One of the great changes in consumer behaviour brought about by the digital age has been the rise of self-service solutions in almost every area of daily life. Whether they’re shopping, banking or simply getting from A to B, today’s customers tend to be perfectly happy making transactions via the web and mobile apps, and not in person.
This is as true in customer service as anywhere else, where self-service represents an excellent way to overcome the limitations of call centre opening hours and lengthy waiting times when lines are busy. On the contact centre’s side, it’s also great for boosting efficiency: agents are free to focus their energies on more complex interactions while self-service solutions solve the customers’ simpler problems.
As such, it should come as no surprise that 90 per cent of the senior contact centre professionals we polled at the Customer Contact Expo 2015 (CCExpo15) described self-service as either somewhat or extremely important to their customer service strategy.
Nonetheless, self-service is a wide and varied field, and we also found that many contact centres have yet to explore it to its fullest. While techniques such as automated email and interactive voice response (IVR) were fairly widely used by our survey sample, others – mostly in the mobile arena – were given surprisingly short shrift.
Whatever your line of business, success in the digital age means being present in whichever channels your customers expect to find you. It means offering an equally great experience at every touchpoint, not dictating the terms on which you can solve their problems, and it means predicting how their wants and needs will change in the future. So, there’s every reason for contact centre professionals like those in our survey to start plugging the gaps in their self-service strategies sooner rather than later.
Some of the biggest blind spots we found were as follows.
Just 14 per cent of contact centres currently use SMS for self-service, and just 24 per cent of senior contact centre professionals plan to expand into this area in the near future, according to the results of our survey.
It’s surprising that so many should dismiss a technology so ubiquitous and effective: unlike other instant messaging (IM) platforms, SMS is built into every phone out there – even the few remaining feature phones on the market – and boasts a phenomenal read rate of 98 per cent, Frost and Sullivan research shows.
Moreover, SMS is cheap. According to our own estimate, interactions that occur via IM and SMS cost one-tenth as much as IVR, and one-hundredth as much as a live phone call with an agent.
According to our survey, just ten per cent of contact centres currently include video in their self-service mix. This is well below the number that offer email (54 per cent) IVR (42 per cent) or web chat of one form or another (34 per cent), despite the enormous range of benefits that video can provide.
Think about the times when you need to tell a customer how to complete a particular process, for example. It’s usually far simpler to offer a visual demonstration than a written or verbal description of the actions required, even if that’s delivered by an agent.
Mobile web chat
Make no mistake – web chat is commonly used by contact centres today to offer self-service functionality to customers. Sadly, these solutions are mostly optimised for desktop browsers, and only a tiny handful of organisations overall deliver chat-based self-service to smartphone and tablet users.
To put figures on the disparity: our CCExpo15 survey found that 28 per cent of respondents currently offer a desktop web chat self-service feature, whereas the figure for mobile web chat was only six per cent.
It’s a surprising gap, given that mobile is already thought by many to account for more web traffic than desktop. Still, our research also found that 32 per cent of senior contact centre professionals are planning a move into mobile web chat in the near future. They’re clearly aware of the shortcoming and ready to tackle it.
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