Used properly, self-service applications can enhance the buyer-seller relationship.
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I have to admit I'm torn. On one hand, I love self-service and am happy to use it whenever possible. On the other hand, I want to talk to a human when I want to, not when the company I'm calling dictates I should.
I'm not alone. In fact, I've spoken with several readers recently who have voiced concerns about how some companies try to "force" customers to use self-service technologies, often "trapping" customers in what they might consider IVR or Web hell.
The trick, I think, is to strike a balance that works for your company and your customers. Give them choices, but go ahead and base those choices on customer value. If you choose to emphasize self-service, make sure that it's comprehensive, yet easy to navigate. Frustration can send a customer to the competition as quickly as dissatisfaction can.
RightNow Technologies CEO Greg Gianforte made an interesting observation when we recently discussed the topic: "Self-service shouldn't be a cul de sac, it should be a thruway that always offers the option of contacting
a service agent. If your [online] self-service option is a cul de sac and your customers can't get the answers they need, they'll call for the answer. That will train them to always call and not go back to self-service. A thruway will guide them, and even if they do end up calling an agent, it's more likely that the next time they have a concern they will try self-service first."
Used properly, self-service applications can enhance the buyer-seller relationship. Customers who like to try to solve their own problems before calling customer service--and there are many who do--appreciate that companies offer them that choice.
Another part of the service arena that companies are trying to balance is maintaining efficiency while building relationships. In "How to Overcome the Call Center Conundrum" (page 38), Senior Editor David Myron reveals several strategies that companies are using successfully to strike that balance.
Some businesses are turning to CRM service providers to help resolve these and other issues that arise during the lifetime of an evolving CRM initiative. In "Stand By Me" (page 46), News Editor Martin Schneider highlights four key areas where organizations turn to service providers for assistance and what they expect from those consultants when they do.
No matter what the concern, resolution is always more likely when there is strong leadership guiding the CRM initiative. In "Top Execs + CRM = Success" (page 28), Senior Editor Lisa Picarille spotlights four C-level leaders who have been instrumental in their companies' CRM success.
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