Self-Service in the Contact Center. Friend or enemy of Customer Experience?

Contact Center IVR
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Companies are shifting from an Enterprise Centric strategy towards a Customer Centric one.  We are experiencing the age of the customer. Customers decide when and how they want to approach a company and of course how they want to purchase. They are realizing that a good customer experience has proven to be a key differentiator among competitors, and this is achieved not only with properly trained agents but also with better tools that improve First Contact Resolution (FCR), multichannel attention and unified information within the Contact Center.

Customers want to use multiple ways of communicating with the company

Depending on their preferences and security, some of them want to do it on their own through self-service tools. If I don´t feel like speaking to an agent, why should I? Can I solve my issue just by calling the system? Or just by accessing the website?

Some enterprise centric companies implement self-service systems to improve Contact Center efficiency and return on investment, we need to keep in mind that agents represent 75% of Contact Center costs and self-service systems are the perfect ally to reduce costs and keep agents away from useless back office work. But they can also be the enemy of a good customer service when customers get frustrated in the process or the business rules are not aligned with what the customer wants.

So, is it possible to combine self-service tools that beneficiate the company with a customer centric strategy? It should be, it must be.
The key is allowing the customer to choose. If they feel comfortable managing the interaction only with self-service tools they should be able to, but if they want to speak to an agent from the very beginning or at any specific time they should be able too.

A self-service tool always adds value, regardless of the customer preferences

I recently had a power outage at home, I obviously called the power company and to my surprise they had already configured the IVR with a message related to my issue. One of the options was to report a power outage and when I selected that option a recording stated that they had identified a problem in my area and that they were working on it that if I wanted more info I could listen to the latest updates on the recording or talk to an agent. So, self-service tools add value, I did not need to speak to an agent therefore they didn´t have to engage in unnecessary calls, and at the same time I was left with the impression that my power company was on top of things and I was getting the service I deserved.

This example illustrates how crafting a proper business strategy allowing the self-service tools (Web, IR, IVR) interact with the customer in for example: Identification,  sensible data collection, survey questions etc.  Will allow companies not only to take advantage of the benefits of a self-service system (not involving agents in unnecessary interactions) which translates in substantial cost savings. But can definitively improve customer experience by giving self-service attention 24/7, (automated transactions, delivering security to the customer etc) and improving Customer experience.

It seems that companies have the tools to enhance their contact center performance and improve the customer experience, hence their results but, in order for this to work it needs to be integrated with the rest of the systems of the company, so all the information is available regardless of the channel of communication. Also, a proper self-service strategy needs to be in place, so self-service tools are applied where they can really add value to the customer not only to the company.
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