Moving Customers “Safely” from Self-Service to Live-Service


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It’s a fact that self-service transactions cost a fraction compared to connecting customers to live-service. It’s the major reason why self-service is an important strategy for Business and IT these days. Most consumers like helping themselves and I am one who certainly enjoys this convenience so long as they don’t get too “cute” or complicated. You know what I mean, so I won’t pontificate. Self-service technology will continue to improve and its applications will evolve into useful and intricate mashups that combine home grown content with elements and information from communities all over the Web. Your organization will become an aggregator of content specific to your business and it will become quicker and easier for your customers to get information and solve their own problems than ever before. They will come to rely on a vast outside network of resources, sponsored and condoned by you.

But it’s obvious to all of us by now that self-service can’t satisfy everything. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been a net gain of 10,000 contact center jobs in North America in 2009 as reported by Saddletree Research and the National Association of Call Centers. The need for live-service remains steadfast in order to solve more complicated and sensitive customer service issues. As I’ve noted above, advances in self-service will increasingly resolve more stuff for customers. Therefore, live-service in the contact center will evolve to satisfy something different…the emotional needs of your customers. Emotional needs include affirmation, acknowledgment, empathy, validation, safety and also includes feedback. In the future, customers will rely more on emotional support from live-service to affirm their decision to continue doing business with you. When a company cannot adequately fulfill these higher level needs, customers will switch loyalty to another brand that can. This vision marks the shift from agent to associate and from representative to advisor.

Nevertheless, a problem exists in the linkage between the two worlds of self-service and live-service described above. One world is impersonal and automated, the other is emotional and collaborative and consumers fall into a customer service gap when they attempt to pass between worlds. We continually improve the self-service process and technology on one side…we implement performance management and better training on the other. Both worlds get better, but the connection between them remains broken. It’s like shifting gears without putting your foot on the clutch. The friction and grinding represents the resulting customer experience and this is where companies are failing and placing business at risk. Whether getting disconnected, waiting on hold or having to repeat account information, each customer interaction that falls into this gap costs your organization money, causes frustration and threatens customer loyalty. The operational cost is attributed to increased call handle times, which lowers productivity. In addition, there is an increased expense associated with subsequent call attempts by customers who originally abandoned and who now have to repeat the process all over again. The customer frustration comes from a lack of forethought by organizations that view self-service and live-service as two separate and distinct strategies and who neglect to put assurances in place for customers who wish to safely travel from one customer service strategy to the other.

Guardrails were invented for a reason. They protect us if our car has a mechanical failure or when the road conditions deceive us. The same is true in the contact center. To keep customers on track and prevent them from falling into a customer service gap in the business process, consider implementing a new kind of customer safety when executing your overall strategy. Make sure your customers move smoothly (and safely) from self-service to live-service for the optimal customer experience.

Eric Camulli
As Vice President for 7signal, Eric is focused on helping organizations bring high quality and highly productive experiences to people using Wi-Fi networks everywhere. In today's connected economy, our dependency on robust, reliable Wi-Fi is paramount. Eric is dedicated to ensuring that companies deliver peak wireless performance so that they can compete in a marketplace exploding with wireless devices.


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