Are You Using Self-Service Successfully?

In October, Aberdeen published the Omni-Channel Customer Care study, which highlights how firms deliver customer support across multiple channels. Findings from this research revealed that 40 percent of surveyed companies currently have self-service programs in place, and another 27 percent of firms are considering establishing one this year and beyond. Together, these numbers mean that self-service is not an emerging best practice or trend, but that it's an established activity that companies of all sizes use to varying degrees.

Companies build and manage self-service programs for numerous reasons. Overall, the reason more firms incorporate self-service within their CX management programs is because it delivers results. Aberdeen's most recent Self-Service study shows that companies with self-service programs benefit from performance improvements compared to those without them. Firms offering self-service programs improve (decrease) customer effort, which subsequently helps them increase customer satisfaction rates. In fact, companies using self-service enjoy 71 percent greater annual improvement in customer satisfaction rates compared to non-users.

Aberdeen data shows that self-service also helps companies improve agent utilization rates by 4.3 percent year-over-year, whereas non-users observe a 0.7 percent worsening—a 5.0 percent delta in favor of self-service users. While the benefits of self-service are rather clear, this does not mean that companies should aim to direct all customer issues to be resolved via self-service. When their needs or requests are deflected, customers will prefer to work with other businesses that are more proactive about addressing their needs.

Therefore, self-service must be viewed as a tool that customers can choose to address their needs themselves. However, customers shouldn't be forced to address all of their issues through self-service. With current technology capabilities, self-service works well in addressing simple requests, such as password resets and account balance checks. In the figure below, Aberdeen research findings illustrate the top reasons contact centers observe their self-service activities to deliver sub-par results.

Self-Service Doesn't Work on Complex Issues>

Expecting customers to address complex issues that require technical knowledge or other skills is the top reason why firms see their self-service efforts fail. Complex issues (e.g., modifying an investment portfolio) are best reserved for agent-assisted service; self-service in these scenarios will likely confuse customers, who will then ultimately seek agent assistance (high-touch support).

To succeed in self-service, firms must have a clear understanding of customer expectations and the complexity of solving client issues. They must be coupled with a top-notch user experience, where customers can easily navigate the self-service portal on their own. The Self-Service report details how, by getting the building blocks of self-service right, best-in-class contact centers achieve 76 percent greater customer retention rate and 14.2 times greater annual increase in customer satisfaction.

Read the related report to learn the three key ingredients Best-in-Class firms use for a top-notch self-service program.

Omer Minkara is vice president and principal analyst covering contact center and customer experience management at Aberdeen Group.