AI-powered chatbots have transformed the way we understand customer support. No longer is artificial intelligence a concept of science fiction, it has come to dominate the very nature of customer support and experience.
A recent study highlighted how 64% of businesses today believe that AI chatbots will help provide more customised support experiences to their users. With a digital-first approach that most organisations have adopted, customers have really high expectations when it comes to customer support, i.e. lower response times with greater efficiency.
This translates to a few things. One, customers no longer have the patience to jump through hoops just to get a query or a ticket looked into.
And, two, they expect not a customer support executive but an experience akin to that of a personal concierge. For many businesses, this forces them back to square one – that eternal battle between providing highly customer-centric support experiences and scale.
So what is the solution? Is it possible for brands to offer highly personalised support experiences at scale or do we go back to using the one size fits all method.
Here’s where self-service in customer support comes into play and this article will take you through an in-depth journey on –
- What is self-service in customer support,
- What are the benefits of customer self-service, and
- How it can help solve some of the most common challenges most organisations face when it comes to delivering good customer support.
Let’s look at this more closely…
What are customers looking for today?
In order to understand how empowering customers with greater self-service options is crucial to solving the personalisation versus scale debate in support, we need to look at what customers really want when getting in touch with you via your support options.
In a recent interview with Mahendra Mane who heads Customer Solutions, Vonage, he pointed out that in an online customer journey when interacting with a brand, around 66% of people think that valuing their time is the most important thing an organisation should do.
Now, how does this expectation translate into the day to day operations of your customer support team?
To begin with, brands no longer have the leeway to neglect the quality of the experience when it comes to customer support. High wait times to get in touch with the support team and customers having to repeat their queries to each concerned representative are red flags that customers are wary of.
In addition to this having adequate information to solve issues themselves is something that customers today consider extremely important and satisfactory. Having access to required product information and in cases where there are repetitive queries, a robust FAQ section does the trick. Here the customer solves the problem themselves without even thinking about creating a ticket and expecting a swift response.
The biggest challenges in support are…
Low-resolution times and really swift responses are two things customers want. This is understandable given how fast-paced all our digital lives have gotten. However for organisations that have still failed to re-imagine the way customer support is practised this is almost a death sentence.
Large battalions of customer support executives huddled in a room constantly bombarded with the sound of the ringing telephone is a thing of the past.
Today’s support infrastructure needs to be a lot more layered if brands are to mitigate some of the biggest challenges they face in implementing smarter solutions to drive their support operations.
Let’s think from the point of view of the customer support agent. Some of the biggest difficulties they are likely to face and are also in turn responsible for the high churn rate in the support space are likely to be the following:
- Your customer support agent is bombarded with a tremendous volume of support tickets on a daily basis.
- Most support agents end up handling tasks that are highly repetitive and mundane in nature.
- Your support agents are at the receiving end of customers who are stressed and frustrated by the lack-lustre customer support system in place because of which they are expected to repeat their issue/query at multiple points in the journey.
For support teams that are currently facing these challenges, looking at offering a highly personalised support experience is out of the question. Here the cycle perpetuates itself, forcing organisations to offer customer support en-masse – forgetting the very fact that queries, issues and customers vary and a one glove fits all solution can only backfire.
So how does self-service in customer support help?
The first and most crucial impact a good self-service infrastructure in customer support has is that it takes a substantial amount of pressure off the backs of customer support agents. In addition, it’s one of the quickest ways for customers to get their problems resolved.
In this context, it makes a lot of sense why around 81% of customers value self-service options very highly and are very pleased when brands empower them to take care of the matters themselves even before reaching out to a customer support representative.
Circling back to the recent episode with Mahendra Mane that we had referred to earlier he wanted to add that “They [customers] don’t want to talk to an agent or talk to someone. They want things to be resolved on their own. And this is why self-service is an obviously scalable, cost-effective way to make customers happy in this area.”
In addition to having happy customers, self-service is also key to the overall happiness of support agents as well. As mentioned earlier, a lot of repetitive tickets are now taken care of by the customers themselves, opening up time for the human agent to work on higher priority requests and queries. In such a scenario support agents can optimise their productive hours a lot better and dedicate more time to developing a more empathetic approach to customers when the need arises.
With fewer repetitive tickets to take care of, your customer support agent now has the bandwidth to put in more effort to offer delightful customer support and treat customers not as tickets but as people.
And industry experts all agree that customers want to interact with people and not just companies.
Is this the end of the support agent?
The answer is NO!
While AI-chatbots and self-service options are here to stay, it’s quite a stretch to assume that they will replace human agents.
Self-service options are here to help customers and support agents and while the role of the support agent is likely to change and evolve with the time and the technology that is available, this is the era where support agents, AI-chatbots and intelligent self-service options join forces.
But like all things in customer support, this is just a piece of the puzzle – a crucial one nonetheless. Self-service options empower your true brand ambassadors – the customer to help themselves and offer the solutions they need in quick and easy ways. And more importantly, when queries and issues can be solved directly by the customer even before the support team is involved, the seamless experience created here is truly priceless.
If you are interested to know more about why it’s key to help customers help themselves, then check out the recent episode of The Twenty Minute Moat featuring Mahindra Mane from Vonage.