In recent history, consumers viewed self-service as a negative. Today, it’s a must to provide a variety of options for customers to communicate or process transactions with your company.  This can include allowing customers to handle their own interactions via self-service, digital options or chat bot, as well as providing an option for one-on-one live agent communications.  Consumers want choices and organizations can be viewed negatively or less consumer focused if they do not provide a variety of options.  Why would I shop at your company if another organization makes it easier and more convenient for me?  Customers need to feel that they are in command of THEIR communication and activities. Multi-option contact allows customers to communicate via the method that they are most comfortable with.

It is, however, important to ensure that you are measuring the effectiveness of the technology.  What is the need that you are trying to fill with self-service? Is it your need or a customer desire?  That helps you determine which measurements you need to focus on. For example, if your goal is to reduce the number of calls to your contact center, that is easy to measure.  The most important way to measure success in this area is to ask: is it driving customer satisfaction?

“No one has a more vested interest in your success than your customer”

Customer satisfaction is a broad category that can include general customer measurements such as NPS ratings in combination with technology based measurements such as an increase in web visits, unique users, or general increases in successful self-service use. How many of your customers utilized the self-service options to complete a task?  If you are not able to do it in house, find technology partners who can assist you with understanding failure rates. Failure rates include those who start in a self-service portal or tool and do not complete the action.  Understanding the “why” behind the incomplete task can help you make improvements and increase adoption.  Be sure not to pat yourself on the back too much after rollout!  There must be continued work on the self-service options to remain in the game. Just like customer processes change in your regular work environment, those changes need to continue to be updated in your customer platform, portal or web site.  Along with any other customer satisfaction measurements, be sure to survey customers about their self-service experience.  Then TAKE the advice that your customers give you.  No one has a more vested interest in your success than your customer.

It’s easy to showcase all the reasons why it’s wonderful for customers but it is a large benefit when you run a contact center as well. One of the most important benefit areas is one that many do not think of initially. It is employee engagement. Self-service can work in your favor to drive agent growth and development. By off-loading “easier” contacts to self-service, agents are now handling a more difficult and knowledge-based variety of calls. This allows for the upgrade of job descriptions to reflect the new skills needed which can create an upwards development and growth ladder. In my organization, the addition of a simple IVR in one area resulted in a grade level change in positions, effectively uplifting the staff. They have become more skilled and knowledgeable, and we have seen better engagement measurements with that team. It also creates an opportunity to work more closely with HR and Recruitment teams on candidate selection to ensure that the skill sets that were once required have been elevated to meet the new expertise and proficiency needs. Reduction of call volume also allows payroll dollars to be redistributed to other areas if desired.

Offering self-service options, as well as an agent experience if needed, can help your organization to assist customers and engage staff in new and fulfilling ways.

Cippy Seidler is an enthusiastic leader focused on providing a high-level customer experience through employee engagement and a commitment to excellence. In the span of 28 years, Cippy has served in leadership positions with retail organizations such as Liz Claiborne, Allen-Edmonds, and Zayre with a specialized focus on front-end customer engagement and retention, and employee training and sales development. Currently a Director of Call Centers with Banner Health, one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country, she is responsible for driving performance across multiple service lines.