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4 Ways customer self service prepares your business for the new normal

Customer self-service (CSS) is a win-win for all involved in today’s uncertain business landscape, one where remote work and digital-first interactions have become the “new normal.”

Let’s start with a definition: “customer self-service” offers customers the tools and resources they need to find answers and resolve issues on their own, without the intervention of a human service agent. CSS tools, unlike human agents, are available 24/7 across multiple channels. Customers increasingly prefer using self-service tools: CEB (now Gartner) reports that 81% of consumers try to self-serve before calling a contact center.

CSS Tools Go Beyond the Chatbot

Let’s look at a few of the most commonly deployed CSS tools:

Conversational AI chatbots: Modern chatbots interact with customers in conversational ways, understanding their questions and offering the right responses or content resources in natural language (the underlying technology is called Natural Language Processing or “NLP”). Chatbot technology offers personalization by using data about customers (accessing your CRM, for example) and their customer journey to identify needs, then respond with relevant content. Service organizations can even give their chatbot distinct personalities that align with their brand, deploying chatbots across multiple service channels for a consistent, omnichannel CX.

Dynamic search bars: Dynamic search bars are connected to your organization’s entire knowledge base, enabling your customers to ask questions and get precise, timely answers. Similar to conversational chatbots, dynamic search bars leverage NLP technology to understand the customer’s unstructured search terms. For a consistent CX, add dynamic search bars to wherever your customers typically access your knowledge base, such as your website or mobile app.

FAQ widgets: These work like a dynamic search bar, but appear as a widget that floats or is fixed to any page where your customers might need help, such as your product pages. FAQ widgets bring your help center directly to your customer at the point where they need help.

What Makes CSS Tools Effective?

Above all, ease of use is essential for any CSS tool. If the interaction is clunky, as when the tool cannot quickly and accurately understand the customer’s intention, customer disengagement will occur. CSS tools must also work well with human service agents. A blended “chatbot + agent” solution serves customers best, enabling more complex issues to be quickly escalated to human agents, with the chatbot supporting agents with relevant context and information post-escalation.

Consistency across channels is also important. Brands must offer consistent content and experiences no matter the service channel. Finally, CSS tools need the ability to learn from interactions, getting smarter over time. This capability allows your service deployment to continually improve its knowledge base, gaining actionable insights from ongoing engagement, which you can then use for content creation or internal training purposes.

CSS for Today’s New Normal

In today’s business climate, the only certainty is uncertainty. You will need to maintain agility, the capacity to flex and scale your service deployment to meet evolving customer demands. For example, online retailer Filters Fast saw a rapid upsurge in demand for its air and water filters as the COVID-19 pandemic evolved. Fortunately, Filters Fast had already deployed a (Bold360) chatbot — the chatbot managed 80% of the company’s customer traffic, enabling its small customer service team to manage more complex (and often higher-value) interactions as they worked from home.

Faced with current and future business challenges, companies like Filters Fast have reassessed their approach to engagement and added CSS tools to complement their human service providers. By doing so, they’ve created a scalable and future-proof CX. No matter what the future holds, your customers will expect high-quality, on-demand service and will want answers no matter how and when they reach out to you.

CSS Tools: Delivering on the “Big 4” Capabilities

1. Flexibility: It’s more critical now than ever that you meet customer demands for flexibility, blending CSS tools and your human agents in order to provide scalable, always-on support in today’s “new normal.” Aberdeen reports that companies using CSS options achieve 71% greater annual improvement in customer satisfaction than those without self-service tools. Companies leveraging CSS tools also retain 76% more of their customers and have a 6X greater annual improvement in customer lifetime value, says Aberdeen.

2. Operational Continuity: Companies that deploy scalable, 24/7 CSS tools maintain the continuity of their customer service operations, whether agents are working from home (as during COVID-19) or in a call center. Having the capacity to share and shift traffic with CSS tools is essential for operational continuity in times of rapid change. According to Salesforce Research, 84% of teams that leverage CSS tools have seen improved prioritization of agents’ work, meaning highly complex service issues get resolved better and faster by humans.

3. Agent empowerment: Agents want to do meaningful work, and fielding a high volume of routine, repetitive calls can become monotonous. Most agents are happy to let CSS tools manage the routine stuff, liberating them to resolve more complex, higher-value issues. In fact, 75% of agents credit CSS tools with increasing team morale, according to Salesforce Research. Let automation do what it does best (repetitive tasks), and empower your agents to focus on what they do best (complex, high-value interactions).

4. Omnichannel consistency: CSS tools ensure that information provided to customers is consistent, regardless of the support channel, whether your website, mobile app, or messaging platform. This consistency also helps ensure that your messaging is in compliance with brand guidelines and relevant regulations Omnichannel consistency is especially important for companies in the highly regulated finance, healthcare, and insurance industries.

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