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Last month, we talked about reasons to consider providing or enhancing self-service options. As well as offloading tedious work for your agents, self-service options can improve customer satisfaction and contact center operations, which in turn, supports your organization’s contribution to higher-level business objectives.

As with any new initiative, you want to make sure that your investment – time, money, or resources—is going to give you the best return possible. In terms of offering self-service options, this generally means providing the information that provides the highest value using a convenient and accessible delivery method.

Let’s look at some considerations and tips for making the most of your investment in self-service options.

Consider the information that most of your customers want to know

Typically, self-service content covers the issues that are most frequently discussed with agents. This coverage provides a solid return on investment because it’s relatively easy to identify these issues, and providing answers via self-service diverts the greatest number of calls from the queue. Whether you provide answers to the top ten service issues, or registration and warranty information for your three top-selling products,  offloading calls about these standard questions makes more agents available to customers with more complex or urgent issues.

Consider how much information is needed

After covering the most common information needs, you may want to offer more content as you gain experience and understanding of the types of information that provide value to your customers. You’ll also become more adept at creating content, which reduces costs. For example, if creating “Show Me” videos for your website is a new initiative driven by self-service, you’ll find that, over time, your staff develops the skills and expertise to produce videos more efficiently.

One caution here is that you need to be careful not to overload your customers with information. They’re already searching for information because they need to deal with some issue. If you provide so much information that they can’t find what they need, you may defeat the goal of self-service, which is to offload the call volume in your queues. Customers may simply give up on self-service options and call your contact center to talk with an agent.

Consider how your customers access information

There’s no point in investing time and resources to provide information via self-service if your customers don’t know that it’s available or how to find it. While online communities and chat options are becoming more popular as self-service options, your customers may not be aware of them if they’ve traditionally contacted you by phone.

When you first introduce new self-service options, notify your customers and provide the information they need to find the options (such as both the URL for your website and an indicator of where the options are available on the website).

Important points to consider here are the demographics and technological expertise of your customers. For example, it’s probably safe to assume that most customers today are comfortable using IVR systems. However, online options, and to a greater extent, social media channels, may be less familiar to your customers. Directing customers to your FaceBook page for information that’s important to them will frustrate customers who  may have previously chosen not to use FaceBook for personal reasons.

Here are a couple of specific tips to keep in mind when implementing any self-service offering:

  • Provide self-service as a choice, not a requirement.

Forcing customers to wait in a queue while listening to information they don’t need is a good way to decrease customer satisfaction levels.

  • Be specific about the information that’s available.

Because self-service should be offered as a customer choice, make it attractive. For example, customers are less likely to use an IVR option described as “Press 1 for frequently asked questions” as options described as “Press 1 for information about returning products. Press 2 for information about warranty coverage and terms”.

  • Avoid dead-ends once information has been provided.

Beware of creating scenarios where customers who are unsuccessful when using a self-service option won’t ever give it another chance. Let’s say that a customer chooses to listen to troubleshooting tips provided as an IVR option. The customer doesn’t receive the information needed to resolve the current issue, but no option is available for returning to the queue. Instead the customer can only choose to listen to the information again or hang up. This customer is unlikely to use the self-service option in the future because overall, time was better spent waiting to talk with an agent.

A successful self-service offering gets more use over time. Customers who have had a positive experience will use these options again, possibly even before attempting to contact an agent through more traditional methods.

In addition to increased use, there are other indicators that your investment in self-service is paying off. Abandoned call rates may go down because customers use IVR options to get the information they need instead of hanging up if they are frustrated with wait times. You can assume that callers got the information they were looking for if they hung up after listening to the tips. Interestingly, overall call duration may increase. Because customers with basic issues can find answers using other resources, your agents may be dealing with customers who have more complex issues. Talk to your agents about their perceptions of the overall call quality if you want to confirm this assumption.

If you’re considering introducing self-service offerings as a new initiative, we encourage you to investigate the diversity of offerings available today. It’s important to find a match between the offerings you provide and their perceived value by your customers. While this may seem overwhelming at first, if you have a good understanding of your customers, you can work with your agents to develop the information resources that make the effort worthwhile.

See you next month.

Tags: abandon rates, best practices, business objectives, call volume, communication channels, customer satisfaction, customers, operating costs, self-service.

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