Self-service first strategy for contact center efficiency and speed

Did you know that a global survey conducted by PwC on 15,000 customers regarding their CX expectations shows that 75% preferred personal interaction, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be with humans?

70% of the respondents preferred speed and convenience as their top priorities, and more than half of all contact center users get so frustrated that they hang up the phone without arriving at a solution. Since speed is an essential factor, the survey found that 40% of respondents are willing to pay for any faster alternatives — artificial intelligence (AI) or robots.

Clearly, a smarter solution to this pressing need for speed in service response is to adopt an integrated, holistic customer service approach, blending both agent-based customer support and sophisticated self-service options intelligently.

Self-service has been in the industry for more than 20 years. Called Interactive Voice Response (IVR), it was first introduced as a simple, straightforward telephony menu system with one or two filtering options that enable the callers to connect with the most appropriate agents in the contact centers. Since then, the industry has seen plenty of evolution in IVR technology, offering so much more to customers.

Thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, speech recognition, omnichannel and cloud capabilities, AI-powered conversational IVR systems are now becoming a critical part in the customer engagement strategy that can guide customers to the right channel and help them resolve their issues in the fastest and best way possible.

They can understand exactly who’s on the line, what they want, and where they need to be for the quick resolution of their issues. This enables higher efficiencies for the companies serving those customers. There are other solid benefits that drive the widespread adoption of interactive voice response systems today.

According to Forrester’s recent data, a live agent costs $6-12 dollars per interaction, whereas an automated interaction costs about $0.25 cents. A good number of people dial their customer support team to get simple information like account balance, account status, payment due date, etc., and they don’t necessarily want to speak with a live agent.

When implemented correctly, self-service IVR can easily take care of these customers, allowing them to solve their own problems and obtain the information without speaking to an agent. When your frontline agents handle these simple, repetitive tasks, your contact center incurs high costs. It’s all about reducing agent time spent on those high volume, low complexity tasks.

IVR provides the perfect opportunity to move high volume, low complexity tasks away from the agents to free them up to handle the more complicated tasks and interactions that demand human attention. Clearly, the ROI on IVR is enormous.

Besides, with low call volume, you’ll cut down long queue times that can lead to frustrated clients. When we consider the significant cost savings, 24×7 service, and efficiency, it’s worth the investment to make the IVR customer journey as productive and satisfying as it can be. In fact, IVR has a much higher customer acceptance if it’s less complex and user-friendly.

An integrated customer service approach that combines the benefits of both self-service and live agents, therefore, provides a decisive foundation for future customer service strategies. The following is how an integrated support center workflow should be set-up:

  • In an integrated customer service, the customer journey always begins with self-service, the first digital touchpoint, which can be your IVR, chatbots, intelligent voice assistant, or a self-support web page. If the self-service isn’t sufficient to resolve the customer issues, it automatically initiates the transition to the next touchpoint.
  • The second touchpoint is a suitably-qualified, live agent whose competence profile matches the customer’s inquiry, collected from the first touchpoint along with all necessary customer information. Artificial intelligence controls this routing and agent assignment process based on urgency, severity, agent’s skill level, previous customer touchpoints, etc.
  • The third touchpoint gets initiated when the caller leaves the self-service. The system captures and sends all customer input to the agent, who can trigger an offer to speak to an agent. If the customer accepts, the agent can call the customer to have a much productive and meaningful interaction without the need for asking what’s already taken place in the self-service. This saves a lot of time, leading to greater efficiency, streamlined communications, and a significant impact.

In summary, a “self-service first” strategy addresses the universal need of all customers: speed, efficiency, availability, and seamless service. If you have plans to go about adopting self-service workflows, you need to first start by reviewing your contact center processes, from start to finish. You will need to identify the volume of low complexity activities, frequency, and the areas for potential automation and evaluate the data sources.

It’s evident that self-service is key to the customer experience, and it has the potential to transform the contact center workforce. But IVR is not a customer avoidance tool. Organizations need to make sure they don’t go overboard in leveraging IVR-based self-service. If they do, they will risk frustrating current and potential customers and negatively impacting their own businesses. Therefore, you need a well thought out game plan which involves both strategy and technology to optimize processes and end-to-end customer journeys.

To know more, contact our CX expert today. Find out how Acqueon can help you choose the best self-service strategy and implement workflows and AI capabilities fully customized for your business needs and existing platforms.

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