Automating Self-Service as Part of Your Omni-Channel Strategy
Whether you know it or not, artificial intelligence has become a large part of your life. Facebook can automatically tag your pictures and serve up a personalized newsfeed. Google Maps can re-reroute your trip based on changing traffic patterns. The advancement of AI technology has automated many other, once considered routine tasks of your everyday life: the Roomba vacuums floors on its own, Amazon’s Alexa will order household staples on a regular cadence, and Tesla already has self-driving cars on the road.
The trend towards automation and artificial intelligence is also seen in customer service and support – 84% of customers are turning to self-service channels to engage with companies for support related issues (Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service, Forrester, 2016). In an age where delivering seamless customer experiences across channels is an important competitive differentiation point, more companies are looking to add intelligent, self-service channels to their customer engagement strategy.
Self-service tools such as smart agents, virtual customer assistants, and chatbots are popping up in both physical and digital environments. These tools are both cost-effective for the business and positioned to deliver a superior customer experience in an omni-channel environment at scale.
However, to attain these benefits, chatbots and other forms of artificial intelligence must operate with a clearly defined scope. From my perspective, here are three things you should consider when developing your self-service channel.
- Don’t replace the agent. Artificial intelligence has come a long way, but a self-service channel designed to be the one-stop-shop for customer service is designed to fail. Design self-service to answer one or two types of questions very well. Too wide of a scope has a high likelihood of frustrating the user with incomplete or incorrect answers. Allow agents to handle the more complex issues to ensure a better customer experience.
- Ensure your customers can move between channels seamlessly. We’ve all been stuck in the automated phone maze endlessly pressing ‘0’ trying to get help from an actual person. For self-service success and a true omni-channel experience, the customer must be able to easily escalate to a customer service representative when additional assistance is required.
- Set your strategy. Decide how the self-service channel will be utilized most effectively. Some use self-service to deflect all incoming routine questions. For others, self-service will act as the ‘overflow’ outlet when agents are at capacity or offline.
Including self-service as part of an omni-channel strategy is imperative as artificial intelligence technology advances and more customers start preferring this channel for their support needs. To make self-service effective, it’s important to take the time to clearly define its role alongside agents, decide when and how it should be leveraged during the customer journey, and enable a smooth transition from self-service to other support channels.