People are typing on the smartphone

How self-service is revolutionising technical customer service

We live in a fast-paced age with an abundance of information and opportunities, but a clear lack of available time. That’s why we want to use them as efficiently as possible and certainly don’t want to spend hours queuing at the customer service desk on our weekend off.

Studies also show that customers today place the greatest value on good accessibility of customer service and want quick solutions to questions and problems.¹ Be it the Internet provider, an online retailer or another service provider, if something goes wrong for us as customers, we want to be able to rely on the service of the provider.

Meeting these increasing demands is a challenge for many companies, because competent and efficient staff is cost-intensive. Especially round-the-clock supply to customers often cannot be guaranteed. The fact that two thirds of customers consider switching providers after just one negative experience with customer service adds to the pressure. A solution is needed here.


Technical assistance around the clock?

The solution at this point is called self-service and is already in use in many places and in the most diverse areas of customer service. These are technologies that provide customers with information that helps them solve their particular problem without having to rely on a call to customer service or contact with real people in general as a first step.

Well-known application formats are FAQs and chatbots on websites, but also communities and forums where customers can offer each other support. These alternatives to the hotline have become indispensable, yet they cannot always replace contact with an agent.

Nor do they seem to sustainably relieve customer service, because even in 2020 many customers still complain of too long waiting times to reach the service.²

And when they do reach him, they often lack the necessary technical understanding to be able to answer the agent’s questions. A difficulty that makes the conversation frustrating for both sides.

And again it needs a solution…


Not all self-service is the same

But what makes good self-service? It is not enough to put content on a website and hope that it will help. This approach is not very individual, one-sided and usually not helpful.

On the other hand, those who create individual, guided content adapted to the circumstances with their self-service offer have more potential. If this content is also up to date, there is a good chance that it will actually help people to help themselves. For this to happen, however, a common understanding must be created in the company and a customer-oriented culture must be lived – from marketing to customer support. The chosen medium on which the help is to be offered and found is also important.


A central service medium for all needs

The increasing use of smartphones shows that it is now the preferred medium for all concerns. So if you own a smartphone, the solution to a problem is often only a few clicks away. Websites that are already optimised for smartphones can help here. However, it is better to have a stand-alone mobile application (native smartphone app) in order to exploit its full potential, especially in technical support, and to serve as a central point of contact. Even if, for example, the internet fails, a self-service app can still be used.

An optimal self-service solution also requires only the usability of the smartphone as a technical understanding. Everything else is taken care of by the solution itself. Users are guided step by step to the solution of a problem with simple explanations. Because even a space shuttle can be repaired by laymen, if the instructions are only understandable enough.

To ensure this, the app ideally uses representations, images and animations, and offers users the option to answer “I don’t know” at any point. As a result, it adapts agilely to different needs.

“Especially when it comes to technical problems that need to be solved, mobile applications offer more possibilities compared to classic web applications / websites. For example, problems can be detected with measurement support and fixed automatically, whereas web applications reach their technical limits.”

Self-service does not end, however, when the problem cannot be solved independently. Here, an integrated forwarding to the customer service helps.


Self-service solutions as a digital partner for service employees

Good self-service takes the pressure off the entire customer journey.

This means that self-service brings the greatest benefits when it is integrated with traditional customer service and synergies can be created. For this purpose, the agents must be given insight into the processes of the self-service solution via a dashboard, for example. Do they have all the information that is needed that, for example, the app has already collected in advance, this can significantly improve the quality of the personal conversation.

A link to customer service is particularly relevant as it can reduce call duration, improve mutual understanding between both parties and generate a higher probability of resolving the problem. With the combination of a self-service app and a service dashboard, customer service is relieved and customers are provided with a tool that meets the requirements for speed and accessibility in case of questions and problems.

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Success factors of a self-service solution

How a self-service solution can be successful is no secret: the customer experience is the be-all and end-all. In fact, customer experience (CX) is more than just a trend or a catchy buzzword. Especially in highly competitive markets, CX is what defines competitive advantage and differentiates suppliers from each other.

Since CX can be influenced most strongly by customer service, a self-service solution should start right there. Improving customers’ experiences with a company requires a deep understanding. It is important to empathise with them and to understand every problem, every need and every decision.

The presentation of the customer journey plays a particularly important role here. In this way, the features of the self-service solution can be optimally adapted to the needs of the customers. This approach not only increases customer satisfaction, but also enables companies to generate even greater added value.


What does the future of customer service look like?

There is no question that good customer service is and remains an important pillar of success. But only by perceiving and implementing relevant technological and digital trends such as self-service can companies be successful in the future. Self-service, as just described, is revolutionising customer service not only because it is contemporary, but also because it does not stand still and adapts to circumstances and needs.

The metaverse and with it technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are becoming increasingly present and can make self-service solutions even more user-friendly. Continuous advances in artificial intelligence also offer room for expansion and customisability. And what is still done via chat today will possibly take place live via video conference in the future.

A self-service platform thus offers endless possibilities. In the long term, it will represent a central contact point where all touchpoints of the customer journey can be bundled. In order to benefit from future developments, however, it is important to lay the foundation today with an appropriate self-service solution and to create understanding and acceptance on the part of customers, but also among service staff.


²The Northridge Group

Author: Julie Kurrle

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