Busting the Five Web Self-Service Myths
There are five myths that permeate the Web self-service world. Each has a corresponding "truth," and each can be met by approaching from a best-practice perspective:
Myth 1: "One size fits all"— one Web self-service method fits all customers and their needs.
Believe this one and you're really in trouble. The truth is customers and prospects prefer multiple ways to access information through self-service. There are pros and cons to each access method, and different situations warrant different approaches.
Best practice: An adaptive or situational approach to self-service dramatically improves self-service adoption and ROI. This entails providing different access methods depending on customer preferences and skill level based on their demographics and psychographics, problem type, and where they are in the purchase and use lifecycle. Some of our leading clients have used the following approach to maximize self-service adoption and effectiveness:
- Company introduction—natural-language virtual agent;
- Information gathering—natural-language search or browse;
- Product comparison and selection—guided help, driven by a reasoning engine, with agent collaboration as necessary;
- Transaction—webforms with live-chat assistance; and
- Problem resolution—FAQ, search, browse, guided help driven by a reasoning engine, with agent collaboration as necessary.
The key here is to avoid creating access and content silos across self-service access methods, and across agent-assisted and self-service.
Myth 2: Self-service is all about cost-cutting.
The most common reason for businesses to implement Web self-service is cost-cutting. Taken in isolation and carried to the extreme, this approach can hurt the organization's most significant asset—customer good will and loyalty.
With the onset of ATM technology, banks cut down their retail presence and agent-assisted contact center service to the barebones, only to realize that they had no emotional capital left with customers. In the face of increasing customer churn, many of these banks are now bringing back retail and agent-assisted customer interactions to re-build customer relationships.
The truth is that lasting relationships are built through self-service and human interactions.
Best practice: Customer service is one of the few sustainable business differentiators. We recommend that self-service complement and add value to agent-assisted and retail service offerings, while expanding interaction choices and service availability. A self-service implementation should not be focused on simply eliminating other forms of customer interactions.
Myth 3: Web self-service is an extension of phone self-service.
Phone self-service is often considered a synonym for IVR hell! The truth is that Web self-service that creates an IVR-like experience is a recipe for failure and misses a big opportunity to maximize value for the customer and the business. Moreover, the Web and the computer enable richer self-service interactions than the telephone and a keypad, resulting in a better and more effective customer experience.
Best practice: We recommend that companies provide customers the "safety net" of contextual escalation to assisted service. This contrarian approach often increases Web self-service adoption. Moreover, we advise clients to use Web collaboration technologies such as co-browsing to guide customers through Web self-service capabilities when they call. Coaching customers on self-service dramatically increases adoption.
Myth 4: Self-service is a quick, standalone fix.
Standalone self-service can create tremendous customer dissatisfaction. A self-service silo disconnected from the rest of your company's business systems and processes won't yield lasting benefits. The truth is that your company is one entity. Any service "island" that fragments the customer experience hurts your brand.
Best practice: We recommend implementing a customer interaction hub where your business presents one unified and informed face across self-service and agent-assisted interaction channels and processes. For instance, companies could start with self-service first and add assisted interactions that seamlessly integrate with self-service. It's also critical that these frontline interaction systems integrate with backoffice data and existing content assets so that customers and businesses get a 360-degree view of information that they need to see.
Myth 5: Our self-service deployment is "live" so "we're done."
The truth is a sustainable self-service implementation must include ongoing closed-loop management.
Best practice: To ensure self-service success and leverage its full value, you should know in real-time if customers are finding the information they need, whether they are getting stuck or they are leaving your site due to frustration. Moreover, your self-service implementation should include the technology and processes to collect customer feedback on website content, ease of use and your company's offerings for ongoing management. Many of our clients are leveraging our adaptive content management capability that automatically triggers content creation and maintenance tasks based on ongoing performance. Moreover, they collect feedback from customers on specific service interactions and their overall offerings, both at the end of service interactions and through periodic surveys, based on best practices.
eGain has helped world-class companies achieve and sustain customer service excellence for more than a decade. eGain Service™, the company's highly rated customer service software suite, enables organizations to build customer interaction hubs to provide best-in-class customer service and experience, and reduce service costs. Available for on-premise or on-demand deployment, eGain Service includes integrated applications for comprehensive Web self-service with flexible information access methods and adaptive content management, email/fax/letter management, chat, live Web collaboration, case management and knowledge management, built on a common customer interaction hub platform.
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