Find ways for self service to improve the customer experience

Community for customers, partners and users: Part 4 of 5

Nov 13, 2020
Business applications Salesforce

When you buy something from a company, you have certain expectations on the service level you will receive. When you do run into an issue, how many times have you been frustrated with not being able to get the right answer quickly? These failed moments decrease customer satisfaction and damage the chance to create customers for life.

Now put your customer service hat on. You may provide contact center phone support, but if customers are routinely put on hold for 30 minutes for each interaction, you can expect that customers are ripe for churn, particularly if there are competitors who come along with a better service experience. You may offer email support, but if you do not respond meaningfully within the same day, you probably have ended up with a customer who does not feel they had a positive interaction.

Poor response times, especially in these times of instant gratification, are a problem that you cannot just hire to solve. It is not scalable and not cost-effective to load up agents to be more responsive. Thankfully, many customers have come to expect to be able to self-service their needs—so automating these interactions can bring multiple benefits:

  • Better, more responsive service to customers
  • Ability to scale and provide customer service less expensively and to a much wider audience
  • Reduce the caseload (case deflection), enabling your agents to handle issues that require high touch versus handling rote issues that could be better handled through an automated facility, and increasing agent satisfaction as well

Some self-service examples

  • Put cases online. This is probably the easiest and one of the most valuable steps you can take to begin the journey to a world-class service center. Enabling customers to be able to log a case and return to it at any time of the day gets cases closed faster. If a customer has to call to update a case, it can be incredibly frustrating, particularly if you have hold times and operate only during business hours. When customers get on the phone and have to repeat their case number, you are already starting on the wrong foot. Logging in to see the case’s status and contribute more information enables the agent to solve the problem faster—a win-win situation for customer and company.
  • Having searchable knowledge articles is an easy way to get started. Take your most common issues (e.g., FAQ), write your best responses to them and put them online. Put a customer portal online using Salesforce Experience Cloud (formerly known as Community Cloud) and Knowledge, making sure the articles have the right keywords to make them searchable and watch how your customers solve their own problems 24 hours a day.
  • Chatbots are a great way to automate self-service in a hugely scalable way. If you can take any standard interaction that can be solved through “questions and answers,” then you can probably construct the paths and have the chatbot interact with the customer to get them to the best answer. Many customers prefer to work with a chatbot than be on hold on the phone.
  • Salesforce offers forum features for “ask the community” so that customers can self-service and support themselves. Often the best answers come from the power users in your community. Many of your most passionate users crave the ability to share—it is a value-add to the company, gives status to your most loyal users and benefits your customer community as a whole.
  • The customer service team may be tasked to not only handle customer service issues but to also handle key business process flows. For example, customers may contact support to “start a claim” or “file form.” These business function/process flows can often be put online so that the customer can self-service themselves at any time of the day and over any period of time (“save and continue later”). This is a value-add for most customers who prefer to perform these actions on their own terms. When companies put more of their process flows online, it not only saves on labor costs, but the quality of agent interactions becomes more valuable. They spend less time on rote, automatable actions and more time on handling and solving exceptions—and customer service agents love solving good problems. These business process flows can get very sophisticated, enabling complex dynamic form fills, custom document downloading/uploading, save progress functionality and e-signatures.

Providing the facilities for customers to service themselves is not only helpful in reducing caseload but is an expected necessity. If you do not offer this, you are probably already behind your competition. Those companies that do it well create a continuous and positive relationship with the customer—where they can interact with your brand when they want to and in the way they want to. Getting started is fairly straightforward.

When you look at the return on investment of being able to handle these interactions fully online without any human interaction and multiply it by your customer base, you’ll probably find that it pays for itself quickly while at the same time enhancing your customer’s experience.