Did you know that most of the customers who contact your call center have already been on your website to self-diagnose their issue and/or try to resolve it themselves? It's true. In fact, 73% of customers prefer to visit a company’s website before contacting customer service.1
Digital self-service isn't just a convenience for consumers, it also factors into who they choose to do business with. Our research found that 84% of consumers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options. But only 61% of consumers say companies offer easy, convenient self-service.2 "Easy and convenient" digital self-service can include helpful FAQ pages, AI-powered virtual agents, and a clear path to agent assistance, all available on the customer's device of choice.
Digital self-service is a huge opportunity to meet customer demands and deflect costly agent-assisted interactions. But to maximize this opportunity, organizations need to develop the right digital self-service strategy and implement effective solutions. This article will provide several tips for making self-service solutions amazing.
Common digital self-service solutions
There are many ways to deliver digital self-service, but there’s no single "right" solution or combination of solutions. An organization's self-service offerings will depend on factors such as customer demographics and the nature of issues customers need or want to resolve themselves. Below is a discussion of some of the ways to empower customers to DIY.
FAQ pages may be one of the oldest, simple-to-implement forms of digital self-service. But don't write them off just because they’re "old school." FAQ pages can be very effective at deflecting customer service contacts, and they can also help with SEO. Contact center leaders should analyze contact types to identify good candidates for the FAQ page and then collaborate with the web team to get the information added to the site.
Searchable knowledge base
A searchable knowledge base is a good alternative or supplement to an FAQ page. The search function should recognize natural language, so users don't have to guess the magic words to get the answers they need. Additionally, a good knowledge management system can be used by both customers and agents to provide a single source of truth. This will ensure customers receive consistent information regardless of the channel they use. And because 66% of customers use a search engine like Google to find solutions to issues3, knowledge bases should be available to search engines.
FAQ pages and searchable knowledge bases are great for providing information, but mobile apps can take digital self-service a step further by allowing customers to complete transactions on their own. For example, the Uber app lets users order an Uber, rate and tip their driver, sign up for the rewards program, view past trips, and send gift cards. And for users that need help, there's even an FAQ page.
AI-powered virtual agents
There are many bot options available today ranging from rule-based chatbots that can answer simple questions to AI-powered virtual agents that can understand human language and intent, facilitate end-to-end digital self-service transactions, and become smarter with use. Consumer adoption of bots is steadily increasing, and businesses are using them in creative ways to improve the customer journey by providing satisfying DIY options.
For examples of some of the best bots out there, read "Best examples of chatbots and what makes them great."
Self-service customer portal
Self-service customer portals can combine all the functionality we just discussed, plus added features such as how-to videos and access to important customer documents. As an example, a full-service financial services firm's digital self-service portal might allow customers to print their auto insurance cards, pay their credit card bills, apply for a mortgage, check the status of a claim, and more. This, of course, requires a high level of system integration, but making it easy for customers improves customer loyalty can reduce call center volume!
Common goals of digital self-service
Businesses offer digital self-service, and consumers use it, with specific goals in mind. Fortunately, the goals complement each other and create a win-win situation.
Typical goals of consumers include:
- Make informed decisions. Facts available on FAQ pages or through knowledge bases allow users to digest the information at their own pace and take the time needed to make informed decisions they’re comfortable with. This is especially true with complex information that might not be completely grasped in a conversation with an agent.
- Resolve their own issues. Once someone makes an informed decision, they could proceed to resolve their own issue if the digital self-service allows it. For example, after reading up on airline flight cancelation policies and deciding that rescheduling the flight is in his best interest, a customer could reschedule the flight himself using self-service tools.
- Perform simple, everyday transactions. In today’s world, most of us have ordered a pizza, paid a bill, checked an account balance, or changed an address through digital self-service. Consumers can now handle tasks for themselves that used to require agent assistance. This convenience has become part of normal life.
What are the common goals of businesses that offer digital self-service? It's a combination of money and CX. Here are some typical goals:
- Cost savings. Cost savings is a top motivator for offering digital self-service. Every successful self-service transaction represents an interaction that didn't need to be handled by an agent. One study found that as much as 40% of agent-assisted interactions could be diverted to self-service.4 When you consider that an average agent-assisted interaction costs $8.01 compared to $.10 for an average self-service transaction,5 the cost savings can really add up.
- Offering round-the-clock support. Today's consumers expect businesses to be available to them 24/7, but it often doesn't make financial sense to keep a contact center open round-the-clock. Digital self-service is a great way for organizations to stay connected with customers all the time. It's a good balance of cost savings and CX - businesses can avoid the cost of a 24/7 contact center while still providing satisfying DIY experiences.
- Answer customer demands. Imagine doing business with a bank that didn't offer online services that enable you to set up automatic bill payments, transfer funds to other accounts, or view account history. You would probably find a different bank, as would most consumers. Digital self-service is expected in our digital world and businesses that don't offer it may find themselves lagging behind their competitors.
8 tips for making digital self-service amazing
Offering effective digital self-service that meets customer expectations and reduces costs should be part of every contact center's operational strategy. But, as discussed, many consumers find self-service options lacking. Use the following tips to make your digital self-service offerings amazing.
Tip 1 - Design a digital self-service strategy based on customer input
There are many data points that indicate tasks that customers could complete through digital self-service. For starters, analyze contact types, what customers search for on your website, and what your competitors are doing. But just because your customers could complete certain transactions through self-service doesn't mean they want to. Once you analyze possibilities and have a shortlist of self-service task candidates, ask your customers for input. You may find, for example, that customers like the idea of self-service bill pay but prefer agent assistance for billing issues. Knowing customer preferences will help ensure you build solutions they will actually use.
Tip 2 – Put self-service in a place in the customer journey that makes sense
Have you ever visited a new website and, before you've had a chance to look around, been greeted by a chatbot who asks if you need help? Personally, I find that a little disruptive, especially when a search engine has brought me to the specific article I need. Putting self-service in exactly the right place takes analysis and some trial and error. As an example, you might find that chatbots are effective when people pause on a specific page for longer than average, a possible indication that they need help.
Tip 3 - Look for a highly visible starting point
A comprehensive digital self-service strategy can take some investment, especially if it includes virtual agents and mobile app development. A quick win in a highly visible starting point can help the initiative build momentum by showing business leaders that the investment will lead to higher customer satisfaction, reduced costs, or both.
Tip 4 - Be realistic about capabilities and limitations
If you want digital self-service to be successful, you need to be realistic about capabilities and limitations. An AI-powered virtual agent has many more capabilities than a simple, rule-based chatbot, but they'll both be most successful when applied to simple, narrowly defined tasks. The same applies to other DIY solutions. Identify what those tasks are and stick to them. And if self-service isn't the right channel for a customer, direct them to a more appropriate one. Digital self-service adoption will suffer if you try to exceed its abilities.
Tip 5 - Create a clear, seamless path to agent assistance
Did you know that half of customers who attempt self-service will end up seeking agent assistance?6 Following the tips in this section can help reduce that number, but the fact remains that many of your customers will need more help than self-service can provide. Plan and design your DIY solutions so that customers have a clear path to an agent. For example, "click to call" links should be prominent for mobile users. And customers shouldn't be required to repeat their issues to agents - ensure agents have easy access to what happened in the digital self-service attempt.
Tip 6 - Continuously refine your digital self-service offerings
A good digital self-service strategy also includes plans to continuously measure and improve. No customer-facing channel is "set it and forget it," especially one where customers are trying to help themselves. Incorporate self-service KPIs, such as success rates, into your contact center dashboard so they receive regular attention. And make ongoing improvements a priority by including them in your budget and allocating necessary resources.
Tip 7 - Leverage artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence has been a game-changer for customer service, making interactions more personalized with capabilities such as smarter routing and real-time agent coaching. AI can also be used to make digital self-service more effective and satisfying. Natural language processing (NLP) enables customers to chat with virtual agents in a natural, conversational manner rather than being limited to a few menu options like those served up by rule-based bots. These same language capabilities can also enhance mobile app self-service experiences.
Tip 8 - Tap into the power of cloud technology
Staying current with your customers' demands for digital self-service requires a flexible, scalable cloud contact center platform. Industry-leading cloud vendors continuously leverage the latest technology to add new software features, including innovative self-service capabilities which can easily be turned on and off. Plus, the use of open APIs common to cloud computing makes integrations with back-office systems easier, enabling more end-to-end DIY transaction types. And when your digital self-service channels are wildly successful and volumes increase substantially, a cloud solution can easily scale with the higher demand.
For more statistics about customer self-service, download our infographic, “Smarter Self Service Helps Customers Help Themselves.”
Ready to implement digital self-service?
Self-service used to be available only through IVRs that required callers to navigate endless menus, often with unsatisfying results. Fortunately, technology has advanced, empowering users to help themselves by providing more effective options. Although technology has changed, people's desire for convenience has not. Your customers want to choose convenient ways to interact with you, including digital self-service. Are you meeting their expectations?
NICE CXone can help. NICE CXone is the market-leading cloud customer experience platform in use by thousands of customers of all sizes around the world to help them consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. CXone allows you to engage your customers anytime, anywhere, including through digital self-service.
Visit our product page to learn how our conversational AI bots for voice and chat can transform your self-service experiences.
4 Gartner: Rethink Your Customer Service Strategy to Drive Self-Service (2019)
5 Gartner: Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver? (2020)