I had the opportunity to assist my customer, a nationwide cellular company, in moving its subscribership from mostly assisted service to self-service via it IVR systems. As many of you know, self-service has the potential to drastically reduce costs for an organization. My client saw a $12.3 million savings in the first year. Customers often hesitate to use self-service and prefer assisted service, either because they prefer it that way, because they are used to it, or both. Is it possible to drive the adoption of self-service? Absolutely.
Here are four steps to success, each with detailed strategies for getting your customers to love self-service.
Step 1: Make Self-Service Work for Your Customer
You can force your customers to use self-service by ensuring that your customer’s experience within the IVR matches or is better than your assisted customer experience. Customers are looking for convenience and avenues to save time. The growing trend shows that customers are more likely to use a self-service IVR than speak to an agent because it is saves the customer time. IVR integration into the same back-end systems as your agents use, coupled with a well-built IVR and following best practices, will ensure that the customer experience is seamless. The most effective way to boost self-service acceptance is to make the self-service functionality really, really good. Here are a handful of specific strategies you can use.
- Deliver what your customers want. It’s important to understand the top five to 10 reasons customers call your company. This analysis will provide you the most bang for your buck. With this data, you can determine the top customer requirements and devise a self-service solution for these items. Also, choose items to “IVR self-serve” that are easily attainable based on back-end integration or are mundane, repeatable tasks. (e.g., making payments, resetting passwords). And examine your technical support calls. If you can provide easy-to-follow instructions via the IVR, then this can reduce your calls to agents. Integration with a back-end knowledge base will dramatically reduce your lengthy agent technical calls.
- Know your customer. Customers frequently have trouble self-serving because they do not understand the menu options. Customers speak their own language. Ensure that your IVR is built with “customer- speak” rather than “company-speak.” If you have a speech IVR, ensure that you are capturing as many utterances as possible, as well as coding recognized responses, or grammars, accordingly.
- Make the website “understandable.” Once you know what your customers want the most and changes are made within your IVR, be sure to mirror this functionality within your Web channel. Ensuring that the IVR development team works closely with your Web team can assure consistent messaging and a consistent customer experience within both channels.
Step 2: Develop Seamless Escalation to an Agent
- Make it seamless. A self-service IVR can be beneficial to most of your customers; however, there are some who do not prefer self-service. It’s important to tie your agent transfers to “timeouts” and “invalids.” That way, if a customer is struggling within the IVR, there is an option for an agent conversation. The rule of thumb is that if customers try twice to enter information into the IVR unsuccessfully, send them to an agent. The same rule applies for customers who do not enter anything twice.
- Automate. Instituting self-service within your IVR is a process — it continues. Regularly audit customers’ requests to assisted support and provide self-service alternatives for the most popular ones.
- Blend. Ensure that all communication channels, including IVR, Web, social media and mobile are one seamless customer experience.
Step 3: Promote Self-Service Offerings
The chances of a customer who has used self-service before using it again are pretty good, especially if the past experience was favorable. But if you have customers who have never used self-service, it’s unlikely that they will suddenly switch over.
Promoting self-service is important. A restrained but consistent approach will work best, and such a strategy would include the following:
- Start with a brief message at the beginning of your IVR announcing the opportunity for customers to self-serve.
- Mention the self-service initiative on the ACD hold message (no more than once on a short queue; no more than twice on a long queue).
- Ask agents to promote the self-service functionality within the IVR. An example might be, “Thank you for calling, you are all taken care of. If you would like to change your voicemail password on your own, you can choose Option 3 in the IVR.”
Step 4: Measure Self-Service Metrics
Design and build reporting metrics for every voice prompt, every timeout, every hang-up and every invalid response within your IVR. These reports will show you instantly if customers don’t understand what information the IVR needs to process their request.
Consistently monitor these reports to determine trends or changes in behavior. Remember, a new self-service IVR will take 30 to 90 days to “soak” for customers, especially if the IVR is traditionally only called once every 30 days by a customer base. Be wise in the changes you make, and ensure that enough time has passed for customers to become used to the new IVR flow before making radical changes.
Run regular metrics on self-service, right along with what you do for assisted support. You’ll want track things such as the following:
- How many customers called into the self-service IVR versus how many completed the entire flow? (Completion)
- How many customers were contained within the IVR and did not transfer to an agent? (Containment)
- How many timeouts and invalids are logged for each voice prompt?
- Where are hang-ups occurring? At the beginning of the flow? At a specific prompt? At the end of the flow?
- How does that compare to requests for assisted support and the success rate for assisted support (or the likelihood that a customer will find and answer through self-service)?