How Self-Service Experience Can Reduce Customer Confusion and Increase Satisfaction
In today’s retail world, the reality is that everything can change within months, weeks or even a day. While creating an effective customer self-service portal has long been a priority for many, recent world events have made it infinitely more imperative. We’re talking, of course, about the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The pandemic has affected every consumer in some way, creating a host of reasons customers might be driven to contact a brand. Perhaps they need to suspend automatic payments, check location hours, or see whether curbside pickup is available. Maybe they have questions about the health precautions a retailer is taking within its physical storefronts or how recent policy changes might affect their shopping experience.
These and other urgent customer needs have translated into a staggering spike in the volume of customer service requests. This has made it necessary for retailers to begin implementing “self-service” solutions beyond stagnant FAQ pages, search bars that yield hundreds of results, or virtual assistants that don’t understand customers’ questions.
Here are three easy tips for perfecting an effective self-service experience:
1. Help Customers Find the Right Answer — Fast
User experience (UX) is critical. Any self-service portals created must be designed for mobile device users as well as desktop/laptop users. Help center search channels should also integrate natural language processing (NLP) to direct customers to targeted results. Self-service solutions must give customers the ability to quickly find the right answer by guiding them to the best possible channel or resolution depending on their reason for reaching out. Some questions might be a knowledge base article; for other questions, it might be a “how-to” video or guided path.
2. You Must Identify Main Contact Drivers
An effective self-service portal needs to be designed around the reasons your customers contact your brand in the first place. The ideal way to do this is via data analytics to understand top contact drivers by customer location. Once contact drivers are identified, it’s important to ask the following for each of them: Can this customer request be automated or done via self-service, or does a human need to be involved? Remember, in some complex cases, the best channel ultimately may be a phone call with a skilled human agent. Understand at what point, and for what reasons, a human does or would need to be involved.
3. Measure Resolution and Seek Expertise
One way to measure resolution is by asking a customer if their issue was resolved when they get to the end of a self-guided journey. If that answer is no, it’s clear something needs to be redesigned or updated — especially if your metrics show that multiple customers haven't gotten their issue resolved. To best avoid missing the mark on self-service solutions, it’s important that marketing teams don’t design anything without seeking input from the customer care team. Retailers can also hire a third-party consultant that can help with a data-driven design. Outside expertise on data analytics, dashboards for measurement and tracking, and build and execution can be extremely valuable and help create a business case on volume deflection that will speak for itself.
As the old saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. The same idea of helping people help themselves is now timelier and more important than ever. As retailers remain agile, ensuring they keep their customers in the loop for every update will be imperative in keeping them coming back for not just products and services, but experiences as well.
Lauren Kindzierski is the vice president of CX marketing at HGS, a business process management organization.