Self-service is finally coming of age, with leading enterprises embracing the paradigm of customers helping themselves. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 10% of initial B2C interactions will be virtual, up from less than 1% in 2019. But it turns out that not all self-service options are created equal.
Walmart axed its Mobile Express Scan & Go self-checkout experience due to negative feedback from customers. The pilot required them to download an app, self-scan items as they shopped and then show proof of payment before exiting the store. Turns out this was too much work. Yes, it allowed customers to avoid checkout lines, but it seems the company failed to consider the significance of customer effort.
Other retailers have taken note and are creating self-service experiences that are virtually effortless. Amazon Go plans to open 3,000 “Just Walk Out” unmanned stores by 2021, each powered by hundreds of cameras and sensors enabling customers to shop and pay without any human interaction. And they’re not the only ones. Rival companies including Standard Cognition and Trigo Vision are also rolling out cashierless technology and Microsoft is also getting in on the act through a strategic partnership with Walmart. Their shared aim is to offer the ultimate in effortless customer experience through Computer Vision AI technology.
Customers demand simplicity
Consumers are happy to embrace innovation, but their priorities are dependability, consistency and simplicity. Research shows that companies that eliminate inefficiencies along the customer journey increase revenues by as much as 10–15%, while simultaneously lowering the cost to serve by up to 20%. Meanwhile, moving from providing a high effort customer experience to a low effort one cuts costs by 37%, while high-effort experiences drive disloyalty for 96% of customers. Any business seeking to create a successful self-service strategy should ensure the technology is straightforward and intuitive. Above all, it must be obvious to the customer that it’s designed to make their life easier.
Determine when customers want self-service
Context is key. While self-service may be ideal for simple service interactions — password changes, online returns, rental car reservations — customers often fail to appreciate the DIY approach in other fields, such as supermarkets and healthcare. For some, even pumping their own gas is too much effort. Figuring out when self-service is appropriate and how it should be best executed is more important than quickly implementing a self-service option in order to reduce staff workload. Here are the five steps enterprises need to follow in order to create a successful self-service strategy.
Step 1: Set clear goals
When it comes to creating an effective AI-based self-service system, determine which customer experiences or use cases would benefit most from self-service, while keeping in mind organizational resources. A self-service strategy should consider convenience and speed, since today’s customers require real-time responses, personalization which builds trust and loyalty, efficiency in order to reduce the administrative burden on the company, and automation that delivers effortless interactions.
Step 2: Define and enhance customer journeys
The quality of the customer journey defines their relationship with the organization. Understanding current customer-facing processes helps enterprises highlight customer needs and pain points, allowing it to remove any obstacles and make its self-service strategy efficient and intuitive.
Companies therefore need to plot every conceivable customer flow, including call defection from the contact center to self-service, initiation of self-service sessions from all channels, and the potential need for a warm transfer between self-service and live agent service. They must then take steps to enhance the customer experience to the point where an effortless experience is being provided and long-term customer loyalty is being built.
Step 3: Choose the right engagement channels
Today’s contact centers are made up of complex combinations of humans and virtual assistants — using both natural and artificial intelligence, operating over multiple channels and using a wide range of tools to solve customers’ issues. When designing a self-service strategy, it’s vital to ensure that each channel is matched with the right approach or technology. On the most basic level, human agents may need to handle more complex interactions, while AI-based self-service platforms can focus on the most common scenarios and issues.
For companies such as telcos, insurers, consumer electronics suppliers and utilities providers, these common scenarios typically account for 40–50% of overall contact center volumes. By building robust conversational interfaces that can handle these scenarios, a company can develop a solid basis for further development.
Steps toward continuous improvement can be achieved by creating a broad knowledge base from the right blend of synthetic data, agent expertise and existing resources provided by customers, such as when they describe issues and experiences on the company’s social media channels.
Step 4: Place self-service at the core of a Customer Engagement Hub
Any winning self-service strategy must be customer-centric. Once the customer journey is understood and the appropriate channels chosen, organizations must push their technological boundaries to develop solutions that will truly benefit their customers. An effective Customer Engagement Hub will likely include enterprise architecture and technology from multiple vendors.
The CEH should encompass process design focused on customer journeys, multichannel experience management, process orchestration that goes beyond the organization’s boundaries, centralization of interactions and analytics covering end-to-end customer journeys.
Step 5: Evaluate self-service engagement
Once implemented, closed loop feedback using data-driven analytics should be incorporated into evaluating and refining the self-service strategy. Clear metrics and KPIs should be used to determine whether the organization is achieving defined goals and whether the strategy is meeting the needs of the customers.
A successful self-service strategy will result in improved Customer Experience Metrics such as higher satisfaction scores, improved Customer Effort Score, higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) and greater loyalty. These results should then translate into repeat orders, more referrals and lower churn. Operational metrics such as lower cost of service and response times should also be constantly evaluated.
Self-service shouldn’t be primarily about cost savings, but about delivering the best possible customer experience — and that means seeing things from their perspective. To build a successful self-service strategy, enterprises should set clear goals for themselves, understand and enhance customers’ journeys, choose the proper engagement channels, make self-service a central part of its infrastructure, and use the right metrics to evaluate success. Above all, the aim has to be ensuring that self-service is entirely effortless for the customer.
This article was first published on the TechSee blog.