In the first of his three-part series, projekt202’s Joe Dyer explains customer self-service and why it is so vital in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.
PART 1: HOW THE DESIRES OF CONSUMERS HAVE CHANGED
By Joe Dyer
Director of Experience Strategy & Insight
Much of the consumer technology industry is based around the model of plug-and-play. A person who purchases a smart TV wants to be able to open the box, unwrap it, plug it into the wall, hook it up to any accessories quickly and, with a few punches of a remote, connect to the internet. The tension in the customer care space is dealing with increasing customer expectations and the growing complexity of providing care while reducing costs.
There is no need to call the cable company to hook up a new connection, or even to call the tech-savvy neighbor across the street to help navigate a booklet of setup instructions and codes to pair a remote with a TV.
This doesn’t just apply to TVs, either. This plug-and-play model is omnipresent in most consumer technology today — from computers to smartphones to smart home devices to wireless headphones.
As the change in delivery and accessibility has already occurred in the communications and media market, the approach to customer service needs to trend that way, too, toward what is known as customer self-service. Unlike customer service or customer support of yesteryear, this new design and approach to helping and servicing the customer is driven by the customers themselves.
Some of the most successful communications and media technologies have built their entire business on the back of this focus on customer self-service.
In this three-part series, we’ll explain further what customer self-service is and why it’s so important, provide examples of other companies doing it well, and outline tips on how businesses should embrace this new focus.
The Consumer’s Changing Preferences
What the plug-and-play model of media technology deliverability has done is changed the way consumers feel about both using their technology and also getting extra support if they’re having problems. Only a small portion of consumers today would still prefer to call a customer support phone line if they needed technical support. Instead, they’d rather either be presented with a walkthrough of the top troubleshooting tips or a live one-on-one chat box to help them.
Think this is all just conjecture? Think again.
A survey conducted by Aspect in 2017 called the “Aspect Consumer Experience Index” found 39 percent of customers would prefer to clean their toilet rather than call a customer service phone line to get help with questions or complaints.
A 2016 Forrester survey found 79 percent of consumers prefer to use a self-service platform than a support channel assisted by a human.
Keep in mind, too, a lot has changed since these surveys were conducted. Consumers desire to get their problems solved quickly and painlessly. If they can do it on their own with minimal assistance from a human they need to call, all the better.
This means it is essential for communications and media companies to have an easy-to-use platform for consumers to peruse and make selections on their own, as well as simple tools that allow them to connect with a live chat representative who can walk them through the issue step-by-step if they are still having problems.
The key for companies today is to focus on customer success rather than traditional customer support. In other words, making sure the customer gets what he or she wants — in whatever ways he or she goes about getting it — is more important than delivering support through old-fashioned channels.
Why Customer Experience is Important
We’ve talked about customer experience before, but it’s pertinent to emphasize it again. It is also important to note that customer service is about building customer relationships through meaningful engagement. It encompasses more than support for issues; it is also about purchase and ownership support.
Customer experience is about catering to the needs and wants of customers, and not just providing avenues by which customers can get help if they have questions or run into a problem with a product and/or service.
It’s all about companies recognizing what their customers want today as well as anticipating what they will want tomorrow — and then providing for both.
Why is this important to businesses? Because consumers today make purchasing decisions based around it.
According to customer experience consulting firm Walker, customer experience will become the main differentiator between competing companies by 2020, more important than product and price. That’s a pretty telling statistic of why customer experience is so important, but there are more:
• The firm Aberdeen says companies with a solid customer experience program have a retention rate of 92 percent.
• Bain & Company says companies that have an “excellent customer experience” see revenues increase by 4 percent to 8 percent compared to the market.
• The Temkin Group says a company valued at $1 billion has the ability to generate an average revenue increase of $823 million in just three years with a moderate improvement in its customer experience.
For 2019 and beyond, customer self-service is at the forefront of this customer experience.
The Benefits of Customer Self-Service to the Business
The great part about customer self-service is it has a benefit on a business’ bottom line as well. Since customers are handling more of their support issues on their own, with the assistance of static or infrequently-updated guides and tools, the cost of care goes down.
Self-service decreases the demand for direct contact with the company, which reduces the volume of calls and support tickets that are generated.
A secondary benefit of this is the customer support team can become more productive and helpful when they are needed.
With a lower volume of calls and tickets, they can spend the time needed on the phone or live chat to not only help customers with their problems, but also establish a positive touchpoint to enhance the customer experience. This can go a long way in keeping customers happy and establishing brand loyalty. Think high-touch exception and not the norm. If there was ever a lab for tuning AI and automation, it is in the call center with rich problem and resolution data to model.
Finally, a tertiary benefit to customer self-service is companies teaching customers new tech skills. As customers learn more now, they become more knowledgeable on how to solve similar problems in the future, making them even less reliant on traditional customer service channels than they are now.
It’s easy to see, now, not just how important self-support is to today’s consumer, but why it matters for businesses. In part 2 of our customer self-service series, we’ll look at how companies are implementing the tactics and how impactful it’s been for them.
Note: Part 2 of Joe’s series will be published May 15, 2019 and Part 3 will be published May 17, 2019.