Enhance the Customer Service Experience Using Self-Service

The essence of customer service can be traced to time immemorial. On the other hand, the method of delivery of the customer service experience needs to be continually updated to match the desires and expectations of an ever-changing customer base. That is why the customer experience landscape is ripe for disruption, with companies slowly making progress toward more seamless and simpler customer experiences.

The biggest change in customer service is the sheer number of channels through which people can contact your business. Instead of just phone calls and snail mail, consumers can now reach you by email, social media, text message, video call, and live chat. Mobile technology has also enabled constant connectivity, giving customers 24/7 access to public forums in which they can talk or complain about your company. Only organizations that are willing to adapt and respond to this shift in business-consumer dynamics will survive.

Businesses will focus on making self-service easier. In fact, we are already seeing companies start to address the desires of many consumers for automated self-service to improve by evaluating their core systems, investing in knowledge management, and exploring virtual assistants. Some of the initiatives that we can already see in place, include connecting conversations with context, where companies have removed the need for consumers to explain, sometimes repeatedly, why they need service. This goes a long way in making self-service easier.

Another initiative is making secure authentication by introducing voice biometrics so consumers don't have to use PINs and passwords to authenticate their identities.

And finally, businesses are starting to understand the value of their Web sites and have taken steps to improve their Web site effectiveness. Customers are increasingly beginning their self-service journesy on the Web, only calling the contact center when they can't find an answer online. Web sites today have employed virtual assistants that are powered by natural language understanding and conversational capabilities, streamlining and speeding up the digital service experience, minimizing customers' time and frustration while saving the business money.

No one likes to wait. By making self-service easier, businesses will automatically help empower customers to control their time. This also includes offering consumers more control when customer service extends to the field. In the recent Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service report by Forrester, 73 percent of consumers said valuing their time was the most important thing a company could do to provide them with good service—whether on a call, in a chat, or while waiting for a service technician to troubleshoot and fix their products. Think about it: wouldn't you prefer to wait for a delivery to arrive within a timeframe rather than listening to that annoying hold music that some businesses insist on playing as you wait. To this end, businesses continue to explore ways to offer self-service scheduling, providing an easy means of rescheduling appointments, and actively seeking feedback on the service experience. ;

For me personally, waiting for a service or delivery person to arrive within a set window of time far outstrips the annoyance I feel listening to hold music. The Forrester report forecasts that companies this year will explore ways to offer self-service scheduling and better inform and prepare their employees to provide effective field service. For businesses that would like to improve their customer's field service experiences while differentiating themselves on this aspect of customer service in the near future, we recommend a few suggestions. For a customer to have a good field service experience, the businesses should successfully engage with the customer before arriving. It also is important to use multiple channels of communication to raise your engagement rates. Help make your customer's ability to reschedule or communicate with you as fast and easy as possible from every message they receive, on every channel, with a simple click, tap, or spoken request. With all the knowledge gained through the field data, businesses must leverage it to predict the needs of its customers delivering faster, easier and a more personal experience.

In the age of fierce competitiveness, companies that deliver a great end-to-end experience that makes them stand out from the clutter will attract and retain customers. This is a universal truth no matter which industry a business is in, and businesses that choose to make superior customer experience its core business strategy will continue to thrive.

Nidal Kamouni is CEO of PCCI Group.