The Power of Portals: Self-Service Solutions for Contact Centers
Part 3 – Self-Service Customer Services
By Chris Recio, Director of Contact Center Operations
In our last blog post, we discussed giving customers access to data and utilizing IVR. But let’s not assume IVR is the only self-service option out there. While IVR is a no-brainer self-service option, this is not the only option for providing access to your customers.
Think about your own personal search for information. I am willing to wager that a high percentage of users – if not all – will first look for a resource online. Google has made and continues to make a fortune mining data for the customer’s benefit, not to mention the far reaching impact across the world at deeper levels than most think about on a day-to-day basis. But, for most users, the search engine is king.
The likely result of such inquiries: a DIY portal, YouTube, and the Knowledge base.
The proactive operation is way ahead of this bell curve. Today, customers aren’t seeking simply to help themselves to information. Most customers will have done their research before taking the final step in contacting you or your contact center. Customers who support a business are also looking for reputable and knowledgeable business partners to help them gain an edge on their competition.
Customer Service is no longer simply about the level of customer service one receives, it is also about the opportunity to provide self service tools, and – more importantly – the standards of the customer service experience and the value of the content received through the customer journey. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on the provider to offer great customer service.
If you are not providing knowledge and education to your customers through your own portal, you are likely giving away your business without knowing it, as customers leave you for another resource-rich vendor willing to do the work for them.
Today, many progressive companies keep clients engaged with a very thoughtful and easy-to-use knowledgebase and/or product portal. The key here is: EASY TO USE.
Because we live in the age of Big Data, we are rapidly becoming a self-service world. After all, our entire world is based on a “me first” mentality. Look at social media, it’s all about ME. Everyone wants to be first. Consumers have an unprecedented amount of data availability and it is no longer a luxury to provide more information to customers, but rather, an expectation.
The Impact of Self-Service
As stated previously, studies have shown that over 67% of customers prefer the ability to self-serve rather than having to place a call, in order to speak with a customer service representative.
Because customers have access to as much data as they need, when a customer does make the choice to call or interact with a customer service representative, the level of outstanding customer service is heightened and the expectation for a quick and relevant answer is even more critical.
This increased expectation forces us to re-examine the contact center operation to improve every interaction experience. When confronted with the new common expectations, the contact center must take into consider these areas of concern:
Training, Training, Training
Data Integration at Multiple Levels
Knowledge & Information Sharing
Culture of the Contact Center Operation
Achieving outstanding customer service in a self-service world becomes a much broader undertaking that demands careful evaluation of the contact center operation, coupled with a systematic action plan.
Providing self-service options to customers is an integral part of providing excellent customer service. Clients expect it, and today, not providing self-service options closes the door of opportunity for customer retention and overall satisfaction. In our need-it-now world, most customers are looking to save time and money, and this is a tremendous opportunity for your contact center operation.
Access to data and self-service allows the customer to select his/her method of obtaining information, and whether we realize it or not, the customer will have done quite a bit of legwork ahead of reaching out to your contact center.
When it comes to achieving customer satisfaction, your customers are already looking for information before ever reaching out to your contact center. The level of effort required by your customer to obtain such information or guidance will have a direct impact upon your ability to provide great customer service. Extending your contact center operation outside the walls of the contact center is a vital aspect of the overall customer journey and ultimately, customer satisfaction.
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Founded in 1997, Inflow Communications is a national leader in unified communications and Contact Centers. With close to 100,000 endpoints under Inflow’s innovative support plans around the world, their dedication to knowledge, innovation, and unrivaled customer support has landed them in ShoreTel’s top 2% in global customer satisfaction, and as a winner of ShoreTel’s coveted Circle of Excellence Partners award. For two years in a roll, Inflow is a ShoreTel Platinum Partner, the highest level of partnership, and is their fastest growing partner globally. In addition, Inflow is one of the few Cloud Contact Center providers that offers implementation, ongoing support, and comprehensive consulting and training programs. Inflow services clients across the globe and has local offices in over 10 major cities in the US.