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Making Self Service a Win-Win for Businesses and Customers

There’s no denying the role of good customer service, including self-service. And both customers and organizations may actually prefer a self-service option: in many situations, consumers opt for self-service capabilities rather than calling into a contact center, waiting on hold, and eventually speaking to an agent who may or may not be able to provide timely and accurate assistance. And it’s no secret that most organizations prefer when customers opt for self-service capabilities rather than talking to a contact center agent; this reduces the load (and cost) for contact center agents.

However, the experience is often less-than-satisfactory for customers because it’s centered around an organization’s business needs rather than customer needs. Self service needs to be a win-win for both businesses and customers.

According to Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer study,” 61% of customers would rather use self-service than a live-agent phone call for simple issues. As more and more organizations offer self-service options, usage has increased, as the Salesforce study shows that 72% of customers have used self-service portals, and 55% have used self-service chatbots. But – 68% said that they wouldn’t use a company’s chatbot if they had a bad experience.

And, as Shakespeare would say, there’s the rub. Most consumers have had a bad experience with the first generation of self-service chatbots and may be reluctant to try again. Despite the many benefits of self service, a good number of consumers are adverse to wasting time on technologies that don’t work as expected or provide the desired results.


Moving From a Business Focus to a Customer Focus

There are several reasons why self-service technologies, including chatbots, conversational AI-based intelligent voice agents, and plain old IVRs don’t provide the experiences customers expect and demand. In many cases, businesses deploy self-service capabilities simply as a cost-cutting measure to deflect calls from agents; Gartner and Forrester Research found that live agent interactions cost $6-$12, with an average of $8, while self-service costs only $0.10-$0.25 per contact. While this provides great benefits for businesses, it doesn’t necessarily translate into great benefits for customers. When self-service capabilities are deployed merely to help businesses save money, the customer experience isn’t generally taken into account, resulting in poorly-designed solutions with limited capabilities. This could affect customer sentiment and future business down the line.

When it comes to deploying self-service, organizations need to change from a business-centric focus to a customer-centric focus. This involves helping customers get the information they need or conducting transactions quickly, easily, and on their terms, while providing personalized experiences based on customer data, history, and more. It includes understanding customer intent and what they’re trying to accomplish, combined with the knowledge and information to provide the desired results.

This is where AI can shine. Far surpassing the first generation of chatbots, today’s AI-enabled chatbots can guide customers through a self-service interaction by understanding who the customer is, their past interactions and history with the brand, and providing timely and personalized responses, regardless of channel and interaction mode.

AI-based self-service provides all the self-service benefits customers expect, such as 24/7 service, access across multiple channels, personalized interactions, and more. Natural language processing (NLP), c AI, and even generative AI can be used to understand and identify customer intent and interact with the customer in a personalized and natural way. Knowledge bases and knowledge management systems make it easy to access and present the right information to the customer to solve their issue.


Considerations When Deploying Self-Service

Self-service is great – when done properly. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deploying self-service capabilities to your customers:

  • Regardless of which self-service capability you offer, always provide an option for customers to reach a live agent when necessary (during working hours, of course). Just as important, ensure that the agent receives the context of the interaction and customer history, eliminating the need for the customer to repeat themselves and the entire interaction.
  • Use AI wisely and appropriately. Avoid the chatbot mistakes of the past and be sure to test, test, and test again to ensure the self-service capabilities work properly. Remember – if customers have bad experiences, they may not stick around.
  • As I noted in a previous article, if using generative AI, it’s best to use it in conjunction with conversational AI for customer-facing use cases such as self service, as a combined solution with conversational AI helps to provide guardrails and avoid hallucinations.
  • Knowledge is power – your self-service and AI capabilities rely on data and knowledge.
  • For AI-based capabilities, use a solution and AI model that is purpose-built for CX, rather than a generic model.
  • Ensure trust. Consumers are wary of AI in general and chatbots in particular, and for good reason. Be transparent when using AI and always let customers know when they’re interacting with a bot as opposed to a human agent.

These are just a few considerations to take into account. For more information on how to optimize the self-service experience for your customers, please join or view the webinar recording on Empowering Customers to Self-Serve on Their Terms: How to Build a Holistic CX Strategy for Long-term Success on July 10. Elizabeth Tobey, Head of Marketing, Digital and AI at NICE, and I will discuss

various ways to create self-service experiences that go beyond call deflection to providing exceptional customer experiences. We’ll help you identify ways to enhance your self-service offerings to ensure a win-win for both your organization and your customers. Hope to see you there.

This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.