Rethink Your Customer Service Strategy to Drive Self-Service

September 25, 2019
Contributor: Jordan Bryan

Adding service channels doesn’t deliver the results customer service and support leaders are seeking. Instead, focus on reducing live channels.

To keep pace with customer expectations and competitors, many customer service and support leaders increase the number of customer service channel options — hoping too that these digital options will displace costlier live contacts. These strategies aren’t paying off. 

Gartner research finds 56% of service leaders are adding new channels or features within their existing channels, but customers are still calling for live support — adding cost and complexity to service operations.

The problem: Leaders depend on self-service and digital channels to solve customer problems without a clear approach.

More choice, more use

Gartner research finds that the more channels a company operates, the more contacts customers make to the service centre. Instead of simplifying service, greater access to more channels just complicates the problem-resolution journey. Those customer journeys resemble spider webs, with customers switching easily and frequently between channels. 

“The good news is that channel switching does not appear to be hurting customer loyalty as much as it did in the past,” says Devin Poole, Senior Director, Gartner. “The bad news is that it is definitely hurting organisations and their costs because while customers are using newly added self-service channels, they haven’t stopped using more expensive live channels.” 

Since its inception, self-service has had the potential to handle the vast majority of live calls. Based on studies of more than 8,000 customer journeys, Gartner finds that 70% of customers are using self-service channels at some point in their resolution journey. Unfortunately, only 9% can fully resolve their issues via self-service channels. 

“While there will always be live service, that type of service should be treated like a precious resource”

Resolution in self-service is a win-win for customers and for companies. Time-consuming live interactions, even when only one step in the resolution journey, mean that resolution will cost 80 to 100 times more than a fully self-service fix. 

Surveyed service leaders report that as much as 40% of today’s live volume could be resolved in self-service channels.

Create effective self-service channels

The key to improving customer experience while reducing live call volume lies not in adding or updating channels but in a distinct shift in service strategy — in which live service interactions are specifically prioritised for high-value, urgent and complex contacts. 

“While there will always be live service, that type of service should be treated like a precious resource and reserved for opportunities that significantly move the dial on outcomes the customers and the company care most about,” says Poole.

A self-service dominant strategy requires a thoughtful approach to channel offerings that requires service leaders to:

  • Establish a self-service strategy that prioritises resolution, not channel choice.
  • Manage self-service capabilities like a product, not an IT project. 
  • Prevent self-service abandonment through confidence-building design.
  • Evolve talent management practices for a self-service dominant strategy.