Self-service channels for customers – good or bad idea? pt.1
In the era of Internet and technological advancement, there ways people can get information about everything are quite many. This is why, it’s not a surprise most companies create the so called self-service channels, which let their customers find information or solution to a problem they have with a product of the said company, different than actually calling a customer service rep. The company’s clients use online functionality or a mobile app, instead of calling a service agent or meeting with a company representative.
Yes, such self-service channels do have their pros – the cost of one such channel is lower than the salary of an agent, and in some industries these channels are somewhat mandatory for some processes that don’t take much of the customer’s time. But if self-service is 100% of a company’s customer service, it can bring much more negative effect than positive. Especially if the chosen channels are too hard to navigate or even make no sense to the customer.
To shed more light on how self-service channels can become ineffective, we will give you an example:
After a power outage, an electric company’s call center is overwhelmed by frustrated customers’ calls to a point where their system shuts down – the agents are unable to take all the calls, and contacting an agent takes a long time – somewhere between an hour and forever. Of course, this only makes the frustration of the customers worse. As a measure, the electric company creates several self-service channels that will help their customers find information about power problems – people can check online if there is a power outage in their region and how long will it take to be repaired, a list of all upcoming power outages is send to customers by email, they even create a mobile app with information.
The results, however, are not so promising – in most households, when there is a power outage, the internet connectivity also stops, smartphones are not so popular among the residents of the smaller cities and the emails with upcoming power problems actually give information about the whole county, which makes it pretty hard to navigate and actually find useful information. The newly created self-service channels created by the company, appear to be highly ineffective, so the customers make the only logical thing in the situation – they try to contact customer service on the phone. This leads to another breakdown of the company’s call center – a problem that could have been approached directly by increasing the number of call agents, upgrading the system software, increasing the quality of the work etc.
As we’ve mentioned in the example, in many populated locations the preferred method of finding a solution to a problem with a product or service is by contacting a customer service rep. This can be because of technical restrictions or because of the “distrust to technology” some demographic segments still show. Such users prefer to communicate with a specialist, who knows the product well and can quickly find the right solution for their particular problem.
As professionals in customer service, we fully understand the importance of the direct communication, we react fast on all communication channels, we can increase the workforce when the situations requires, we have fast and adaptive software, as well as fast supply of human resource – everything needed to avoid the problems from the mentioned example, a fact based on our quality of work and years of experience.
In our next article on the topic, we will see how self-service can turn into no-service and which is the most effective option when it comes to customer service.