Capturing the Moment: Customer Retention and Loyalty through Self-Service Tools


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In today’s on-demand, we “want it now” culture, customers expect to find the answers they need fast and to be able to complete purchase transactions in a myriad of ways, all with ease and a fluid experience. Brands have to keep up with the pace of customer expectations beyond simply offering their products across devices; they must look for ways to keep boosting conversion and retention on those platforms.

One well publicized example came recently during Facebook’s F8 developer conference, which heavily underscored the power of their new chat bots — applications that run an automated task based on a command. These types of applications aren’t unique to Facebook and are an important development for brands that can use them as an easy way to manage order-fulfillment or customer service functions quickly and easily.

Increasingly, customers are looking to solve problems or answer questions they have about your product or service quickly and easily right at the very moment they have that need, with as little friction as possible. But in many cases they don’t want to have to search too much or talk to a human being to do so, or at least not yet.

In the exploratory phase of a customer’s purchasing journey they may be looking for answers to a common question and they may need to be guided down a path that secures their decision to purchase before clicking the buy now button or taking the next step to talk to a customer service representative. The best part for companies when integrating self-service technology into this process is that not only do you improve conversion and retention, you may boost efficiency in your customer service center by properly routing customers to the right department and reducing a strain on your call center staff.

The consequence for not taking self-service seriously is steep for brands. A recent report by Forrester highlighted a few reasons brands should pay attention, including the fact that companies who do not successfully implement self-service through 2016 will experience higher customer service costs. If you think the percentage of your customers that use these self-service tools is low, think again. Over 75 percent of customers prefer to use self-service and expect a self-service option, with web self-service use increasing from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014.

Even more drastically virtual agent use jumped from 28 percent in 2012 to 58 percent in 2015. Automated solutions not only deliver faster responses to common questions, they lower the brand’s cost per interaction by up to 81 percent, according to Forrester. And because automation resolves simple or straight-forward inquiries, live agents are free to handle more complex queries or to close high-value visitors. (Source: Forrester 2016: Online Self Service Dominates Yet Again & Gartner 2015: Best Practices for Implementing Customer Self-Service)

What all this spells for brands is that the need for self-service is real and your customers expect it. Get on board or get ready to lose sales and spend more in customer service costs.

Not all self-service tools are created equal however. The realization of this effort can vary greatly depending on the type tool used and its underlying technology. As reported in a recent article for Adweek, Julie Ask of Forrester Research highlights that although this technology “provide(s) an amazing opportunity for brands to deliver contextual experiences,” they face some potential stumbling blocks, such as unsophisticated enabling technology. “Consumers don’t want to chat with machines that ask them dumb questions. Only one in four enterprises surveyed by Forrester even use location data to make mobile services more relevant, let alone insights built on the immense context available.” The takeaway here: don’t ignore the human element involved and definitely look for ways to make your self-service tools play in context with the user experience.

There are many ways in which these tools or applications might be applied in the real world. Some examples of how or when to deliver self-service options might include:

  • Guided content: Brands can offer up the right content in the right way to enable visitors to find what they are looking for based on the type of situation. For example, they might offer filtering guides to filter between new and existing customers or out-of-scope inquiries, routing guides to assist the customer before the chat session begins in order to direct them to the appropriate agent or agent group, product selection guides help the customer find answers on his or her own more easily, and/or FAQ or tutorial guides to enrich the customer’s experience throughout the customer journey.
  • On-demand content: Brands can provide consumers with contextual, demographic and behavioral targeted messages to personalize the most relevant promotions such as videos and tutorials and, at the end of the customer visit, promotions and exit offers.
  • Customer feedback and surveys: Another valuable opportunity brands can take advantage of is to capture valuable feedback to help their business remain flexible, focused and competitive and to keep them on the cutting edge by hearing the customer’s voice. This might involve asking the customer to take a brief survey during or after their visit.

A quality self-service solution provides customers the opportunity to effortlessly find answers to their questions and resolve problems on their own, without the need to contact the customer service team every time. But that doesn’t mean that your customer service team can’t also take advantage of these applications for the times when customers do need to interact with a human to get the help they need.

For example, when using live chat on your web site, there are scenarios where it may be best for a customer service agent to use these applications to help an agent better communicate with their customers. With agent-pushed content solutions, an agent has the ability to push anything to any potential client, from a form, to a video, to an offer, etc, to help gather information about them, intrigue them further into a product or service or help better understand whatever it is that they are inquiring about. Agent-pushed content can often have a better conversion than any stand-alone content because the agent has the ability to provide real-time information to the customer while they are interested and viewing whatever was pushed.

Self-service tools provide tremendous opportunities to capture customers in the moment and transport them to the next moment, also boosting customer retention and loyalty. Customers expect to be able to find what they need easily or they will abandon their quest; and in some cases companies can even offer that customer content they didn’t even know they needed to complete or amplify their experience. The opportunity is real and the technology is quickly advancing to be able to offer complex sequences and layers of support all easily accessible by the click a mouse or touch of a finger.

George Skaff
As CMO, George is responsible for all worldwide outbound marketing activities at TouchCommerce. In that role, he oversees all corporate marketing, customer marketing, demand generation, product marketing, public and industry relations. George has over 25 years of progressive experience in the computer industry, and has demonstrated a proven business expertise in marketing and strategic partnerships for various sized companies in high technology and services areas, in both the domestic and international markets.


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