More and more businesses are either putting self-service options for customers in place or considering them in their service departments or contact centres. For simple transactions or enquiries, a self-service channel can be more efficient than other channels, providing speedy resolution of interactions, resulting in the added benefit of improving the customer experience (CX).
A favoured motivation for this is the reduction in costs, as agents will be released to perform more complex tasks, but there are some important considerations that need to be made before deploying self-service options.
Prior to deployment, the following should be examined:
Are there business services that can be delivered without an agent, and, if so, what percentage of the business do these represent? The identified services must be sufficient in volume and duration to warrant a self-service channel.
Fast access to all the data elements required to conclude the transaction must be available. For example, everything necessary to conclude the transaction must be readily accessible.
Security, identification and authentication must all be available and possible to protect confidential information. If the interaction is transactional in nature, are we able to validate and track this interaction? Regulations may govern transactions, i.e., POPI or financial regulations, in which case we must be able to adhere to these.
For self-service options, the clients’ preferences must be understood – channel/s include Interactive Voice Response (IVR), USSD (used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider's computers), Web and others, and different options apply to varying business requirements.
Having a functional and technically sound solution is completely worthless, unless you have a sufficient percentage of users willing to use it, and they must be able to fulfil their requirements.
The keys to a successful deployment of self-service applications include:
Simplicity: The options must be easy to access and navigate, and they must successfully conclude transactions.
Completeness: All aspects of the service must be addressed, without the need to engage through additional channels, so, for example, the customer must be able to get balances, instalment amounts, due dates or requests for increases in one interaction.
Immediacy: Customers will want availability, any time, any day, for ease of transaction.
Integration: Should the transaction require the need to “break out” to other channels, for reasons of identification, authentication or for transactions, the interaction must carry the transaction forward without having to start again from scratch; customers should not have to repeat information.
Testing: Issues and concerns must be addressed by making extensive use of control groups to test and provide feedback.
Capacity: There must be sufficient capacity to deal with volumes from the first day – you can always trim back once a better understanding of volume is gained, but opportunities can be lost if user access is denied at the first attempt.
Controlled deployment: Don’t release all intended services in one go, but roll the services out systematically – measuring the take-up, identify and correct any issues and address any concerns before releasing the next service where possible.
These considerations allow for more care in deployment, if it is decided that self-service options will work, and help to limit risks.
Business is never static, it’s an evolving environment, so we must continuously monitor the performance, relevance and functionality of all channel options in the contact centre, including self-service ones, to make sure that they’re performing optimally and benefiting the company according to our expectations.
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