Customer Self-Service: Are You Ready?

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There is a new generation of tech-savvy customers, and the old ways of delivering service don't interest them. This www generation insists on using technology to do things their way. They prefer self-service check-in kiosks at hotels and airports; self-service check-out counters at home improvement stores and supermarkets; and self-service issue resolution over the Web. Not surprisingly, a Kelly Services/ Purdue University study concluded that 92 percent of U.S. consumers form their image of a company based on their experiences using its contact/support center. Sixty-three percent of consumers will stop using a company's products or services based on a negative contact/support center experience. Additionally, analysts predict that by 2007, 70 percent of all contact centers will support Web-based service applications. But don't panic--analysts also note that even today's best-in-class companies have yet to understand the full implications of the www generation. The 2007 forecast calls for 75 percent of companies failing to fully meet customer expectation for service excellence. What does all this mean for your organization? You have to be ready to attract and receive www generation customers in the ways they wish to contact you. If they want to obtain information from or resolve service issues via your Web site, you have to be ready for that. If you are not ready, you risk being passed over by this increasingly significant market segment. (Remember, all it takes is a single mouse click and the www generation is off to your competitor's Web site.) It also means that you've got to think like a member of the www generation, and be ready to offer the very best self-service capability available. Let's briefly examine two industries that have understood the value and importance of the www generation, and its unsated thirst for customer self-service. The first is high-tech manufacturing, companies like Cisco, Dell, and Motorola. Cisco, for example, created its New World Customer Care systems back in the 1990s. Today Cisco receives in excess of 80 percent of new orders electronically, and resolves greater than 80 percent of its customer issues via self-service mechanisms. The bottom line: In addition to delivering hundreds of millions of dollars of savings, Cisco has been able to redeploy contact center personnel into revenue-generating job functions. The second industry is online travel, comprising companies like Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, and AAA.com. The www generation can't seem to get enough of the wide range of travel options, immediate availability confirmations, immediate price comparisons, and outrageous deals that are available on most online travel companies' Web sites. The bottom line is, the online travel industry continues to experience significant growth, quietly putting the more traditional travel agencies into receivership. Outstanding service/support, including self-service, is what the www generation wants and has come to expect. This level of service is the only way companies can differentiate their products and services for the long term. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM and real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of CRM Automation, and the publisher of
The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com BE PREPARED: 5 Self-Service Strategies Take these five steps to prepare your company for the www generation's unstoppable demand for self-service. 1. Carefully segment your existing customer base, as well as your potential customers. 2. Be prepared to offer a unique menu of services to each identified market segment. 3. For identified www generation segments, hold focus groups to determine their desire for self-service, including functional richness, and their time frame for the expected delivery of these services. 4. Study companies that use best-in-class self-service, paying close attention to both self-service processes and technologies. 5. Create a three-year self-service road map that includes strategic business initiatives, key technical infrastructure initiatives, self-service prerequisites, related organizational changes, and self-serviceimplementation milestones and dependencies.
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