Saturday, November 17News That Matters

As the holidays approach, three ways to tune-up your self-service


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It’s the first week of November which means the ramp up to the holiday seasons has begun. Regardless of your company’s industry, the holidays probably means three things: a higher volume of customer service inquiries, anxious customers seeking fast answers, and customer service agents taking time off.

It’s the perfect storm.

Granted, most of the customers’ concerns aren’t new. You address these common questions time and time again:

  • Where is my order?
  • Where can I find more information about your product or service?
  • What’s your return policy?
  • What kind of warranty do you offer?

… there’s just going to be a higher volume of these requests coming in, paired with everything else you already deal with … along with possibly fewer agent resources and harried customers.

But you’re prepared for this, right? Because in the last several years, you followed the advice of experts like Forrester Research. Forrester has again and again (and again!) made it clear that customer self-service is more than just a priority for businesses but now table stakes in customer service. Why? Because customers have become accustomed to it, use it, and even prefer solutions available anytime, anywhere with no waiting. And for the business, providing self-service answers to common problems delivers benefits, as well: service costs are reduced when agents aren’t tied up with solving simple, high-volume work and they can turn their attention to more complex issues.

Though you have self-service available today, don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back. Just because these options are in place doesn’t mean you’re completely prepared for the holidays.

The problem is self-service solutions that worked when created may not be working now. Solutions must be periodically tested. Consider the following examples:

  • Knowledge base – an article might have initially contained useful information about a product or service, outlining key features and specs. When that product was revised during the last update cycle, is that same information still correct or has it changed?
  • Automated solutions – many companies offer online order tracking forms, offering a faster and easier way to check status–that is, until the backend business rules and connected systems change. Does the workflow connecting the online tracking form still correctly connect to the right systems?

These two examples result in the customer receiving incorrect information or their self-service request fails.

Nothing in business stays the same for long. It’s all too common for changes and improvements occurring elsewhere in the business to cause disruptions, and nowhere is this truer than in customer self-service. If you haven’t been monitoring and maintaining your self-service offerings, they can quickly become irrelevant, less useful to customers, and even cause customer frustration.

The best practice here is to set periodic review dates for all self-service solutions to ensure information intended to help customers doesn’t end up frustrating them instead. If an inspection hasn’t occurred recently, take the time now to audit your self-service.

Similar to validating each self-service option still functions as intended, some may no longer be necessary. This might be due to product obsolescence, a change in process or policy, etc. Reviewing customer usage by running usage reports is also handy to determine the self-service solutions no longer being accessed by customers.

Take these steps to eliminate self-service options that only serve to clutter up the system. The more self-service solutions that exist (especially in a knowledge base), the more challenging it is for customers to browse and search. These unneeded options lengthen search results and may cause customers to choose incorrect solutions (creating frustration or confusion, which then result in them taking their problem to live service channels). Adding to that, the more challenging it is for the customers to use your self-service, the less confidence they will have in it and the less likely they are to use it in the future. It’s also a negative impact on their overall customer experience.

Two other things that don’t stay the same: customer expectations for self-service and the self-service channel landscape. While it’s too late to safely launch a new self-service channel prior to the holidays and have it be effective, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start planning for the next holiday or high-volume period.

Look around at competitors’ and even non-competitors’ self-service channels. How do your offerings compare? Are you lacking any of the more modern options, such as online communities, live chat, or a chatbot?

Once you have some ideas for new self-service options, don’t just start implementing them. Your customers will have opinions to share. Make them a part of the decision through surveys and interviews.

Customers expect self-service and providing solutions online to customers around the clock reduces the workload on your service team. This is especially important during hectic periods.

As the holiday season gets underway, customer service volume is going to start ticking up. Customers will be more pressed for time. Agents will be out for holiday vacations. Now is the time to perform a check on all self-service channels, verifying solutions for validity and that desired outcomes are still occurring. If there are any that are no longer needed, remove them. Tying up those loose ends now will help ensure a smooth holiday season.

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