The 80 Percent Web Self-Service Solution
The gap is wide: According to SSPA Research 2006, 32 percent of customers prefer Web-based support and 81 percent of customers believe they can initiate their own cases online. Yet in her paper "Customer Self-service Experience Improves With Cross-Channel Approach," Deena Cherenza, a Yankee Group analyst, expects only 14.3 percent of customers to use Web self-services channels within two years. So, where's the disconnect between preference and usage? The sad truth is that many Web self-service sites do not deliver on their promise.
What is the secret to meeting or exceeding Yankee Group's usage projections? The answer lies in how some enterprises have managed to dramatically exceed projected usage, with a full 80 percent of their customer interactions occurring in the Web self-service channel. These sites' proactive and ongoing cross-channel management of the Web-support environment ensures that customers can find the information they need and resolve issues, without leaving the Web self-service channel.
It simply isn't enough anymore to deploy a Web self-service channel with static FAQ sections and a basic search tool. Customer satisfaction and use of the support environment hinges on easy access to support information and timely problem resolution, which customers can get by picking up the phone. Unless phone support is fee-based, the customer has little incentive to switch channels, hence phone interactions will remain high. Companies are, in effect, encouraging their customers to use the phone when they implement an inadequate Web self-service channel. According to John Ragsdale, then vice president and research director at Forrester Research, after five to seven resolution attempts, the customer will leave the Web site unsatisfied and make a phone call. The chances that a customer will return to the Web self-service channel for problem resolution or support are slim to none after a bad experience.
Implementing a Web self-service channel that helps customers find specific content for support or inquiry resolution and that integrates cross-channel analytics will increase Web-channel resolution rates and lower costs. As a result, customers can find what they want quickly and easily, without the more costly person-to-person interactions. Interestingly, this approach can actually build customer loyalty, because the interactions are successful ones, and companies quickly and efficiently establish a pattern of meeting the customer's needs.
Delivering great Web self-service isn't as difficult as it may seem. By implementing some best practices, companies can improve the effectiveness of the Web self-service channel and increase customer satisfaction, which ultimately increases usage rates.
First, Web self-service should be integrated with other support channels (phone, email, chat, kiosk). By ensuring that the Web self-service channel is consistent and integrated with other channel customer interaction points, business intelligence can be gathered that identifies different drivers for increasing usage of the environment. For example, if a company launches a new product and places support content in the knowledge database, it may experience a thousand interactions in the self-service environment. However, the call center data may show that there were 100,000 person-to-person interactions, making it obvious that there is a disconnect between the content and its usability.
Keeping customers in the Web self-service channel
Providing customers with useful information can help keep them in the Web self-service environment and improve satisfaction. Many companies already offer a static FAQ section on their Web site, but with a dynamic FAQ section customer interactions can be monitored and ranked continuously, allowing companies to determine what content is being consumed on a regular basis. If a particular piece of content consistently lands at the top of the list, it's a good indicator that customers aren't getting the information they need, which might be a driver of calls to the support center. A dynamic FAQ provides the information needed to increase consumption of the knowledge base, thereby reducing the need for customers to submit a case via email or phone.
Providing an option other than a phone call
There are always occasions when customers will search the knowledge base and can't find the information they need. Companies need to determine what pathway they want the customer to follow for the next level of inquiry beyond the search and FAQ tools. After Web self-service, email is typically the least costly way to interact with a company. When the customer is encouraged to submit a case via email, the service will automatically execute a search of the knowledge base and present information one additional time to try to provide the customer with the right answer. By adding an email deflection tool, as many as 20 to 40 percent of customers can get the information they need before submitting the case.
Results now, not tomorrow
Implementing a dynamic Web self-service environment with easily consumable content allows customers get the answers they need, quickly and efficiently, assisting companies in moving customer interactions out to the Web. To date, many companies that have implemented a Web self-service feature using this approach and other best practices have had 80 percent of their customer interactions in the less costly self-service channel by the end of 24 months. In addition, they can start achieving an ROI just eight months after implementation.
About the Author
Blake Cahill is vice president of marketing and product management at SafeHarbor. His background includes senior management positions at AT&T, Ameritech, Belgacom, and SBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit SafeHarbor at www.safeharbor.com