Don’t Let Self-Service Channels Become “No Service”

During the focus groups I’ve facilitated for clients, one of the common questions that customers ask is, “Why doesn’t (company) want to me to talk to their representatives?” Further probing and discussion uncovers reasons why they are frustrated with the self-service options offered by many companies and why they feel “pushed” to a channel they don’t want or don’t understand.

Most customers eventually tell me that they have no objection to finding answers or updating information online themselves unless it ends up creating a lot of work for them, including a call or email being necessary to really get the answer needed.

These are some issues I’ve experienced personally as a customer or heard expressed during customer focus groups and feedback:

Hard to use products with mixed messages for support

How many clicks and pages does the customer have to navigate through to find the information they are seeking? For example, a company sells adapters for USB to Ethernet online and vaguely says you “should be able to just plug and use.” I had to search online beyond their website to find other customers discussing the same problem I had. I found out there is a driver that can be installed when the plug-in doesn’t connect. Then, I had to go back to their website and dig through support pages to find it. How many customers will give up and just return the product, or search for the service phone number?

Broken links

A company has put “clickable” links on their website but during some updating of the site later, they didn’t test the page links and customers find that the link now goes to the message every customer hates to receive: “Page no longer available.” Start clicking on your website links and see if you are providing the customer experience they need.

Website knowledgebase differs from what agent has

I see something on the website that I mention to the agent during a phone call. The agent tells me that my information is incorrect and proceeds to tell me something totally different that they have in their own knowledgebase. This often happens when special offers or amenities change for hospitality groups and the poor agents have to tell customers they have no idea what they are talking about. Embarrassing for the agent and upsetting for the customer.

One way to rectify this situation is to ask agents to document these types of issues during down times and help to create updated knowledgebase information for future interactions. Taking advantage of this otherwise idle time for your agents makes them more knowledgeable, helpful and productive.

Unclear directions that result in a call

Do your instructions help them or just end of driving frustrated customers to your contact center for help? The goal of self-service should be a great customer experience, including the efficiency of all customer channels. Increasing call volume is a negative for everyone involved.

Customers not educated how to use the self-service channel

Many agents feel the time constraints we give them and won’t spend the time needed to walk a customer through a “how to use” discussion regarding the self-service options. How can you help the customer to gain comfort with using your self-service options? Your agents need to feel comfortable with the system themselves and be able to communicate clearly and positively how to use.

This is where the importance of making training a priority becomes clear. Schedule time to train agents on ways to make self-service easy and beneficial for customers.

Customers feel they are being “pushed” to self-service when they don’t want it

Not all of our customers are on-board with self-help, especially if they have had issues with it in the past. Some may also feel that they have paid for our service or products and we need to personally help them instead of pushing them to do it on their own. There is a big difference between offering to explain to a customer how to find the information online next time and doing a hard sell of your self-service system. There must be a way for agents to note that they discussed self-service with the customer and the customer’s lack of interest in it so the next agent isn’t selling the customer the same self-service pitch. Your queue management tactics might even include having agents monitor the self-service channel as volume allows.

Help your agents understand customer self-service fears and spend time training them on ways to overcome customer complaints and fears from poor self-service. Walk through self-service options with your center team and find ways to make them most successful for both agents and customers. Automate intraday activities in a way that supports your self-service channel, and your customers will find value in self-service and your agents will be more effective, too.

About the author

Since 1983, Melissa has partnered with Contact Centers and Retail Teams to help them develop strategies, operational processes and skills to successfully blend People, Process and Technology for Customer Experience success.

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