Self Service of Cents and Sensibility Part 2

Self Service of Cents and Sensibility Part 2

By: Colin Taylor

In part 1 of this three part series we looked at the history of service service, the challenges organizations and customer face when trying to interact via self service, the most popular and preferred self service channels, costs and effectiveness and declining success rates. In this part we examine Customer perceptions regarding self service, best practices for ebilling and IVR and Self Service and the Call Center.

Customer Perceptions
What if we could peek inside the head of our customers and see what they really think about self service, what would we discover? Research completed by Paul Hudson found that customer perception is that self-service is associated with speed, convenience, simplicity……and technology – but not associated with offering support, being caring, or personalized. However, the words ‘customer service’ is associated with care, support, personalized, but less associated with being fast and convenient.

Two out of three U.S. consumers surveyed want self-service options when shopping. Nearly half of U.S. shoppers surveyed under the age of 45 want stores to offer self-checkout. Almost 46 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed want stores to offer more self-service options, like self-checkout or kiosks, to improve their shopping experience.

In looking at customer perceptions we have to realize that – 1-perceptions are not static, they can change over time –People who refused to pump their own gas or use an ATM when these SS technologies were introduced happily do so today. And 2-That perceptions are shaped by the customers environment and by their self interest and specifically is something is: A) Easier, B) Faster, C) Less Expensive

Self Service and the Call Center

According to ICMI, 79.5 of centres offer Self Service. Reasons for Implementation where headed up by : operating cost reductions (83.4%) and meeting customer demand for service options (74.3%). Over half (64%) of respondents don’t know if or when a customer has tried to self-serve but then opted for a live representative.

Among the tools contact centers use to support Web self-service channels, in particular, leaders emerged: issue tracking (53%), knowledge management (44.6%) and service management tools (42.3%).
A troubling 43.6%, almost half of respondents, don’t measure customer feedback on their centers’ self-service channels.

Regardless of the self service channels employed in the call center, each center still has to determine what to do with:
 The 13% that opt out of the IVR?
 The 40% who are still on your website?
 The 2/3 that have already tried to find the answer?
 Silo distance between call centre and ‘owners’ of the web?

Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ’s are often one of the first self service tools adopted. If questions can be self contained and completely answer the question they are well suited for web service. 80% of questions can generally be answered by FAQ’s . Yet FAQ’s are near the bottom of the self service tools employed by customers
1. Shopping carts (for products/services)
2. Order confirmation
3. Order tracking
4. Appointment setting/rescheduling
5. Bill pay and funds transfer
6. Personal account access, set up and management
7. Site search
8. FAQ’s
9. Opening and checking tickets

So how do we implement and drive self service adoption? The graphic below illustrates the considerations that need to be addressed and aligned.

Consumer must be ready, they must understand their role (89% of employees are confused by new products or services) and what is expected of them, they must be motivated; either by themselves or someone else and they must have the Ability- skills, competency, knowledge or pre-requisite technology (i.e. internet).

The product must have appeal, be compatible with the target audience, provide a tangible advantage over previous methods etc. In addition the product must overcome inertia, technology anxiety etc.

Drilling down to look at eBilling this chart illustrates a logical process to implement eBilling.

The following best practice tips can significantly improve the speed of implementation as well as the success achieved;

1. Sign up all new customers for your ebill program. Do it automatically and with no action required from the customer.
2. Use an e-mail matching service append up to 20 percent of your customer database with customer’s email addresses at very low cost.
3. Initiate an automated welcome e-mail telling the customer what to expect.
4. Then just begin delivering the bill electronically. A small percentage will opt-out, but the vast majority will accept it. Adoption therefore becomes equal to the number of email addresses you have available.
5. Offer simple bill presentment via secure email as the first step. It’s not necessary to try and ‘pull’ the customer to your website to achieve successful ebill presentment.
6. Take it one step at a time. Achieve bill presentment and paper truncation first. Then drive payment as the next step.
7. Replicate your paper bill truly in a digital format – familiarity drives acceptance. You can add additional functionality later.
8. Use opt-out rather than opt-in strategies. Customers expect you to bill them.
9. Automatic paper truncation with the ability to revert to the paper option. When your customers are familiar with the ebill, turn off the paper automatically – you will be surprised how few requests you will get to re-institute their paper bill (on average, less than three percent).

On the topic of best practices lets look at some related to the use of IVR’s
1. Menu options no more than 4
2. No more than 4 layers
3. Zero Out option at any time
4. Allow corrections at each menu level (consider routing to live agent after 1)
5. Allow to back up or re start at each menu level (consider routing to live agent after 1)
6. No Jargon
7. Make sure the customer can actually do things they want to do:
1. Account balance
2. Report a payment
3. Open a Ticket
4. Track a shipment
8. Test Speech Recognition and Virtual agents before you deploy.
9. Use IVR for outbound calls –
1. Outage notifications,
2. Pre-collection,
3. Planned Maintenance/Outages

Share knowledge across multiple channels to make it available when and where needed:
Knowledge base for web, can be employed by live agents for calls, chats, email
FAQ’s- make sure they are the same ones regardless of the channel they are viewed
Blog- If you have one promote it and link it to your website and help pages if it offers service and self service tips.
Video/YouTube channel- This can be a great resource for showing ‘How to’ and,’ where to find’ information.
You must measure all users who employ self service…those that enter and those who leave early. Only by understanding what calls, contacts you are actually deflecting successfully can you determine the ROI. And only by knowing where customers are ‘jumping out’ of self service can you identify where you need to improve.

A Caveat to the trend to self-service has been raised by William J. McEwen, Ph.D., the author of Married to the Brand. Bill cited industries that have trended towards commodity status have of often been strong proponents of Self Service…such as the gasoline retail business. 40 years ago when each retailer tried to show the superiority of their product, but by 2007 only 9% of consumers surveyed by Gallup believed there was any difference between brands.

McEwen feels that a key to maintaining a strong brand is maintaining contact and interaction with customers. Organizations like the JetBlue, Southwest and Ritz Carleton have long since identified that their staff are the key to a success and positive guest experience. Similarly we can all think of positive service experiences where it was the individual that we interacted with that made the experience so great.

So from McEwens’ perspective if we eliminate personal service interactions we are driving our organization towards commoditization. If we take McEwen at face value a move toward cost reduction through self service is less personal, less connected and less likely to create raving fans or similarly happy customers.

But more personal service costs more. Is their no way of improving service quality without increasing the costs?

One thought on “Self Service of Cents and Sensibility Part 2

  1. Micah Solomon says:

    “I really enjoy Colin’s’ writing style and the info he conveys in the articles. His thoughts on self service and customer service are brilliant. I would highly recommend his articles as they can serve as a good primer to anyone interested in improving their customer service or call center capabilities.”

    Micah Solomon
    “The new guru of customer service excellence is Micah Solomon” –The Financial Post
    Author, keynote speaker, consultant:
    Micah speaks, writes, and consults on change and continuity in customer service, branding, company culture, and sales in our revolutionary times. – Website, blog, and free chapter of
    #1 business bestseller: Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *