Self-service technology – whether in store or online – is a value-add today’s connected customer has come to expect. With competition plentiful and differentiation difficult, one bad customer experience can be the difference between a loyal customer – that keeps spending with your brand – and a dissatisfied customer that takes his or her business elsewhere and never comes back.
It’s thought that self-service technology will have an even bigger impact on business success and growth in 2016. Customer service professionals should be asking themselves how their business can be using self-service technology to increase efficiency – and more importantly, reduce costs.
Just look at the recent self-service implementation at insurance management provider 1st Central. With more than 300,000 customers in the U.K. and a workforce of just 500, the company must manage the growing demand for round-the-clock support. Despite offering staff extensive training on policies and procedures there continued to be inconsistency in support staff responses and knowledge that was being acquired daily across departments was not being captured or shared. So back in 2012, 1st Central engaged Transversal to introduce a centralized knowledge solution that would allow customers to serve themselves online and reduce pressure on the 1st Central contact center team.
According to Gartner (News - Alert), knowledgebase projects can allow for fast retrieval of the right information, increasing customer satisfaction by 12 percent, a 40 percent reduction in inbound emails due to easy access to information, a 25 percent head count shift away from low-value calls due to self-service, agent time-to-answer reduction of 40 percent, and a 35 percent reduction in the time that it takes to train a new CSR (News - Alert).
Studies conducted by The Customer Respect Group, a Boston-based research and consulting firm, have shown that online users leave websites after an average of three failed attempts to search for an item. The key when attempting to improve self-service is finding a balance between choice and quality of information; while customers are demanding more information than ever before they do not want to be presented with unnecessary or incorrect information that clogs up the self-service process.
In fact when it comes to customer service, eliminating half the unnecessary content you serve up can increase online satisfaction by up to 20 percent – so remember to keep your content simple. It’s easy to get caught in the trap and try to collect and share absolutely everything, but less is more when it comes to self-service. Internal departments should be working together from the offset to input the most relevant information and to constantly feed updates into the knowledgebase when new or fresh information becomes important to share.
“It’s an evolutionary process, you don’t just launch the knowledgebase as a finished product, you need to constantly refine it – adding additional context over time,” said Gary Lucas, head of customer experience at 1st Central.
Once up and running, data analytics, such as top questions, most frequent searches, and seasonal dynamics can be used to predict, pre-empt, and continually improve your knowledgebase – keeping you one step ahead of the needs of your customers.
Think about your existing customer service portal. How often do you analyze your customer data? Has the data led to any tangible improvements for your customers or employees? Are you sharing data insights across departments to improve efficiencies? How often are you doing so?
Unfortunately in most cases the short answer to these questions is no; all too often customer service departments work in siloes, using multiple content management systems to deal with answering inbound customer queries. By using a single knowledgebase and linking this with data analytics from all departments, brands will benefit from a centralized system that shows what customers are doing, why they are doing it, and how their experience could be improved – ultimately helping you to gain more loyal customers and convert more sales.
“Without having the insight of who is asking what questions and how the questions are changing over time, we would not have understood the issues our customers were experiencing. It’s been a great tool for understanding our customers’ changing needs and requirements,” said Lucas.
While the upfront costs and associated time commitment of introducing a centralized knowledgebase may deter some, it’s important to weigh the long-term business benefits of encouraging self-service, beyond those of improving customer services. This include:
• Improving workforce efficiencies: Customer service representatives on average spend more than half of their time understanding questions and searching for the correct information to respond to their customer’s inquiries. A centralized KM solution can eliminate wasteful research or training time, increase first contact closures, and improve overall average handle times.
• Managing customer demand: Consider the strong growth in Internet applications and an explosion of mobile applications; customer demand for information/answers is growing exponentially. By encouraging customers to self-serve, brands can nearly eliminate unnecessary inbound inquiries to the contact center and continue to reduce customer support costs while properly managing customer demand.
• Refining the customer experience: Brands with a proper KM strategy will orchestrate cross-enterprise customer initiatives. Knowledge delivered more speedily achieves two goals: it builds customer satisfaction and trust, and it creates a time window to deliver a message about a new product or service.
Edited by Maurice Nagle