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Letting the Customer Do Most of the Work

So, as the world becomes increasingly connected how can 60K clients use technology to contain or reduce their contact centre costs and improve the customer experience ?... and the key word is “and” because the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive !.

If most of your customers are already active online, it makes sense to put in place an online solution….obvious really. A solution where customers can search for help themselves at a time that is convenient to them and also when they are on the move.

The Nuance Enterprise Customer survey concluded that 75% of respondents said self-service is convenient as it is available 24/7, but perhaps surprisingly found that 67% said they preferred self-service rather than engage a live agent with a call. However from a Business perspective, perhaps the most revealing response was that 40% of customers only call an agent after they have looked online to find the answer themselves. Separate research by Zendesk found that 91% of customers surveyed would use an online knowledge base if it met their needs.

So with customers becoming increasing comfortable with self-service because of its convenience it surely makes sense for Businesses to provide an online customer self-service solution and there is a clear business case for doing so. This was clearly evidenced by Forrester and Oracle in their in-depth study, when they tracked costs for handling support across multiple channels. Their research concluded that web self-service can reduce costs by as much as $11 per call, ranging from a technical helpdesk call costing on average $12 to handle compared with an equivalent customer web self-service search of just $0.10.

With web self-service being a win/win for customers and Businesses, adoption of this approach is becoming more widespread. Indeed, the Aberdeen Group in their 2017 Customer Experience Study concluded that 55% of Businesses surveyed already offer some form of customer self-service and another 30% were actively considering introducing customer self-service.

So it seems clear that todays customers are not just ready for self-service but they actually prefer it over other forms of support. As customer self-service is less expensive than other support channels, there is a positive return on investment for Business. The caveat though is that this is only true if the self-service portal is effective, has relevant and up-to-date content and is easy to use.

So how do you start implementing a customer self-service strategy ?.

There are several online knowledge base solutions on the market with similar functionality. These include Zendesk, Freshdesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, Live Agent, Oracle (formerly RightNow Technology and Inbenta to name just a few. The last two I have personal experience of using and achieved self-service rates of over 80%.

The obvious but often ignored starting point, is to understand why your customers are contacting you. This would normally entail some form of contact disposition. It does not have to be anything sophisticated or expensive but a simple agent “after-call” record of the nature or reason for the customer call, email, facebook message, etc. This will identify the key drivers or trends for customer contact. Most Businesses already have the basis of this anyway online with some standard Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) on their websites.

Using the customer contact trends, you can then develop a library of relevant content that should answer as many of the past received enquiries. This “knowledge base” of information on customer content should be written in an informal, conversational style that can be read clearly and easily. Use video and audio where possible and avoid long written text which will put customers off searching for an answer.

As customer contacts continue to be received, the ongoing contact disposition logging should continue to identify new content that should be added to the knowledgebase. The net effect is that the knowledge base becomes a dynamic library of customer related contact and the Business should aim to invest more resources in to optimizing the knowledge base rather than slavishly answering the same type of call, email or any other channel. Old and out-of-date content should be removed from the knowledge base to keep it up-to-date and relevant.

The opportunity for a customer to submit an email or online message should only be possible after they have searched the knowledge base themselves. This naturally maximises self-service and minimises the number of emails submitted for live agent response. The philosophy should be that every new incoming contact, having firstly searched the knowledgebase should be seen as a “lost opportunity” for customer self-service, and as a consequence a flaw in the knowledgebase which should be reviewed and new or amended content assed to the knowledge base to avoid a further or recurring contact being received. This process will eventually become a virtuous cycle of continually refreshing the knowledgebase with ever relevant content and thereby increasing the rate of self-service.

So the 6 tips to a better online self-service solution

  • 1.Constantly analyse incoming customer contacts and build a knowledgebase of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)
  • 2.Make it easy for the customer. Use an informal, conversational style of content and use video and audio where possible.
  • 3.Keep the knowledgebase content up-to-date and perhaps make someone responsible for this role.
  • 4.Ensure the online self-service solution you choose makes use of the search fields feature made popular by Google, Amazon and eBay, etc, but also includes Natural Language Processing (NLP) where the full context of a “string of text” can be understood by the knowledge base and return appropriate content rather than groups of content relating to the individual words typed in the search field. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) within the solutions will optimise the performance of the knowledge base content returned. Most of the vendor solutions listed earlier will have this functionality.
  • 5.Optimise your self-service solution for desktop, tablet and mobile users. It is important that you offer consistency across contact channels. A Basekit survey concluded that 91% of the websites they visited were not mobile friendly.
  • 6.Last but not least, ensure that you have adequate resources focused on managing and maintaining the knowledgebase. Try not to be tempted to put all your agent resource on answering emails because of service level challenges. The key objective is to develop the content in the knowledge base to enable self-service and avoid future email or online contacts. So the emails that are handled take on a new meaning beyond a reply to the customer, as valuable intelligence of where new content needs to be created and added to the knowledge base to avoid repeat contacts. You get the “biggest bang for your buck” through an effective knowledge base rather than handling individual emails !.

Thank you for reading and I hope this blog may have helped fellow professionals to improve their online self-service strategy and adapt to the great customer-lead switch to engaging digitally…

Phil Jennings is a Business Consultant for 60K, an award winning multi-lingual outsourced Contact Centre based in Bulgaria. 60K provide existing and potential Clients with free, no commitment, Business consultancy to help them handle their digital and voice channels more efficiently and reduce their costs.

Just reach out to Phil at phil.jennings@60k.com if you would like to discuss any aspect of this Blog or if you would like some free consultancy. He will be happy to help…

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