Tall, Dark, Decaf; I Will Make it Myself-Service

by February 18, 2016 0 comments

– Pratima Harigunani, CIOL

INDIA: “I love your pizza but I would rather order, bake and pick it myself.” The sentence is no more about a hint of sarcasm from an irate customer but represents an entirely upside-down world of customer engagement.

What was once dotted with terms like full-cycle engagement, cross-sell optimization, proactive demand management and grievance redressal is now dappled all over with one or the other shade of this new idea called – Self-Service.

Yes, customers are indeed being allowed, accosted and at times even urged to turn the wheel the other way around with the new model of consumption. It’s not just about queuing up in a fast food joint and cradling the order back to the table yourself. It’s much more, way deeper and a shockingly-pervasive enough to turn a few of our marketing forefathers in their graves.

From the initial flavor of IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems to an omni-channel and ubiquitous platform level, the world of self-service is fast traversing models like Amazon’s Dash buttons, Voice assistants, intelligent IoT Device use, and 3D printing feats.

In Dimension Data’s 2013/2014 global contact center benchmarking report, it popped that a huge number of customer service centers were making no attempt to collect customer feedback. By some other estimates, as few as 1/3rd of Customer service interactions will require human assistance by 2017. Gartner augured that some 2/3rd of Customer service interactions can occur without human-to-human contact by that time. No doubt, deploying FAQ pages has been on an upswing (from 67 per cent in 2012 to 76 per cent in 2014, as Forrester reported in its North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life-Cycle Survey, 2014).

Self-service is out of the textbooks and on boardroom handbooks today and this is a good time to check what, if any, are the imprints it is creating when it comes to the degree of customer effort, complexity of transactions (or relationships), overall customer experience outcomes, branding elements, cost dynamics and more. Customers picking their own extremely-personal idea of caffeine? Well, that can mean a lot of beans to spill.

We ask Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, South Asia & Middle East, Aspect Software, who has been witnessing this change in the customer engagement realm on a first-hand basis and with his answers, we try to get a closer peek at this new paradigm that is redefining customer’s role in the ‘dough to plate’ cycle.

Does self-service displace or disrupt or complement the R in CRM and conventional sales function or support-centre ingredients?

With emergence of omni-channel communications, R in CRM has evolved from ‘Relationship’ to a ‘Relationship Revolution’. Today, we have opened limitless avenues to customers to make their voices heard whenever, wherever and however they choose. Organizations are now quickly understanding the need to adapt to shifting consumer needs and expectations, as only then, they can have a tremendous upside.

Today’s self-reliant consumer expectations revolve around fast, effortless access to information and services — using the channels they prefer and increasingly, the ability to solve customer service problems on their own. Even the general thinking around “self-service” as static Interactive Voice Response menus, endless loops and working your way to an agent is fast diminishing.

Advancements in technology, the adoption of smart mobile devices and new interaction channels have further created a first-class environment for rich, personalized self-service interactions. The new self-service improves the customer experience and increases engagement while lowering costs. This is a win-win for customers, brands and the relationship they have.

Can it be a paradox for the old ‘customer is the king’ mindset?

In my opinion, self-service completely validates the ‘customer is king’ mindset. Companies today are trying their level best to meet consumer needs and expectations, which, by the way, are as diverse as it gets. Consumers control conversations with brands they interact with. Companies therefore must get obsessed with delivering engagement in line with consumer expectations to garner their satisfaction and long term loyalty. On the other hand, consumers are well exposed to multiple brands and have become increasingly impatient with poor service, and demand pain-free experiences across channels. They also feel increasingly empowered and are turning to self-service for first point of contact for service.

How?

Making self-service effortless is the key to improved customer experiences, brand loyalty, and ultimately is gaining a competitive edge. Today’s consumers want their time to be valued and prefer to use a variety of customer engagement channels for customer service and are increasingly relying on the self-service channels – web, mobile, voice, etc.

Is the idea taking roots below the surface?

Yes, we all know the consumers today are moving to a self-reliant mode. According to IBM Retail Research, 72 per cent of customers prefer self-service over picking up the phone and 91 per cent would use self-service if it was available. Aspect Customer Experience Platform (CXP) is our offering to satisfy this emerging need. Aspect CXP is the only platform and toolset that supports the entire self-service application lifecycle from design to deployment to application tuning.

How? With what outcomes?

See, Aspect CXP reduces the complexity of delivering sophisticated self-service applications while significantly improving the customer experience. Our customers have reported up to 50 per cent savings in development and 80 per cent savings in deployment and maintenance.

How much of Customer-life-cycle has technology helped to convert into self-service mode so far – and practically, scalably, nimbly, smoothly?

Customer life cycle with brands has become both dynamic and complex. Every consumer contact point, has to be well integrated to deliver seamless experience as it impacts experience, life and loyalty. Aspect CXP is a rich offering taking self-service beyond SMS by merging solutions like Aspect Augmented Chat, Aspect InQueue Self-Service, Aspect Social Self-Service, Aspect RTC Platform, Aspect Callback Mobile, Aspect Proactive Mobile, Aspect Text2IVR, Aspect Mobility Visual IVR Data Sheet and much more.

Where and how exactly does it amplify the ‘experience’ and ‘engagement’ or ‘co-creating/collaborating with the customer’ parts? Where do you strike the fine balance between ‘just get out of my hair and let me buy what I want’ and ‘understand me more deeply’ extremes on a customer mind?

It is the advent of the self-service economy and a sure-shot way for brands to triumph is to make sure that investment in technology or change in process supports the expectations of the new generation of consumers. The consumers love anything that fits into their lifestyle. These consumers desire not only seamless interactions across channels but also complete mobile customer experiences that leverage the mobile device to the fullest. Smartphone’s enabled with self-service equips consumers to get service anywhere and at any time with contextual handover between the channels making it completely seamless. This in turn serves to build loyalty by addressing customer preferences.

What happens to agents?

The agents play a role of subject matter experts than just answering basic queries. It improves customer to agent rapport; when agents pick up where self-service left off, they are thus able to deliver a seamless experience to the customer. Customer service issues are hence resolved faster because of self-service.

What are the opportunities and challenges that the omni-channel world brings to this shift? Does social CRM intersect here?

The myth is broken that self-serviced customers are disengaged with brands. This is evolving as the best means to engage consumers.

But self-service consumer engagement need not be dull and unfruitful. Technologies can enable organizations engage with consumers effectively, on consumer’s terms and with great experience. Self-service is a great opportunity for both customers and brands and it will be exciting to be a part of this shift in consumer engagement.

Companies that are struggling to understand it must check if their consumers are in need of self-service and if deployed, how satisfied are they with the existing self-service experience, if any. The very fact that only five per cent of companies provide consistent cross channel experiences and only three per cent provide a seamless hand off between channels regardless of whether the hand off is from offline to online or online to offline proves the scope self-service technologies can fill.

Would the trend accelerate?

Today 81 per cent of customers prefer self-service to resolve their queries and the number is bound to increase in the coming days. The self-service economy is here and the only way for brands to achieve success is to ensure that every technology investment or process change supports these new consumer expectations which includes knowing them, making them mobile & self-enabled, connected with their social avatar, well fit in their lifestyle and makes them smarter. All these can be attained through the right technology.

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