While phone-based interactive voice response (IVR) systems are still the largest channel for customer interactions, self-service via the Web and mobile channels are quickly gaining ground, according to the findings of a new survey conducted by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, the parent company of CRM magazine, in partnership with IntelliResponse.
In fact, 31 percent of all customer interactions today are conducted via the Web, and an additional 9 percent are conducted via the mobile Web or mobile applications. Only 46 percent of all interactions are conducted via IVRs.
Close to half (48 percent) of the 520 CRM managers and professionals who responded to the survey said they have Web or mobile-based self-service capabilities. Seventy-nine percent claim to have had Web self-service capabilities for a number of years now, and six out of 10 are also moving into mobile.
The highest concentration of Web self-service capabilities right now is in the finance/insurance (52 percent) and government/education/nonprofit (50 percent) sectors. Customers are largely using these channels to research products and services or for routine inquiries, including order status and account balances.
While interest in Web and mobile is running high, most of these capabilities are limited to customer portals with FAQs, contact information, or the use of site search or a knowledgebase in a customer service environment.
The benefits of self-service are tangible. About half (45 percent) of executives with Web or mobile self-service capabilities report measurable reductions in phone inquiries and 39 percent report less email traffic. 47 percent have also seen increased sales through their customer self-service channels, and 54 percent also report increased Web traffic since launching online self-service on the Web or mobile.
Forty-four percent have even introduced or plan to soon incorporate up-selling and cross-selling to customers who are online or on the phone.
Moving to greater self-service capabilities is not without its management challenges, according to the research. When moving to Web or mobile self-service, most executives are concerned with the rising complexity of their Web sites, as well as the need to integrate these systems and the associated data with existing customer service channels. Currently, 53 percent of these systems share the same technology and data with the customer service center.
Capturing and acting on data is also a challenge. Only 17 percent of respondents claim to be able to capture all or most of their customer engagement data, while 45 percent say they capture some of it. Only 33 percent apply analytics to the data, although 26 percent plan to add that capability in the next 12 months.
But despite the growing popularity of the Web and mobile, executives do not foresee their live-agent customer care centers going away any time soon. If anything, 42 percent expect their live contact centers to keep expanding, reflecting an increasing escalation of representatives’ roles from fielding routine inquiries to greater specialization and high-level customer care. As such, many (47 percent) have foreseen the need for more agent training, and 15 percent said it will require changes in agent hiring practices.
The research also found that customer self-service is poised to begin expanding beyond simple FAQ pages. Features expected to be added during the next three years include interactive videos, social media channels for customer forums, and interactive, real-time chat options. There is also an overarching movement toward providing answers to natural language questions and doing so across a variety of online channels.