PART 3: TRENDS AND FOCUS POINTS FOR BUSINESS
The customer experience is one of the most important (if not the single most important) aspects of differentiation nowadays.
At the center of this customer experience is customer self-service.
In part 1 of our customer self-service series, we talked about the changing desires and habits of customers and the demand for self-service.
Then, in part 2, we discussed how some companies have designed a viable business model around it, and how self-service is a disrupter for an entire industry.
Here, in part 3, we’ll discuss predictions of what’s to come for 2019 and beyond in the realm of customer experience and customer self-support, and what companies need to do to embrace it.
If there are two words that best describe customer self-service specifically, and the customer experience generally, they would be ‘convenient’ and ‘personal.’
Here are four tips for what’s ahead.
1. Businesses Need to Be Proactive
Today’s consumers are needy — in a good way. They want to feel like businesses are fulfilling their needs through products and/or services, and that their needs are being anticipated. As such, a large part of self-service is not just providing tools and information for customers to solve issues on their own, but also proactively reaching out to make sure customers don’t need help.
There is a plethora of data that businesses collect about their interactions with customers; it’s easy for them to anticipate future problems and/or needs based on what is happening today. This is often referred to as monitoring customer health. It’s an anticipatory practice that predicts the needs and desires of customers and offers support or a base of knowledge in advance, just in case they need it.
2. Businesses Need to Offer Self-Service
If a business doesn’t offer a robust self-service platform and resources, then it’s likely to experience a significant hit in business retention going forward.
Customers today not only desire this self-service, they expect it. Think of self-service as similar to what a website was 20 years ago, or what social media channels were a few years ago: If a business doesn’t have them, it looks outdated and behind the times.
Sometimes, having something as low-tech but highly useful as a robust FAQ — one that covers far beyond the happy path of customer experience — is exactly what customers need. Tracking all the issues that hit the call centers? Great, now put all problems and resolution information in an indexable content management system and help your customers help themselves.
For many customers, self-service starts at the Google search bar. If your online knowledge base is content spider-friendly, you are meeting customers where they go to find answers.
3. Businesses Need to Be Convenient and Personalized
If there are two words that best describe customer self-service specifically, and the customer experience generally, they would be “convenient” and “personal.” The crux of self-service is providing convenient solutions to the customer with as minimal direct contact with the business as possible.
At the same time, customers today want to feel special. If they spend their hard-earned money on a product and/or service, they want to feel appreciated by the company.
Data mining for insight to remain relevant to customers’ needs is a start. Keeping current with the customer improves and sharpens messaging and offers.
Lastly, no matter how good your self-care game is, there should always be ample and timely assistance to channel shift to customer care when needed.
4. AI Should Be a Supplement to Business
Technology companies around the world have been focused on developing artificial intelligence (AI) and using it to improve the customer experience while cutting down on costs. In theory, it’s the perfect solution to customer self-service and improving the customer experience.
But businesses need to be aware that AI will be best used as a supplement to the customer experience and not the focal point. No customer wants completely automated, robotic service and support – no matter how intelligent and “human-like” it is. Customers had such a bad experience with automated customer service phone lines that it left an everlasting bad taste in their mouths.
People want to feel connections with other people, not machines. AI, therefore, should be used as a supplement to the customer experience and not as the primary tool for delivering it.
AI is brilliant for anticipating a customer’s needs and proactively reaching out. AI is great for low-level customer self-support tools. But AI should not replace the entire customer service and support experience. That would lead, predictably, to a decrease in customer satisfaction and, therefore, a business’ customer success.