Once upon a time, quality and price were the essences of buying decisions. However, today more and more brands are chosen based on whether the overall customer experience matches customer expectations, and delivering a frictionless, cross-channel customer experience is the key.
While the rise of self-service solutions meets the growing customer demand for quick, efficient solutions in many service situations, optimized assisted-service across these channels is still critical and remains the best way to ensure success. Companies need to recognize when self-service will be more effective or when live agent assistance will be better; then they need to offer a seamless transition between them. Those brands that do are reaping the benefits. Let’s take a look:
A Self-Service Foundation
Today, an effective digital self-service solution on the web, mobile, social and messaging channels is the foundation for any customer service strategy. The reasons are quite clear as 53% of US online adults now are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question; while 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service. It is no surprise then that, according to Forrester, “customers increasingly leverage self-service and digital channels for customer service because these channels offer the least amount of interaction friction.” Customers will make the first contact with a variety of issues, and once they do, there are many issues that cause customers delays. However, when there is a self-service option, in particular, a virtual assistant that’s available 24/7 leveraged across all digital channels, it eliminates long wait times, or having to be transferred to different representatives in order to resolve their issue, while also speeding up queuing time for customers who can’t be helped by the virtual assistant.
At the same time, a self-service solution that can show up before the live chat or phone solution enables brands to keep pace with the behavioral evolution of today’s customer who prefers to search information and answers independently, and now has the digital tools to do so. This includes even creating an FAQ section on the website or alerting customers of existing issues that they can troubleshoot themselves through a step by step guide. Proactively enabling your customers to help themselves empowers the customer and improves the overall customer experience, as customers can get the answers they need any time of day. This, of course, leads to higher conversion rates while reducing support costs because fewer live chat agents are needed.
Context is Everything
While there is no denying the importance of self-service, nevertheless, there are many situations where customers make initial contact on self-service, and then seek to continue the process with a live agent for a more personal interaction. In other words, customers want to be able to easily switch between channels when self-service is not enough. While in 29% of cases it’s the phone, followed by email (23%) and web chat (15%), it really depends on the customer's context, such as their location at the time, which device they are currently using, whatever else they may be doing at the time, the precise nature of their support request, its emotional layer, the level of urgency and their personal preferences. Now the challenge, as well as the tremendous opportunity it presents regarding the overall customer experience, is to take control of this process of contextual escalation.
Optimizing Omni-channel CX with Contextual Routing
Today, through utilizing artificial intelligence technology that fuels machine learning interactions within self-service applications, these various dimensions of context can be immediately analyzed in real time. In addition to all the information about the customer’s relationship with the brand, including prior interactions, purchase history, and more. Brands can now collect instantly actionable virtual assistant interaction data to expand their understanding of a consumer’s intent by picking up on patterns in behaviors as they happen. By placing customer service requests in their right context, brands can now engage with customers across communications channels (including email, voice, SMS and social media) with a high degree of customer understanding. As a result, consumer service and purchase needs are handled quickly. Since inquiries escalate through the most cost effective channel and the most expensive agent interaction channels are reserved for the highest value activities.
With the growing move to a digital Omni-channel customer experience, so too is the need for an optimized Omni-channel customer service strategy. Starting with an effective self-service solution, brands can begin to unlock the data information that is generated across multiple customer interactions and channels to create that frictionless, cross-channel customer experience that customers have come to expect, whether within a self-service solution or live interaction. Welcome to the future of customer service.