Customer Experience II – Self Service at fingertips…


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without exploding your budgets…

I recently accompanied a friend to an Apple Service Center to get his phone repaired where the ‘proximity detector’ was not working properly. So essentially once you dial the phone and put it close to your year, the screen would go blank and it would not come on till the call is over. So you can’t disconnect the call, you refer your calendar or apps, etc. Similarly one of my friends was on a call with his airline yesterday for almost an hour trying to understand why the ticket of his 1.5 years old toddler was costing more than his own. In another scenario, a friend’s 65 year old mother was going overseas and he wanted to buy her an international calling and data card which would ensure she has constant connectivity throughout her multiple country tour. He called his telecom service provider to know his options and was on phone for almost 1 hour. These are complex service requests, ones that would need a human to understand and interpret in the language of the business to best serve the customer. Yet, in one of its recent reports, Gartner predicts that by 2017, 67% of customer service interactions won’t require a human. Is it really possible?

For those of us who were part of the “Business Process Outsourcing” journey, like Infosys, there was a time when simple, repetitive tasks were outsourced from places with high labor costs to countries like India. Was there a drop in experience of the customers? To those with simple, straightforward, run-of-the-mill queries and service requests, may be not. But those with complex requests, absolutely felt a drop in customer service levels.

The same thing is happening now with the advancements in technology. With introductions of features like “Click to chat”, “Click to call”, “Email Support” and “Phone Support”, large businesses are trying to automate labor intensive processes to reduce their manpower costs. A lot of these businesses are also introducing mobile apps for customer service.

But in this wide array of options, how does a business decide what is the ideal mix of technologies and people. How does it minimize its cost of operations while maximizing its customer experience levels? This is a question that would depend on three key metrics

  • Historical channels of customer service provided by the organization
  • Demographics of the Current and Future target customer
  • Overall Customer Experience Strategy
  • Historical channels of customer service provided by the organization

    If as a business you have provided a single channel like a phone support only, then introducing new channels like “Click to chat”, Email, etc. may require serious back-end business process transformation and change management exercise. One that your organization may or may not be equipped or have the budget for. Let me illustrate with an example. I was flying a prominent US airlines for a business trip and there was a major screw up with my service. Since there were advertisements about their twitter handle all over the airports, I decided to tweet my complaint to them. Next thing I know, I receive a reply with URL for a feedback form for submitting my complaint. Why advertise the Twitter handle when you have no intention of engaging with the customer on Twitter? This was a perfect example of how not to introduce a new channel. The airline is incurring additional manpower costs for these social networks without actually providing additional service via these channels. It is obvious they did not think through their change management strategies before introducing “Social” as a customer service channel. Don’t just add a channel for sake of adding it, make sure you add it because it adds value to your customers.

    Demographics of the Current and Future target customer

    This is another key data point. While people older than 50 years of age, generally prefer to call for customer service, Gen X and some Gen Y prefer emails, whereas Gen Y and most teens prefer to use their mobiles. There are tons of research reports by Forrester and others highlighting the appeal of specific customer service channels to certain demographics and generations.

    Overall Customer Experience Strategy

    This is obvious. The “Self-Service” strategy must tie into the overall Customer Experience strategy of any organization. There are few very distinct descriptors for such strategies from Personalized, Personal, Predictive, Responsive and Engaging. Based on the strategy of choice for your organization, you can choose to decide the most appropriate channels and how much to invest in each of the channels.

    Self-Learning Mechanism – No Chief Customer Service officer should forget to invest in a “self-learning mechanism” – a technology layer powered by analytics for continuous evaluation of the performant versus under-utilized channels, so that investments can be prioritized and customer experience optimized.

    Channels – For completeness sake, let me document the various potential channels of customer service that I considered for this article. The list is indicative, not exhaustive – Email, Mobile App, Website, Chat, Call-Center, Social Networks, Physical Stores, Maintenance/after-sales service centers, among others.

    So next time you are faced with a decision to optimize your self-service channels in a limited budget, hopefully you will find useful, some of the information I shared above.

    Abhishek Singh
    Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.


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