customers can ‘speak’, with the added bonus of round-the-clock self-service availability to look up their bank balance, pay their utility bills, purchase theatre tickets or book flights.

A thumbnail photo of Colin Hay

Colin Hay

In addition to increasing engagement by personalising interactions, explore the options of extending your self-service portfolio while keeping it relevant to customer needs.

Be prepared to experiment, it’s a vital part of continuous improvement.

Thanks to Colin Hay at Puzzel

Do: Back It Up With a Centralised Knowledge Base

To ensure high-quality, consistent service, it is very helpful if both your self-service and advisor-assisted service operate from the same knowledge base.

A thumbnail picture of Anand Subramaniam

Anand Subramaniam

If not, your customers will get inconsistent answers, which will make them go answer-shopping on different channels, which is a lose–lose for the customer, in terms of their experience and also in terms of business costs.

Also, if you can integrate your self-service with other contact centres systems, like the CRM, you can provide useful information to advisors who handle other contacts from customers who use self-service. This will make the advisor experience easier down the line.

Thanks to Anand Subramaniam at eGain

DO: Let Customers Help Each Other Out

The most effective solutions to customers’ issues can come from the experiences of other customers, and with 89% of consumers expecting organisations to offer online self-service support, a community portal can form a key component of your customer success strategy.

A thumbnail photo of Artur Michalczyk

Artur Michalczyk

If implemented effectively and managed well, this platform can be invaluable in enabling customers to report issues and look for solutions.

You can also use the community portal to assess what  customers are struggling with, which will provide useful information for other departments, such as the design team.

Thanks to Artur Michalczyk at NewVoiceMedia

DO: Consider How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Can Improve Self-Service Options

Digital self-service platforms that incorporate RPA technology enable the easy intervention of a human advisor in the case that something goes wrong.

Increasing self-service take-up and satisfaction requires investments in solutions that prevent customers from being left alone when facing a problem.

A thumbnail picture of Catherine Gurwitz

Catherine Gurwitz

In a situation where human judgement is required, self-service technology will ideally be able to simply route to a human advisor without the customer having to ask for it.

With RPA, if a process error occurs, the intelligent desktop robot will immediately alert an advisor, who will then be able to call or open a chat conversation with the customer to resolve the issue in real time.

Thanks to Catherine Gurwitz at NICE

DO: Think About Automating Chat Interactions

Reducing calls to advisors for transactional and self-service issues by implementing a chatbot enables the advisors to focus their efforts on handling the trickier call types.

The 24/7 availability of chatbots with features like checking on the status of an order or billing questions also minimises handling time and boosts customer satisfaction.

A thumbnail picture of Brent Bischoff

Brent Bischoff

In addition, implementing conversational AI systems which combine voice and digital functionality can also automate the complex, repetitive enquiries that advisors are handling today.

Once configured in voice, these solutions scale to digital channels like live chat, SMS, Facebook Messenger and Skype.

Thanks to Brent Bischoff at Business Systems

The Don’ts

DON’T: Forget About Your Self-Service Systems Once You Have Automated Them

Many organisations today do the hard work of installing and deploying their digital self-service systems but then forget about them once they have been implemented. It’s a major mistake, as customer behaviour changes continuously and businesses are always evolving.

Every organisation using self-service platforms needs to be tracking and monitoring them all the time.

Every organisation using self-service platforms needs to be tracking and monitoring them all the time.  They need to understand where in the process people are using them intensively and generating positive results but also where people are getting frustrated and abandoning the self-service process altogether.

It is especially critical that any self-service approach can run reports and generate data that enables you to pinpoint the moment in the process where most customers are leaving you.

By identifying and revising these areas of customer frustration, you can protect your organisation from frustrating customers who purposely choose self-service for an easy experience.

Thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

DON’T: Force Customers Down the Self-Service Route

Technology has helped automate customer service, but there’s a limit to how much you should rely on it. The golden rule should be: use machines when it benefits customers, use humans when a personal interaction matters most.

When customers want service with a human touch, they want it genuine, useful and personal. Despite the increasing demand for self-service, there will always be customers who prefer speaking to a real person.

For this reason, ensuring your business includes a well-run contact centre within an omnichannel approach will go a long way to keeping the shoppers of tomorrow happy.

Thanks to Artur Michalczyk at NewVoiceMedia

DON’T: Assume Only Certain Customer Types Would Choose Self-Service

Don’t assume the ‘older generation’ won’t want to use self-service – if the product works, they’ll use it (think of Amazon’s success).

Just because a customer would prefer not to use self-service now, it doesn’t mean that they will have the same attitude towards it in a couple of years’ time.

Just remember that we are all on a digital journey, but we’re just at different stages. Just because a customer would prefer not to use self-service now, it doesn’t mean that they will have the same attitude towards it in a couple of years’ time. So, don’t design self-service as a strictly “young person” channel.

Also, don’t miss the opportunity to match the look and feel of the self-service facility to your brand. It’ll help to build loyalty.

Thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions

DON’T: Provide Self-Service for the Wrong Issues

Offering digital self-service can cause more harm than good if you are not offering it where your customers want it.

Findings from The CallMiner Index highlight that just over a third (36%) of respondents listed the phone as their first preferred method to interact with suppliers.

However, almost double the number of consumers (61%) used the phone to contact suppliers because they had a problem – a problem that could have been resolved via another channel.

Thumbnail image of Frank Sherlock

Frank Sherlock

By analysing contact centre interaction, you will understand why people use each channel and you can then provide the right resources to meet those needs.

Also, by conducting this analysis with a speech analytics system, you can point customers in the right direction to use the right channel at the right time, meaning happier customers, happier advisors and reduced customer churn.

Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner

DON’T: Over-Complicate Your Self-Service Design

There is always a temptation to build every imaginable feature into a self-service portal. However, if it isn’t intuitive for the average user, they will simply pick up the phone, placing additional demand on your contact centre’s live advisors.

Increasingly, customers prefer to find the answers to queries themselves, in their own time, rather than spend precious minutes on the phone.

Any customer channel without well signposted FAQs, how-to tutorials and account information with transactional capability is prone to customer dissatisfaction.

Clear, succinct and responsive software will help customers find the information they need without challenging live advisor resource.

Thanks to Brent Bischoff at Business Systems

DON’T: Make It a Silo

Many customer conversations start with digital self-service nowadays, but some then will inevitably get escalated to human advisors.

It is important to ensure that the customer does not have to repeat context, already shared in the self-service session, when the call is escalated to the advisor. This will aggravate the customer further, who might have already been frustrated that he/she had to escalate.

With this in mind, more and more contact centres are taking a “digital-first” approach, implementing an omnichannel customer service solution to avoid creating context and knowledge silos.

Thanks to Anand Subramaniam at eGain

More Self-Service Advice From Our Readers

In addition to the thoughts of our great panel of experts, we also wanted to share the thoughts of our knowledgeable readers, who sent in their self-service best practices.

Here are our seven favourites, including the thoughts of industry expert Paul Weald.

1. Understand the Context Behind the Self-Service Experience

We need to take the time to understand the context of what they’re trying to do, why they’re using the self-service system and then whether you’re providing the right functionality.

So if, for example, you’re a banking customer and you’ve got an online self-service capability, then have you got all of the functionalities that customers would regularly use?

Lastly, is the self-service intuitive and simple from a user experience perspective?

If, from a customer support perspective, these things aren’t in place, then people are going to start dropping out of the underlying journey straightaway, which causes customer frustration.

2. Look For Solutions That Retain Context

There are some intermediary steps, such as providing an email address or a hyperlink from the mobile site to the online capability that make easy for a confused customer to bounce from a self-service system into the contact centre.

Howver, they don’t necessarily make it the best experience for the customer or the advisor, as the customer will have to repeat the problem to the advisor, who has nothing to work from.

So, I would advocate moving towards the solutions here that actually retain the context when a customer needs to actually contact you.

You can do this with a clear omnichannel strategy and through things like click-to-call/chat links in mobile devices, which can share historical, geographical and personal information with the advisor.

3. Map Your Self-Service Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The golden rule is that you have to be able to track how well your self-service strategy is working – so, in your business case, you’d certainly want to map the benefits to your KPIs.

In other words, you need to be clear about our self-service goals – whether that is driving down contact volumes or improving customer experience – and identify which KPIs we can measure to assess our success in meeting our goal.

So, you’d want to be able to measure the before and after the difference that any additional functionality online is actually provided and also be prepared to continuously improve.

Thanks to Paul Weald, a Contact Centre Innovator at MCX 

4. Be Careful With How You Use Chatbots in Self-Service

I believe you have to be incredible careful how you use your chatbot automation, as there is nothing more frustrating when you want to speak to an advisor.

We use a simple chatbot to speed up our identification and verification (ID&V) process, while we also  have automated our payment IVR to takes all account payment.

Thanks to Chris 

For more guidance on better using chatbots in the contact centre, read our article: 7 Things They Won’t Tell You About Installing a Chatbot

5. Ensure That Your Team Understand the Self-Service Journey

It is always good to remember that your company is judged by your agents’ abilities to help customers navigate those complex situations and resolve the answers to the difficult questions.

Never forget when implementing automation, that your agents are still an important part of your company, when customers want a solution, not just information.

Your contact centre agents are vital when customers want someone to help them navigate a situation they couldn’t handle on their own or through self-service options.

Thanks to Amber 

6. Follow This Six-Step Implementation Process

To ensure the self-service of your organization works smoothly and efficiently, you can follow this six step implementation process.

  1. Invest in better Knowledge Management
  2. Offer Choices…
  3. Support mobile access to self-service capabilities
  4. Recognize the difference between UI and UX
  5. Exploit existing corporate automation capabilities
  6. Ensure maintenance of your self-service is done regularly

7. Be Proactive With Live Chat

A very simple way we pushed self-service is preemptive chat on all of our webpages.

The chatbot will pop up after someone is sitting on a page for more than 30 seconds – saving a lot of potential phone calls.

Complex enquiries are then transferred to live agents.

For more ideas for being more proactive in the contact centre, read our article: 7 Ideas for Proactive Customer Service

Find more great content from our panel of experts, by reading our articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 3rd Jun 2019 - Last modified: 11th Jan 2023
Read more about - Technology, , , , , , , , , ,

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