Customer Service Automation

Is Self-Serve Customer Service the Way Forward?

By Karen Waters 23 November 2018

As technology has advanced, more business operations have become automated. And customer service is no different. Now that chatbot technology has evolved, it’s increasingly common for customers to seek out self-service options.

In fact, according to our new research, 87% of businesses say self-serve customer enquiries are a current priority. But why are so many businesses looking towards automation when traditional customer service has worked so well for so long?

What is self-service when it comes to customer service?

The most obvious – and common – of self-serve customer service is a chatbot, which allows people to get instant, online help without the need for an actual human agent.

Chatbots are becoming more prolific and effective thanks to advances in AI and machine learning technology. Where once a chatbot struggled to hold realistic conversations and solve actual queries, now it’s possible for customers to get help without even knowing it’s a bot.

But self-serve customer service doesn’t have to involve artificial intelligence – it can be as simple as a comprehensive online help centre. Whether it’s an FAQ page or online troubleshooting tips, the right resources can allow customers to self-serve the majority of their queries without the need for a human or a bot.

The pros of self-service

The most obvious advantage of self-service is that it saves organisations money by reducing the number of agents you need. What’s more, chatbots and the like can help free up agent resources so they can spend more time solving complex customer queries that chatbots can’t address, and less time answering basic questions.

Self-service also allows people to get help quicker, which improves their customer experience and satisfaction. Instead of waiting on hold for an agent to become available, they can receive help instantly and carry on with their day with minimal interruption.

The challenges facing the self-service age

Self-service shouldn’t completely replace traditional customer service, however. There are some drawbacks that even a sophisticated chatbot or a comprehensive online guide can’t fix. And humans should always be around to help customers where needed.

Organisations that force customers to completely self-serve are likely to face a degree of resistance. Despite the fact that chatbots often result in a faster, easier resolution, there are some customers that will always prefer to speak to a human being, and businesses should be prepared to cater to them. After all, good customer service is about tailoring your approach to the customer – not forcing them to do what’s best, cheapest or easiest for you.

Many customers are also wary of bots, particularly given the current climate around data security. That’s why it’s important to always be upfront about who (or what) they’re speaking to. If they’re speaking to a chatbot, let them know (and give them the option to speak to a person if they prefer). If their issue can’t be resolved online, tell them outright that they need to phone in. If you’re collecting or storing data on the customer, be honest about it and allow customers to opt-out.

Ultimately, giving customers the option to self-serve is likely to reduce your costs, free up resources and improve the experience for your customers.

For more insights into the future of customer experience, download our latest whitepaper, The Customer-Centric Organisation.

See other posts by Karen Waters

Product and Marketing Director

As a Product and Marketing Director at Engage Hub, Karen has held a wide range of roles across Telefonica, Vivo and start-ups, gaining over 10 years of product management and commercial experience across different markets in LATAM, Africa and SEA. In her day to day duties, Karen is responsible for defining product strategy, roadmap creation and maintenance, release scheduling, and partnering across the company. If she’s not halfway across the world meeting with clients to gather product requirements, she’ll more than likely be found hiking a mountain or exploring remote villages.

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