Why Manufacturers Need to Take Customer Self-Service Seriously
The benefits of helping customers to help themselves have always been clear. But as customer experience becomes digital by default, self-service is taking on a new dimension in serving customer needs at every point along the path to purchase.
From supply chain issues to factory and physical store closures, manufacturing has been one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.
And, as the world moves into a third year where COVID-19 is exerting influence over consumer behavior and business operations, manufacturers are faced with a new challenge. They either have to reconnect with existing customers through new virtual channels; or attempt to reduce reliance on intermediaries, such as big box retailers, and reach out directly to consumers for the first time.
But, whether attempting to rekindle old relationships or starting from scratch, manufacturers will need to prioritize customer self-service if they hope to develop the sort of customer experience that helps them stand out from the crowd.
The Move to Customer Self-Service
The initial wave of the pandemic pushed people towards self-service. By May 2020, 35% of consumers had started to actively prioritize solving their own problems rather than looking to traditional resolution channels. As for the motivation for moving away from live agent interactions, 53% of this cohort said they believed self-service was faster and 22% pointed to the fact that it’s the only way of being able to potentially resolve a problem outside of traditional business hours.
There will always be instances where the only way to truly resolve an issue — on an emotional as well as technical level — is to talk directly with an agent. Yet, even before COVID-19, the benefits of providing customers with the tools to help themselves were already clear for both user and provider.
Better CX, Lower Costs
An issue resolved via self-service can cost an organization as little as $0.10 per interaction, compared with $8 per customer for an issue resolved through live channels. In fact, when self-service is deployed as part of a wider automated response strategy, it’s possible to reduce live contact volumes by 40%.
Self-service simplifies and improves the customer experience and, because it reduces the volume of live interactions a contact center needs to handle, it also significantly lowers an organization’s overall cost to serve without lowering the quality of their CX provision.
As we enter 2022, self-service is gaining even greater significance among consumers who are more focused than ever on autonomy and convenience. Following two years of interacting with brands primarily in digital channels, 51% of consumers have now added an easy-to-use website and 41% have added access to online chat to their list of elements that combine to reflect a positive customer experience.
However, as well as greater appreciation of its benefits, consumers now have greater expectations regarding what self-service can deliver. Be it FAQs, a knowledgebase, a chatbot or a combination of all three, self-service traditionally sat towards the end of the sales funnel, supporting customers post-purchase and helping move them to repeat customer status.
But now, consumers also need to be able to find answers to questions and gain a greater understanding of products and services at each step of the customer journey — from discovery and consideration through to post-purchase support.
This is particularly true within manufacturing. Pre-pandemic, consumers could look to showrooming (the act of physically examining products in a store before making a decision and making a purchase online) for discovering, testing and comparing physical goods.
Making an Informed Decision
Because consumerism is now digital by default, there is an even greater onus on brands to provide the tools and information that existing and potential customers who are unable to physically experience products need to make an informed purchasing decision.
The more an item represents a big ticket purchase, or the more it sits within a larger product family where models are separated by specification, performance and price rather than simple aesthetics, the more support an organization needs to provide to help customers help themselves.
Yet, the rewards of delivering on these expectations are so great that organizations need to rise to the challenge and develop a self-service strategy that aligns with this changing consumer behavior.
Examine the Current CX
It’s impossible to add self-service functionality until an organization has a complete understanding of how its existing channels are performing. How do these channels and touchpoints perform in terms of the customer journey? How could they be redesigned to prioritize a rapid resolution?
This is why the first step to meeting potential customer self-service needs is to assess the current state of customer experience delivery and identify concrete steps that can be taken to enhance it.
Identify Common Contact Drivers
This demands an analysis of all existing contact center data to identify all common contact drivers. As well as highlighting types of question or query that could be answered via a simple list of FAQs or an automated response, this exercise will indicate if a potential problem with a product is driving contact volumes.
Remap Customer Journeys
Self-service options exist to augment, not complicate, customer service. Therefore, once all common contact types that can be handled without recourse to a live agent have been identified, it’s crucial to understand what the journey to those resolutions will look like.
The route to the resolution needs to be clear and clearly signposted and must be focused on minimizing customer effort. In practice this means that a customer will find the same information or receive the same answer no matter how they choose to interact with the organization.
Don’t Make Customers Change Channel
Therefore, if a customer starts the resolution journey on a company’s website, the ability to navigate to the information required, whether presented as FAQs, tutorials or a knowledge base, should be simple. And of course, all the information presented must be accurate and up to date.
Likewise, if a customer has decided to start with a phone call, the IVR should be simple to navigate and lead to a resolution without recourse to a live agent and without having to move into a non-voice channel.
One of the most important things to remember is that self-service is not a panacea and that there will always be issues that only a live agent can resolve. However, the step from automation to agent should be seamless. So, for example, if an organization is using a chatbot to help respond to common issues, that chatbot needs to be able to capture information provided by a customer and pass it on to an online chat agent who can immediately take over if the resolution is too complex. This eliminates the need for a customer to repeat the problem a second time and, crucially, to move from being on a company website to the company’s phone queue.
Monitor and Maintain
Self-service performance requires constant monitoring and improvement to ensure it is always up to date and that content and responses reflect those that would be provided in other channels.
Digital engagement has never been more important, but the type of customer experience that inspires trust and leads to loyalty is born of consistency. Organizations need to view every touchpoint as an opportunity strengthen the customer relationship. That means ensuring the attention to detail, level of understanding and quality of customer assistance is consistent for those who connect via the phone, email, online chat, chatbots and, of course, self-service.
To learn more about how self-service can elevate customer experience and how technologies, tools and processes can help manufacturers build brand loyalty, download the latest Sitel Group Best Practice Guide: Creating a Winning CX Strategy in Manufacturing.