Self-service and support automation are not simply a means to save money – each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce a customer relationship and sustain loyalty. The burden of delivering a positive experience now lies with the tools and content we offer.
Self-Help and Automation
Web-based activities have become a significant factor in shaping customer experience and influencing the perceptions customers have about companies and their products. The majority of on-line interactions are unassisted, where customers are encouraged to serve themselves.
As self-service and automated transactions supplement personal interactions, the ability to shape the customer experience depends on the on-line and automation tools and content provided. Poor content or an unnavigable site quickly undermines a business’s ability to deliver a positive experience.
There is a profound difference between personal interactions and self-service transactions. The factors that influence the customer experience in personal interactions — an agent’s listening skills, empathy, knowledge, etc. — are replaced by an overriding factor: whether the customer can quickly find relevant information. In our effort to encourage customers to serve themselves, we have removed the human factor from the on-line experience. The burden for delivering a positive experience now lies with the tools and content we offer and their relevance in helping customers achieve their objectives.
Self-help and automated services provide a means for companies to continue to engage with their customers in a low-cost manner. However, self-service is not simply a means to save money: Each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce the relationship and sustain customer loyalty. Though there’s a significant temptation to undertake web-based services as a low-cost alternative to customer engagement through interactive channels, it must not come at the expense of delivering an experience that strengthens relationships with customers.
Companies have a lot at stake when they move interactions to the web. Once on-line, their customers are just one Google search away from a variety of alternative sources of information and resources to help them satisfy their needs. Brand awareness and affinity can be undermined in an instant. Creating a positive customer experience has never been more important. It’s also never been more challenging.
When customers actively seek assistance, technology vendors are presented with an opportunity to satisfy the customer’s needs. This in turn creates an opportunity to positively influence the customer’s perception of the technology vendor helping to create satisfied and loyal customers. The alternative is that when a customer that needs help but does not get it, can be left with an issue that inhibit their ability to use the vendor’s product. This lack of service can potentially diminish customers’ perception of that vendor.
Vendor web sites have become a secondary resource to general web searches when customers need help. Historically customers have rated the quality and effectiveness of information found on non-vendor web sites very low, but this trend has shifted with more customers indicting that the information they find through general web searches to be relevant and effective in satisfying their needs.
Vendors risk losing the advantage they once had in retaining control of the on-line service experience.
When customers find information on other – non-vendor sites, it diminishes a company’s ability to leverage the service interaction to strengthen its relationship with customers. Without a concerted effort to expand and improve the quality, relevance and findability of the right services content through the support web site vendors risk losing the advantage they once had in retaining control of the on-line service experience.