Why Self-Service Has Become an Imperative Despite the Obstacles That Block It


By Karen McFarlane, Marketing, Americas

On April 6th, Creative Virtual USA joined over 150 customer care executives at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum in New York City to discuss how the challenges of the current economic landscape are forcing organizations to examine and reduce costs and why the need for a customer-first approach is more important than ever. A core part of this discussion revolved around the growth of self-service channels, which is supported by analyst research predicting that by 2017, over 2/3 of all customer service interaction will no longer require the support of a human.

With customers practically begging for self-service, we wanted to see what other executives thought about implementing self-service channels and the biggest obstacles they are facing. So we took the opportunity to ask them at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum and polled all 150 attendees. 81% of them said knowledge management and gaining organizational support were the key obstacles to successful self-service deployment. You can download the full results of that report here.

Given these findings, the desire to deliver self-service remains strong, but making the business case and finding supportive technology that can galvanize traditionally siloed departments remains a challenge for many organizations. However, some brands have paved the way as early adopters and are having positive experiences iterating as they go.  Frank Schneider, VP of Customer Experience Solutions, joined a panel at the Argyle Forum, “The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations,” where he, along with executives from General Electric, Quest Diagnostics, Panasonic and Confirmit, discussed the strategies, technologies, and tactics they used to support their self-service investments. Below is an excerpt of the 50-minute panel discussion where they shared some of the challenges and achievements. The full recording is available here.


Q&A Excerpt: The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations

Creating Your Self-Service Strategy

Q: What tactics have you started to use in terms of bringing the tech savvy customer in and starting to learn from what they need and what the experiences are to give them a better, richer experience?

Creative Virtual: Customers want to adopt these technologies and you have to keep it simple… make it conversational and give the customer a chance to tell us what they need…It’s easy to just wrap it in the wrapper of personalization, but if you actually take the time to listen to your customers and say, “OK, well, let’s meet them at this point and help facilitate that, we find that’s key.” Knowing who I am, knowing the type of customer I am, what package I have and leveraging that context to make this tool whatever it is, digital engagement or even an agent to respect me by showing the intelligence that you know me, makes a big difference. We try to enable that with our solution in particular and this is something I think all brands are hungry for.

Formulating a Business Case

Q: This morning we heard a lot about the investment and how do we finance it? Part of any investment, have you started seeing any reduction in cost? You talked about transferring some of the volume of calls to self-serve, have you started seeing that and are you measuring that somehow and how are you going about that?

Quest Diagnostics: One of the key pieces that we do measure is contacts into our call center per 1,000 patient requisition…we’re seeing that contacts per 1,000 requisitions come down and seeing it similarly increase in those digital or those self-service opportunities, which enables us to better manage that team. I think that’s been a really key piece that we’re looking at. Right now, we’re doing a lot of research to understand in the physician offices those who are active adopters and why they love it?… As we move more into a self-service environment, we’re seeing the reduction in that incoming volume, which is allowing us to be more cost effective. It’s improving their satisfaction and their stickiness.

Measuring Effectiveness

Q: How about cognitive analytics? How is that coming into the play in terms of how we’re using the data and how we’re predicting customer behavior?

Panasonic: In my case, because I have different responsibilities, we have metrics for the call center, which are pretty much the standard everybody’s measuring, AHT and things of that nature. We have web-related activity as to how our customers think we’re doing and the kind of activity from a service stand point. We have actually had some cases where we can react to customers and respond to them within a certain time period because we’re getting information and can communicate with the customer. When you can call somebody within a half hour of a problem, that makes a really big difference.

What the Future Holds

Q: How have you seen the customer service changing in particular with all the new technology that we’re trying to drive?

Confirmit: The role is changing in a lot of ways but not necessarily specific to technology. There is an elevation of the role and elevation of customer experience. You’re seeing investments being made with CCO’s and new directors of customer experience. Ten years ago, this did not exist. We’re just seeing a focus on putting dollars and focus and attention on customer experience. I think that the rest of it, the technology the marrying, the journey, all of that follows the focus because we now have a seat at the table to talk about the actual customer experience. I think there’s a huge investment being made in the roles, the people.

Quest Diagnostics: How do you continue to have that interaction, a dialogue? That’s a big piece and I think we found for us, that’s been critical is even changing the nomenclature in the organization to we were talking very clinically… If I’m a Phlebotomist caring for a patient one on one, they want a different feel and they want a different language set. That’s to your point, changing and meeting that customer how they want to be met. I think about investments around and the way we look at it, as an elevation customer care and that element is one piece of it. It’s that whole end to end and how we’re looking at all of those investments linked together.

Creative Virtual: Ultimately, without being too corny, ultimately technology is always supposed to improve our lives. Throughout history any advancement is supposed to improve our lives…. It’s common sense that we need to meet our customers in all these moments of truth and we win their hearts and minds by actually meeting them intelligently and being accessible and instantly available. Getting as much help as we can. When we can actually say, “Hey we can’t right now, here’s how we can.”

Panasonic: It’s more experiential. With all the new tools and stuff, customer reps are going to have to do more, do different things differently. They might have to do phone chat, social, things related that they didn’t have to do before. Selling things, revenue, we’re starting to do revenue as well and it is a different mindset.

To listen to the full recording of the panel discussion, click here.