• July 18, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

The Road to Self-Service Success

Many companies consider Web self-service technology a significant element of their service approach, but without a strategy for measuring success, organizations fail to maximize their Web self-service potential, according to a new report. Service Excellence Research Group (ServiceXRG), which specializes in helping companies develop and execute service and support strategies, has released "Self-Service Excellence--a Roadmap for Achieving Self-Service Success," detailing ways to develop, measure, and improve self-service success. There are four self-service road maps: self-service strategy, offerings, measurement, and promotion. The report is based on interviews with about 175 different companies and 352 customers, and the research was conducted over about a 10-month period. Almost every company had some self-service initiative, but very few could articulate what it was they were trying to accomplish, and why, according to Tom Sweeny, principal at ServiceXRG. Strategy "The first place to start in any initiative--even if you're three years into it--[is] to be able to articulate your strategy, define the goals and objectives, and be able to validate whether those goals and objectives are aligned with what the business expects," Sweeny says. Self-service is often not treated like a project that has an expected ROI and ways to gauge success, says W. Ladd Bodem, principal at ServiceXRG. Using the strategy road map can sometimes help someone justify a self-service initiative inside of a corporation. "They may know that it makes sense, they may know that it's wanted by their constituency user base, but they haven't really thought about how [to] articulate this to senior management so they can see [they're] running this as a benefit to the business. It's trying to give them a vehicle and almost architecture so that [they can] justify it from a business perspective." Offerings
The offerings road map includes identifying the target audience for self-service, establishing what resources customers currently use and which additional resources customers want, instituting content management processes, and optimizing the ease of use of the resources. On average, organizations offer nine distinct self-service resources, but they may not be the offerings that customers find the most useful, according to Sweeney. For instance, while 93.2 percent of companies surveyed offer documentation, only 13.4 percent of customers found documentation most effective. "We find very few instances where there is any formalized effort to include the customer and to really understand who is the audience, who is likely to be using self-services, what are their capabilities, what do they need, what do they want. If you have a very novice audience, then obviously providing a very sophisticated interface or very advanced content that's written by experts is not going to work." Measurement The measurement road map includes establishing a strategy, goal, and objectives, measuring how often self-service is used, capturing customer feedback, measuring success, defining and measuring self-service deflection, and calculating self-service's impact. "It's key that people have a strategy on what they are going to measure and collecting the data, [defining success], and then measuring success....But what we found when we asked companies what their deflection rates were we started finding out that there was no standard definition of deflection," Bodem says. Promotion The promotion road map includes understanding your customers' self-service perceptions, developing an awareness campaign, providing the necessary resources to inform customers on effectively using self-service, and developing incentives to spur recurring use. "Many organizations just expect that if [they] build self-services people will just come and find it...[but] you now have to spend the time and effort to educate customers about it--here's how you use it effectively, and here's why it's a benefit to you," Sweeney says. "Ultimately the return and the business impact is optimized only when you can increase the rate of use, the level of adoption, and the rate of success." Related articles: Multichannel e-Marketing--Finally How to better synchronize the Web and email to create more effective customer communication. ABG Scores Web Self-Service Vendors The Evolution of Self-Service
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