Customer Service Management

5 Things to Know About the Future of Self-Service

Customers are more frequently looking to solve their own problems, not have you do it for them. In fact, according to a recent survey, around half of all customers would prefer customer service be conducted through messaging rather than having to call in to get help or go to a brick-and-mortar store. People want convenience: They’re not looking to wait in long lines, be put on hold for an hour, or fumble through a conversation about a product they don’t understand.

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So what does that mean for your customer service team? It means that self-service is the future. Empowering your customers and clients to solve issues on their own will cut down on the time and resources you need to spend on customer service while continuing to maintain a high level of quality within your brand. Does that mean you no longer need a customer service team? Not at all. It just means shifting your resources from handing people fish to teaching them to fish, as the saying goes.

That being said, just because there’s a wide variety of technology options available for incorporating self-service into your customer service strategy doesn’t mean that every piece of technology is right for your company. It’s tempting to chase the next app, piece of technology, or theory that will bring a new flavor to your customer service. But you know your customers the best, and you know which self-service efforts will help them the most.

Here are five things to keep in mind about the future of self-service when you’re piecing together your own technology stack in order to help your customers get the most out of their experience with you.

Natural Language Processing Is Making Leaps and Bounds

Natural language processing is simply a phrase that means computers are able to take the words we’re using and interpret them well. So for instance, they can hear the phrase next Wednesday and convert that into the correct date. One of the main challenges companies face when incorporating voice technology into their self-service efforts is that customers and the ways they speak are often widely varied. It’s hard for people to say the exact phrase they need to in order to get help from technology.

However, as technology progresses, software systems are getting better and better at interpreting what a customer is saying. Think of Amazon’s Alexa—you can say “turn the temperature up,” “increase the temperature,” or “make it warmer in here,” and the robot will correctly interpret what you’re saying. This allows customers to access information in a database quickly and efficiently without having to find the perfect phrasing.

Artificial Intelligence Helps—It Doesn’t Replace

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is obviously a huge trend in the self-service side of customer service. But too often, companies rely on AI to do their job for them and think that if their AI is fancy enough, they no longer need human support. Machine learning has developed so rapidly that at times, the right technology can still frustrate customers. Don’t abandon your customer service agents completely for AI. People get incredibly frustrated if they can’t get a human being on the phone when they need one. Furthermore, having trained customer service agents manage your self-service efforts will make them much more effective. There’s still a need for a highly trained customer service team.

Video Is Becoming More Important

Just as video has taken over Facebook ads and other marketing strategies, video is also important to the self-service customer service industry. Self-service video is a great way to walk customers through product tutorials, explain complicated tactics, or help customers answer frequently asked questions. People tend to engage more with video than text, and video also helps put a face to your company and give clients the feeling of being served well. Even digital Skype calls with customer service agents feel a bit more self-service than having to go to a customer service center. Consider incorporating video into your self-service databank.

A Lower Customer Effort Score Is Essential

A customer effort score (CES) is an important part of evaluating your customer service strategies. You want to keep things as easy as possible for your customers. The last thing a company wants is a reputation for being hard to get ahold of or lacking solid service. How hard do your customers have to work to get answers? In today’s economy and marketplace, customers expect questions to be answered as quickly as possible. They can tweet at airlines and get responses within 5 minutes.

When creating your self-service technology plan, it’s important you consider how tricky things are for people. Are your chat bots functioning well? Is your database well organized? If customers need to call in and get a human being on the phone, are they able to? All of these things play into your CES.

Centralized Automation Will Help You Succeed

Customer relationship managers (CRMs) can be crucial to a self-service customer experience. By having the right CRM, you can make sure all your customer data are in one easy place, from which conversations you’ve had with them to what they’ve purchased in the past. Having this kind of customer information on “file” is important—and bonus points if it’s hooked up to your self-service efforts in some way. For instance, shortly after someone purchases a particular product, e-mailing out some frequently asked questions on that product a week or 2 later can help the customer get the most use out of the product and cut down on the hours you need to dedicate to customer service.

Self-service customer service is definitely an important avenue for customer experience. But that doesn’t mean you no longer need a world-class customer service team. Don’t be afraid to go slow, try new things, and incorporate small pieces of technology before building up to a more self-sufficient experience.