One of the key trends in Information Technology that has picked up momentum in this decade is the ‘consumerization’ of technology. This has come about with more and more people getting more and more comfortable with the usage of smart technology devices such as phones, tablets for their daily use. This trend is amazing and perhaps a defining point of the decade as it lets any person decide which tool to use to get anything done. Such power is now firmly in the hands of the user with technology enabling it. Who is not familiar with a chatting app or Facebook? Millions of people in India are quite familiar with buying a train ticket online. Other examples are buying car insurance online (with the optional aid of a comparison site), paying your electricity bills and performing banking transactions online.
What is common to the above examples is that they are all cases wherein the customer has taken control of the service the enterprise aims to provide. The primary driver is convenience sought by the customer who is doing self-service. This has started with websites providing basic information and later on adding transaction abilities. It has now extended to mobile devices and today one cannot imagine a business attempting to provide any service without rolling it out first on mobile devices. The driver still remains convenience for the customer. Enterprises will be mistaken if they approach self-service as a cost saving exercise. Such initiatives often lack imagination and soon customers do not adopt the offering resulting in investments that do not pay off.
Increasing touch-points for customers
With Internet and increasing mobile adoption, the customer touch points are only increasing. This could be via customer-facing Web sites, Facebook page, Twitter page, online chat, email, call center support, interaction with an employee or agent. This poses a challenge to organizations to maintain consistency and uniform experience across channels. This challenge has to be overcome in the multi-channel world (or Omni channel); for example a customer may initiate a transaction impulsively over a mobile but may need to be prompted to later complete it on his PC or even over the phone.
This calls for a holistic design of the company’s customer service and support processes. The design should ensure availability of relevant content, good user experience with personalization and community interactions. Such a system should provide high availability and performance along with the support for multiple channels. Once in place, this Omni channel would generate good data on how customers are interacting, on what channels and for what kind of services. This data can feed back into the design to take advantage of opportunities.
For many customer queries it is best to provide the customer full access to all the required information and options at the right time and in the right form to resolve issues on their own before calling for help or tweeting about it. This self-help should be a key component of the self-service model.
Another aspect of self-service that one cannot overlook is the emergence of social networks and the preference of many customers to seek support from where ‘they’ are present – ie, from Facebook or twitter. The customer expects a response within minutes (if not seconds) and any delay could escalate into a complaint that could threaten to go viral. Many companies are investing in teams and tools that monitor the twitter/Facebook streams and respond. This can be further enhanced by applying intelligence on a customer’s query to give a more meaningful response (if possible automated) in a timely manner. For example, a customer who is pained about a delivery delay of his order and tweets about it could get an automated response on latest status. To sum up, building a robust self-service portal not only helps an organization reduce customer support costs but it can also help grow the top line and become a differentiator to attract and retain customers.