Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

Ensuring Success in Your Self-Service Strategy

 

True Self-Service

It's ironic that the more ways to contact a company these days, from social media and phone to email and web, the less people actually want to interact. Most consumers actually prefer relying on a company's website to get the information they need. According to Forrester, 72% of online consumers would rather use a company's web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email, and about half this number strongly prefers self-reliance. Knowing that more research supports the fact that people would rather help themselves than call a company for support means you have to deliver top-notch self-service in order to ensure success of your business.

What does this entail? Essentially, you have to put all your information where your consumers can easily view and access it. Sounds easy, right? Well, it's a little more complicated than that.

Steps to Fostering Self-Reliance

First off, you have to gather all your information into one place. This could be anything from an FAQ page to a knowledge base to a support center offering interactive and multi-media resources. The one you choose will depend, of course, on your existing knowledge base, your own staffing resources, your budget and your web presence. That's actually the easy part. The difficult part comes when you realize you have to make that information center user-friendly. That starts with a clear plan of attack.

Here are some tips to getting there.

  • Step into your customers' shoes. Think about their pain points, what challenges they face, what they struggle with, and what they think about your product or service. Then, you can start to utilize that information to formulate a structure to your content and prioritize each piece.

  • Make it consistent. Consistency across content types is important because it gives your customers a clear way to navigate the knowledge base and find out what they need to know -- fast. You risk losing potential clients if you make them search for information for precious minutes on end.

  • Include a search tool. Make it big and make it prominent, preferably on the home page of your knowledge base, so that your customers don't have to waste time sifting through information.

  • Use tools like Google Analytics to gather data that illustrates what your customers want. This way, you can gain invaluable insight into the needs of consumers and build a collection of articles and other resources that meet those needs. With the right tools, it's easy to track things like unique visitors, session length, number of visits, number of page views, etc. and use the results to your advantage.

It's important to recognize that there is a time and place for interaction on the phone. Sometimes there are issues that consumers simply can't resolve on their own. Perhaps they have a complicated question about a service, product or experience, or maybe they need to be reassured that an item will be shipped because they're facing a crazy tight deadline. Whatever the case, increasing your self-service resources for your consumers doesn't mean replacing telephone and other types of customer service. Entrepreneur points out that customers want to be able to quickly and easily connect with a human being to bring a fast resolution to their problem if need be. This is why you should always have a "guardian of the transaction" watching over the encounter in order to provide additional customer service to round out the experience.

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Bringing Back the Art of Customer Service

 

Some say customer service has gone the way of the do-do bird. For many it's a lost concept, something that's been buried over time in favor of the bottom line. But it says it all right there in the title: customer service. It means serving the customer, but it should mean so much more than that. As the leader of your company, you may have your neck on the line when it comes to cold hard profits. After all, you have a boss to answer to and he has a boss to answer to, and so on. Healthy positive earnings are rewarded, not necessarily the customer experience.

While you may have a fancy website, chat features, or even a robust e-commerce store, there's so much more sandwiched in between the lines when it comes to truly understanding what "customer service" means. No, it hasn't gone extinct, but it may be on the endangered species list. Something's missing, that extra service with a smile, offering convenience to clients, going the extra mile to ensure someone is happy with their experience...that's where so many companies fall short these days. It's time to bring back the art of customer service.

At the Heart of It...

You can have the most streamlined services in the world or the best product...you can have the best CEOs in charge of your company or top of the line leadership teams converging in the conference room once a day to come up with innovative ideas. But customer service doesn't happen in the boardroom or on a memo. It happens out there, with the people who are buying into your products and services. Customer service is more than just a phone number, more than specials and coupons. At the heart of customer service? People who care about the end result. Period. Who's there to pick up the phone? Who's there to solve a problem? Are there live people your clients and customers can speak to about an issue or do they get bounced around a virtual black hole until they're finally dumped off to someone who doesn't necessarily know how to help?

Just think about the quality of customer service in your personal life. Feeling valued is what makes people connect with a company. If you can't achieve that, you won't see repeat customers. Before you go thinking that a healthy bottom line means you automatically have great customer service, think again. Some of the wealthiest companies in the world have sub-par customer service, but this doesn't necessarily make them great from a customer perspective.


A Simple Principle

It's a simple principle: happy people come back to you, while unhappy people go elsewhere. Worse than that, they tell anyone who will listen about their awful experience. In fact, the Houston Chronicle says those who have bad customer service experiences tell between nine and 20 people, while people who have a good experience only tell between two and three people. Can you afford those kinds of repercussions?

Do one thing and do it right: make the customer feel they matter and that's half the battle. Following through on that is also important, but that's a story for another day.

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