By Jan Kühn, director at INOVO
According to recent research, Customer Experience is now the top reason (followed closely by cost reduction) for offering self-assisted customer service channels in the contact centre environment. When it comes to simple interactions or inquiries a self-service channel can be more efficient than other channels, often resulting in a vastly improved experience. Any query that can be answered without direct human involvement also yields significant savings. It’s therefore no surprise that more and more businesses either have, are busy deploying or currently investigating some form of self-service channel.
Unlike self-service, voice, email, SMS and web-chat channels all require the active presence of agents to maintain: key measurements include calls per agent and group per day/week or month, and lastly agent or group productivity (i.e. how many hours as a percentage of staffed time are spent conversing with clients?).
With every service channel the aim is to measure and improve on three key parameters: the customer experience, the quantity and/or value of interactions, and the cost to achieve this. Staff is by far the biggest cost (60 – 80% depending on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the specific contact centre) for voice channels, and since self-service often reduces staffing quotas, the savings gained through implementation of these solutions is obvious.
However, while the reduction in cost is one of the biggest motivations for the deployment of self-service channels, it is not something that should be implemented before very careful consideration.
Any investigation into the viability of introducing self-service channels would require an honest answer to some of the following questions:
- Do you know the breakdown percentages per business service delivered currently?
- Are there business services that can be delivered without including an agent?
- Are the identified services sufficient in volume and duration to warrant the addition of self-service channels?
- Do you have fast access to all the data required to conclude an interaction via self-service?
- Is the information that needs to be shared privileged or confidential, and if so, do you have sufficient security, identification and authentication to protect this information?
- Will the interaction be transactional of nature, and would you be able to validate and track this but still adhere to regulations (e.g. POPI, financial)?
- What channel/s will match the preference of your clients?
Even after all these considerations, the important thing to keep in mind (and what really determines the success of a self-service implementation) is end-user adoption. For self-service channels, having a functional and technically sound solution is completely worthless unless a significant percentage of users are willing to use it, and it is able to fulfil their requirements in the most efficient way. The impact on the customer must always be considered – any form of optimization shouldn’t just drive efficiency, productivity, and save costs, but also positively effect the customer experience.
The last but most important thing to remember is that business is of course very dynamic. Performance, relevance and functionality must be continuously monitored to ensure that all channel options (including self-service) are performing optimally.