Top 10 Actions to Increase Self-Service Effectiveness


In a normal operating environment, organizations develop strategies that are executed over time and consistent with organizational goals. However, organizations have to adapt in times of crises, with the usual guiding principle of achieving a balance between expense reduction and customer experience needing to be shifted temporarily.

To do this, Gartner recommends that customer service and support leaders consider the following 10 actions:

  1. Proactive outbound messaging: Identify top contact reasons and implement proactive outbound messages using all existing organizational messaging channels, such as text, email, and app notifications.
  2. Provide consistent messaging: Ensure all channels for internal and external communications are consistent in tone and content.
  3. Prioritize voice of customer (VoC) analytics: Use speech and text analytics to adjust actions in near real time to improve outcomes, such as call and churn reduction.
  4. Showcase support content: Prominently display support content, such as alerts from global home page, quick links to FAQs, and troubleshooters.
  5. Deploy chatbots: Prioritize use cases based on top contact reasons where self-service is available to increase digital containment. Example use cases are concierge bots (contact us) and status bots (order – where is my package?).
  6. Update interactive voice response (IVR) experience: Require self-service before routing to a representative. This also helps reduce customer effort.
  7. Promote digital self-service capabilities on all inbound experiences and select outbound messages across all channels, including website (global home page and within the Contact Us experience), contact center representatives (calls and chats), face-to-face (field services/physical locations), outbound emails, text, and paid media.
  8. Simplify authentication: Deploy biometrics, one-time PINS, or honor mobile device methods to reduce friction while maintaining account security.
  9. Deploy robotic process automation for high-volume, low-effort human tasks, such as email management (intent, auto-response, routing, etc.).
  10. Audit search: Audit organic search to reduce customers calling exposed toll-free numbers and bypassing self-service opportunities.

Despite the increase in the number of channels offered and the capabilities of those channels, customer service leaders indicated that on more than 30 percent of their interactions they only used an assisted service channel, such as phone, live chat, and email. A staggering 61 percent used both self-service and agent-assisted channels. When customers reached an agent, 31 percent of service leaders indicated that self-service was available on more than 40 percent of the interactions.

The top 10 actions above are focused on increasing self-service effectiveness in the following three areas:

  1. Increasing the effectiveness of existing self-service channels using artificial intelligence, such as improved IVR experiences, virtual assistants, and chatbots.
  2. Increasing the percentage of customers reaching self-service using outbound proactive messaging, improved search, and promotion of self-service tools.
  3. Reducing customer effort to reach and use self-service through improved automation and experiences that keep customers engaged and increases their willingness to attempt self-service.

Service leaders should review these actions with a cross-functional team of subject matter experts. These teams will need to identify which recommended actions are already implemented and identify additional changes required to increase their effectiveness. It's important to note that not all recommended actions will be appropriate for your organization. Implications of industry, regulation, financial performance, competitive environment, strategy, and vision are just some of the factors when considering these actions. Finally, existing governance, business case modeling, and prioritization methods used by your organization will need to be adjusted to expedite these actions.

Philip Jenkins and John Quaglietta are senior director analysts in Gartner's Customer Service & Support Practice.