Foundations for Delivering Self-Service Profitability and Customer Satisfaction

Strategic Solution Series

Foundations for Delivering Self-Service Profitability and Customer Satisfaction

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  September 25, 2014

CUSTOMER Magazine recently spoke with Mark Miller, senior director of contact center solutions at J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Mark to offer guidance to executives who are challenged to deliver both high customer satisfaction and high containment rates.

How do executives deliver cost reduction through higher self-service containment while also delivering improved customer satisfaction?

We agree with the basic business principle: deliver the best possible service at the least possible cost. While organizations may begin this journey with the best intentions, unfortunately many lose sight of their customer’s satisfaction and cannot resist the temptation to artificially drive up containment for the short-term cost savings. However, there is a price to be paid for ramping up containment. Our research shows that organizations employing strategies that achieve high containment in short periods of time typically suffer from lower customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. Indeed, it is very difficult to ramp up IVR containment quickly by limiting choices and forcing clients to go through longer menus and simultaneously increase customer satisfaction.

What are some keys to maximizing self-service usage without sacrificing satisfaction?

One key is to take the long view by carefully considering the impact of artificially high containment rates on long-term profitability and competitiveness. Artificially high containment rates are the result of strategies that actively limit customer choice and intentionally delay the ability of customers, who may want and actually need to communicate with a human being to get their needs met, to reach a representative for help.

The better approach is to put a multi-year strategic plan in place to inspire customers to willingly migrate from assisted channels to self-service channels. The premise behind this approach is that it is better to work with loyal customers who may take more time than others to move to self-service channels of their own volition than it is to save some support costs but risk reducing customer satisfaction, which can directly contribute to either the loss of share of wallet, or worse yet, the loss of customers. It is far more expensive to replace customers than it is to service them on their terms and maximize inspired self-service usage over time.

There are many approaches that center around the systemic education of customers regarding alternative self-service channels to entice customers to migrate over to those channels on their own, and we support this. Additionally, there are ways to significantly reduce the number of calls from the outset as well as improve the experience of the self-service channel. We are excited to offer such solutions and can help clients take these fundamental steps toward delivering both higher customer satisfaction and lower costs. These steps are integral parts of the multi-year strategy to which we have been referring.

Before self-service strategies can work, however, customers must authenticate within the self-service channel. Lower-than-possible authentication is an example of an area that affects almost all contact centers by driving up costs on multiple levels.

Do you struggle with callers who won’t authenticate? We can help.

Recently, two of our clients each said that they have 40%-50% of callers who “pound out” (hit zero or other buttons until they get to a rep) when using the phone channel. This practice not only eliminates any opportunity for customers to self-serve, but also negatively affects talk time, transfers, and customer satisfaction. The bottom line is that non-authentication adds costs and diminishes satisfaction.

Although we certainly encourage customer-focused organizations to offer the option to get to an agent very quickly, we recognize that ideally this would be done post-authentication so the customer could have the best opportunity to get to someone who could help them immediately. How do we solve this challenge?

We apply sophisticated research methodologies and analyses to:

• Identify which customers are most likely and least likely to authenticate in the future

• Understand why some customers don’t authenticate and determine how to change this behavior

The result is that organizations can target and inspire those customers with a proclivity to authenticate and stop wasting time and money on customers who will almost certainly never authenticate. When authentication rates increase, inspired containment also increases, and call handle time and transfers decrease, resulting in lower costs and higher customer satisfaction.


When organizations take the long view and strive to maximize inspired containment, they will ultimately improve customer satisfaction and both the top and bottom lines.

Visit to learn more about J.D. Power’s suite of solutions for the contact center industry.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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