AppointmentPlus Blog

Ready for a Self-Service Solution? Read This First!

For the past several weeks, we’ve been discussing the steady growth of the self-service phenomenon, and how it has changed the way we do business. In our final post of this series, we offer practical advice for implementing self-service options in your business. 

If you’ve been following our series on self-service, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme: Customers love self-service technology, and companies need to offer it to stay competitive.

So now that you know you should be offering self-service solutions, what’s the best way to implement them?

Not all tasks are suitable for self-service, and not all self-service technology is right for your business. So how do you make the best choices for your customer and your business? Start by asking a very basic question.

Is this process suitable for self-service?

Consumers grow more tech-savvy by the minute, so tasks that might have seemed complicated even a few years ago are now very commonplace. Think about it — we see toddlers who can select, purchase, download, and begin using apps on their tablets without any help from Mom and Dad (much to the chagrin of many parents, and the reason why app stores had to start implementing safeguards for unauthorized purchases).

However, not every task should be completed by the customer without assistance from a company resource. And not all customers want to use self-service. Some tasks need to be handled individually, and require the personal touch of a highly skilled company representative.

Involve your customers

Chances are, the reason you’re considering implementing a self-service process is that your customers are asking for it. So take advantage of their insight and involve some trusted brand evangelists in the creation of your process. Asking for beta testers and survey respondents is a great way to harness some of that user knowledge to implement a successful self-service solution.

Stay close by

Self-service does not eliminate the need for human interaction. It simply streamlines the customer experience, and allows your staff more time to focus their attention on tasks that require their unique skillset.

A recent article in Forbes highlights that, while many people might deny they ever need help with a transaction, every customer is a multi-channel customer.1 So even though most people want to be able to complete a transaction on their own without any interaction from the company, your best bet is to make it very simple for them to reach a human at any point during the process (remember our story about being stuck in an endless IVR loop from earlier in this series).

Think of it as an escape hatch. And it can be as simple as including your phone number or an obvious “help” button in the same place on each screen.

The companies that use this best practice for self-service are reaping the benefits in a big way. Research by Carmelon Digital Marketing shows that Walgreen’s-owned Drugstore.com increased order size by 20% and saved $350,000 through call deflection using self-service assistance on Facebook and Twitter.2

Don’t forget that FAQ section

Carmelon’s research also shows that offering help for self-servers is key to its success. Setting up a comprehensive, easy-to-understand, and even-easier-to-find knowledge base or FAQ section allows your customers to find the answers to their questions without resorting to calling Customer Service or Tech Support.

Booking.com integrated proactive support and human interaction into their self-service application, calling their customers in the event of unexpected changes. The result? Mobile bookings increased from one billion in 2012 to three billion in 2013.

Let’s get this party started!

Once your self-service process has been thoroughly tested and is ready to use, promote that bad boy! Announce your new process on your website, in email communications, and on your IVR hold messages.

Encourage your customers to try it out, and let them know you are available to help them as they learn the process.

You’ll also want to incorporate a brief introduction to the new process into your call-center scripting. Then when your customers call to complete tasks that are now able to be completed online, your reps can promote the new service at the end of the conversation, and offer to help customers locate it.

Point out your robust FAQ section, provide walk-through tutorials and videos, and always provide an email address or phone number where your customers can reach you if they need help.

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Choose wisely, friends

Of course, one of the most important components in creating your self-service implementation plan is selecting the right software for your business. In the same way that you must carefully consider which processes are appropriate for self-service, you must also weigh your needs against the functionality of the software systems you are vetting.

Once you whittle down the list of software vendors to those that meet your business requirements, think about your long-term needs.

User-friendliness. For self-service to work, your software must be easy to use. An intuitive design and access to in-demand functionality goes a long way in guaranteeing that your customers will actually use your self-service options, and encourage others to use them as well.

Mobile accessibility and responsiveness. Today’s consumers live on their smartphones, so your software needs to play nicely with mobile devices. Make sure your software solution has been tested on all manner of phones and tablets, and on all major operating systems.

Software upgrades. The needs of an enterprise are ever-evolving. As technology advances, you’ll need to upgrade your software. Using a cloud-based software solution ensures that you will have immediate access to any upgrades or bug fixes without the hassle of traditional software installations. Bonus: You can access your application from any location with an Internet connection.

Data security. This is a big one. Identity theft and data breaches are very real and all-too common. Before settling on any software vendor, thoroughly check out the security safeguards it has in place. It’s no fun to announce to your customers that their personal data bas been compromised.

Client support. During a software implementation, you’re going to have questions, and issues may arise. You want to be sure your software vendor isn’t going to disappear as soon as the ink on your contract is dry. Make sure you have a clear idea of how you will be able to reach a live representative when you need one, and how much tech support is included with your purchase.

For almost every industry, self-service technology can be incorporated into your customer experience to improve efficiency and consumer satisfaction. By using the best practices we’ve covered in this series, your implementation should meet your company’s goals for process improvement while wowing your customers with a delightfully easy experience.

Epilogue

If you’re still not 100% sure you need to incorporate self-service technology into your customer experience, we’ve pulled together a few stats you might find compelling:

Online Self-Service: Consumer Expectations

Food for thought.

Catch up on previous posts in our blog series:

1Five Trends Shaping the Future of Customer Service in 2015.Forbes, 2014.

2“Self Service Trends & Innovations.” Carmelon Digital Marketing, 2014.