• November 26, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Gartner Survey Finds Self-Service Insufficient

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Only 9 percent of customers resolve their issues completely via self-service, forcing the rest to resort to expensive live customer service calls, according to the latest data from Gartner.

The self-service shortfall comes at a time when the cost differences between self-service channels, like company-run websites and mobile apps, and agent-assisted channels, like phone, email, and chat, are very substantial and continue to widen.

Gartner’s 2019 Customer Service and Support Leader poll found that live channels cost an average of $8.01 per contact, while self-service channels cost about 10 cents per contact.

Additional research found that self-service channels aren’t even the top preferences for most consumers. Among consumers, the top five preferred channels for issue resolution were phone (44 percent), chat (17 percent), email (15 percent), company website (12 percent) and search engine (4 percent). And for most consumers, issue resolution often requires more than one channel.

“As customer behavior in self-service continues to evolve, we are learning that most people have become used to the idea of using more than one channel (i.e., phone, chat, text/SMS, online videos, review sites, in-store visits) during the resolution of one problem or issue with a given company,” says Rick DeLisi, a vice president in Gartner’s customer service and support practice. “The bad news is that it is definitely forcing a higher cost to serve for companies with no significant increase in the overall quality of the customer experience.”

Companies have been all too eager to keep expanding into more channels for customer service, which Gartner says often leads to more complex customer resolution journeys.

“The idea behind providing customers with more channels to give them what they want and to offer more choice in their service experience sounds like a great idea, but in fact, it has unintentionally made things worse for customers,” DeLisi says. “This approach of more and better channels isn’t living up to the promise of reduced live call volume and is only leading to more complex and costly customer interactions to manage. That becomes a lose-lose for customers and the companies that are trying to serve them.”

Gartner research also found that both customer effort and customer satisfaction levels do not statistically differ between channels, and customer loyalty is not affected by the use or availability of a preferred channel.

Given the varying costs associated with each channel and customers’ willingness to use whatever channels are available to them, Gartner urges service organizations to rethink their overall service strategies and to place more of an emphasis on self-service.

In doing so, Gartner strongly urges customer service and support leaders to consider the following four imperatives:

  • Establish a self-service strategy that prioritizes resolution, not channel choice. This also means ensuring that dedicated leadership is allocated to self-service channels to oversee each channel’s purpose and performance.
  • Manage self-service capabilities like a product, not an IT project, with measurable ROI goals tied to volume reduction and customer experience.
  • Prevent self-service abandonment through confidence-building design. Channels that provide clear, credible, and actionable information and confirm that resolution is under way foster a greater sense of confidence in the customer, which in turn empowers them to continue using self-service channels rather than reaching out to live agents.
  • Evolve talent management practices for a self-service-dominant strategy. Service leaders should manage live talent as a precious resource, skewing focus to the retention of top talent and training them to take control of customer interactions.

And then they also need to take a more thoughtful approach to channel offerings, one where channels can no longer be bolted on after the fact, according to DeLisi. 

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