Self Service: A Blessing Or A Curse?
This same organization explained that its self-service option was indeed reducing the amount of live agent interactions, and as a result decreasing operating costs. However, over time, the company realized it was also losing the loyalty of these customers who ultimately left to do business with the competition. In this case, it made more sense to maintain traditional avenues of human-to-human interactions.
Completely doing away with self-service channels may be a bit aggressive. In many scenarios, customers can serve themselves better than anyone else. In order for self-service to be effective, standards are developed and applied over time, making it easier and more intuitive for customers to use. These standards ensure consistency but can pose a challenge for marketers trying to differentiate, brand and create value via these customer interaction channels.
Making Self-Service Sticky
An ATM transaction provides a great example of an efficient self-service application. While customers appreciate having easy account access, these brief moments or connections to a bank lack the human element that was achieved when customers walked into their local branch and knew the teller serving them by name. Depending on the customer and the complexity of their transaction, it can make a difference to have a real person serve the customer, creating a sense of regard for those that provide frontline support on a regular basis, appreciate customer preferences and are able to respond to other questions and/or needs.
So, that leaves us with a critical question. How do marketers continue to maintain and grow a brand in a world of increasing self-services? Opportunities may exist either through personalizing these self-service transactions or through leveraging the human-to-human interactions that are still taking place in many organizations.
A good example of personalizing self-service can be found in the banking environment with automated bill payment services. I pay most of my bills online, and many of them are scheduled automatically by my bank's self-service application. While it took some work to set up everything, it has also given me a strong incentive to stay with my existing financial institution -- even though I recently moved to a state where they have no branches!
Creating "sticky" self-service and strong incentives, such as the example above, may help reduce customer churn but is it enough to create a strong advocacy and loyalty for the brand? Marketing departments need to also get closer to live customer interactions -- whether in a retail location or in the contact center.
Humanizing Self-Service Experiences
Advances in customer interaction analytics software have made it easier to capture and mine live customer conversations. Speech analytics capabilities, for example, allow you to automatically identify changes in customer behavior, and quickly gauge if there has been an increase/decrease in discussions mentioning certain topics, phrases or keywords.
These tools are also effective in pinpointing where self-service fails -- ultimately routing the customer to a live agent -- and where new opportunities for self-service exist. Some organizations mine live interactions to help them create a more effective "persona" for their self-service applications, trying to mimic what a great live interaction really sounds like for the customer.
"Moment of truth" interactions -- where human-to-human conversations take place -- should be viewed as an opportunity to go the extra mile and create a lasting loyalty experience. This became a reality for one financial organization. Leveraging speech analytics software helped the company discover that specific keywords and phrases in its up-selling scripts were actually statistically correlated with lower sales rates.
The agents that carefully followed the official script were much less successful in up-selling customers, and the organization's best sales agents were the ones who created their own unique strategies using very specific words and phrases. The end result: the renegade agents increased their chance of closing a sale by up to 300%.
How can this information be applied to self-service applications? Evaluating live interactions can reveal customer intentions or identify what approaches will be well received from clients. Perhaps the phrases that helped create positive sales experiences can appear in the form of a question during an ATM transaction, or it can become an offer when you login to your online banking account.
Linking marketing programs to contact center intelligence and self-service usage may hold the key to building a brand and making it profitable at the same time. Seems like a great opportunity for making self-service more personal.